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Jessica Lass’s Blog

Make biking to work your 2012 resolution

Jessica Lass

Posted December 22, 2011 in Living Sustainably

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Making the list for most New Year’s resolutions is a renewed commitment to exercise. In LA, we have the additional benefit of nice weather to encourage residents to stick to that resolution, but usually within the first few weeks of January or early February, it’s easy to let those exercise goals fall to the way side.

One way I’ve found it easier to exercise is to integrate it into my daily routine, which is to bike to work. I live a few miles from work with some slight hills, and getting my blood pumping first thing in the morning is usually about as good as a cup of coffee to wake my brain up for the day.

Even if you live in a part of the country that doesn’t enjoy nice weather year-round, researchers from the University of Wisconsin recently found that “if the Midwesterners ran half of their short-distance errands by bike rather than by car, 1,100 deaths would be avoided each year, and $7 billion would be saved in reduced health-care costs.” These findings only looked at benefits from four months of biking during the year—when it isn’t too hot or cold in the Midwest. The message is, if you can’t exercise every day, at least do it part of the year and you’ll still reap the benefits. 

Even better for the peSanta Monica bike centerople in some southern California neighborhoods looking to incorporate biking into their routines or daily commutes, new bike centers have recently popped up in Long Beach, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. I stopped by the Santa Monica location recently to check out the facilities. 

This is not your typical rent-a-bike-for-a-couple-hours location. Monthly members have 24/7 access to the bike facilities to lock up their bikes, use showers or restrooms onsite and make use of the available lockers. The idea is to provide people with secure options for bike storage and increase feasibility of bike use, not for people to leave belongings on site indefinitely.

The Santa Monica location is headquartered at 2nd and Colorado with a second location on the other side of the Santa Monica Place complex at 4th and Broadway. At both locations you need a key card to get into the members-only areas, but the Colorado location is where people can also rent bikes by the hour, learn about bike maintenance, join up with bike tours of the region, or purchase some iconic sunglasses while out enjoying the sun.

Bike locks at the bike centerWhat I heard from the Santa Monica bike center folks is that the plan is to eventually develop more locations for bike sharing across the Westside. Facilities like this one are popping up around the country with bike share programs modeled after those in European cities, and are gaining in popularity in U.S. cities like New York, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, Chicago and coming soon to bike-friendly Portland, OR

bike lockers at the bike centerBike sharing has become so popular in China that at certain metro stations people break out into a dead sprint in order to secure one of available shared bikes. I’ve experienced the bike program in DC and it was extremely easy to use. We paid our $5 by credit card at the bike rack by Logan Circle, cruised around Dupont Circle and eventually dropped the bikes at another station in Georgetown without any hassle. It was also faster and easier to rent the bikes to get to Georgetown than it would have been to hop on the Metro and walk from the closest stop. And cheaper than traveling by cab or trying to find parking.

You might also check with your employer to see if they’ll pay you to ride your bike. Under the Bicycle Commuter Act passed by Congress in 2008 (thanks to the only Member of Congress who bikes to work—Earl Blumenauer), employees regularly using a non-motorized bicycle three days a week to commute between their home and office can receive assistance defraying some of the related costs. As part of NRDC’s comprehensive health and welfare benefits, employees commuting to work can be reimbursed up to $240 per calendar year in bicycle commuting expenses. Reimbursable costs may include the purchase of a bicycle, commuting apparel (helmet, gloves, etc.), bike lock, storage, bike repairs and general maintenance.  These items are considered reasonable expenses as long as the bicycle and equipment is regularly used for travel between home and work. 

So while you consider those New Year’s goals and how to make positive changes in your life over the next 12 months, consider whether biking to work a day or two (or more) a week makes sense for you. You might get paid to do it, it’s usually an easy way to get bike share at the bike centerfrom point A to B, maintaining a bike is cheaper than filling up a gas tank, and extends your life, ensuring there will be more New Year’s resolutions to come.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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