A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Green Breakfast Group in Fairfax County about simple ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint, or the air pollution resulting from our lifestyles. I was building on the efforts that the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has been working on for several years to reduce the carbon footprint of our agency.
Coming from a park agency with over 100 miles of trails, including the famous W&OD Trail that offers a paved rails-to-tails path for 45 miles from the most urban areas of Arlington County to the still rural western areas of the trail, I had to put a plug in for biking as an alternative to some of the trips you would normally take in a car. The W&OD while built for recreation, is increasingly being used as a commuting route for those that are finding the joys of biking to work.
For the last year I have set a goal of biking to work at least one day a week, so long as the weather is not too extreme. My commute, about 7 miles each way does not include the W&OD trail, but I have found a good route that I think is safe.
In addition to reducing your impact on the environment, cycling is very good for you. Every hour you cycle you are burning around 300 calories, and when you build your muscle mass (become more tone) you increase your metabolic rate so you burn more calories even at rest. How great is that!
And in addition to benefiting the environment and your health, biking is just fun, and a good way to relieve stress.
In terms of gear for commuting on your bike, there are many different approaches. My approach was to take the bike I already had (a mountain bike) and make a few modification to improve its performance as a commuter bike. Here are some of the things I did:
- Took the bike to a shop for a good tune up.
- Replaced the knobby tires with smooth tire that have less rolling resistance on the pavement.
- Added a rear-view mirror on my handlebars so I can see the traffic coming up from behind me.
- Added a flashing light on the seat post so cars will see me better.
- Added clip peddles and shoes to improve the efficiency of peddling. This has a remarkable affect improving you peddle power by 10-30%.
- Added a rack on the back to hold items that you need to carry.
Every spring there is national bike to work day. I would suggest that if you think you have a safe route to take to bike to work, or any other destination of your choice, that you pump up the tires, put on your helmet, and make it happen.