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December 07, 2005

Grist Magazine Columnist on Bike Commuting

I came across 2 excellent articles, on Bike Commuting, at Environmental magazine Grist Magazine Online.

Umbra Fisk writes a column of advice on "All things Environmental", and recently had reason to discuss the subject of commuting by bicycle.

In Sept. a question was asked, a cyclist who commutes a half hour each way:

I've been wondering if the benefits (exercise, sunshine, free and fast transport) are outweighed by the negatives (primarily breathing in diesel and other exhaust, but I'd also throw in the risk of almost getting run over, despite the cheap thrills).

The person was wondering about comparisons, healthwise between different types of commutes.

Umbra Responded:

Clearly, biking not only maintains but improves your general physical health, in terms of muscles and heart rate and mental peace, and has little impact on the environment. It beats motorized vehicles -- or, as I like to call them, Mobile Emissions Sources -- of all types on both these counts.

Being near or in traffic has an impact on our health and the environment, no matter what vehicle we choose. Chemicals and particulate matter flow from car and bus and taxi engines and into the mini-weather system of the traffic zone...

The nasties are densest at the middle of the traffic zone, and less intense on the edges. So, to put it simply, the position of your lungs is key. Of course, there are many variables for air-pollution scientists to play with, and each situation is different, and so on -- but, basically, studies show you get the biggest hit of the nasties when you're inside a car....

The little information I was able to find on subways compared them to buses. Pollutants in the subway tunnel are fairly equivalent to bus pollutants, so I will extrapolate that biking wins over all mechanized transport.

Sept. 28th -- The Wheel Deal by Umbra Fisk

A month later she address the following question:

So what about bike commuting? Is it safe? Is it good? Is it encouraged?

Jeez..., obviously this person has no clue about the resources online that could answer those questions, from Bloggers who commute, to full blown Cycling Information websites. ;-D

Anyway, Umbra proceeds to answer the questions this way:

Yes, yes, yes. Lungwise, biking is at least as safe as driving, if not more so. It's true, as many readers pointed out after my previous column, that we breathe more heavily when bicycling than driving. But the scientists thought of that. In general, we are not worse off biking in regular old city traffic, especially if we are able to stay to the side of the pollutant slipstream...

Is biking safe in other ways? I don't know what to say to that. I think accident and injury statistics are essentially meaningless when applied to our own individual choices. Car accidents happen often, but we don't consider them until that sickening crunch intrudes on our safety delusion. Likewise, no numbers will stop a determined cyclist.

If you intend to start a biking habit, use common sense. Evaluate your own confidence, and use the experience of others. If people cycle in St. Paul, but you never see a single cyclist on the route you would take to work, find out where the decent bike route lies. Ask fellow cyclists whether they consider your route safe. Find the bike lanes, the roads with good shoulders. Every major city has a bicycling coalition devoted to helping people like you, and some cities, including yours, publish route maps.

To paraphrase Umbra...

If you are run over by a Yugo, or hit the deck on some rain slick street, you will feel endangered, injured, terrified, and stupid.

And you don't think car drivers feel the same in similar situations related to driving their cars?

For us 2-wheelers, though, the "good news" is that it is the rare time that you will hurt anyone but yourself, when you, very publically, take a spill, or get run over by that Yugo.

Oh, and Al Queda won't target your Club Ride. ;-D

So get out there! Lose weight! Save money!

Join the growing number of "Wackos" who enjoy a good bike ride.

You will live longer! ;-D

Oct. 31st -- Wheels of Fortune by Umbra Fisk.

Check out the Grist Magazine Blog for more interesting Environmental discussion, and debate.

December 7, 2005 in The Well Read Cyclist | Permalink

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