By Elise Mann, Joining Vision and Action

Every day *could* be Bike to Work Day, and for many commuters in Colorado, it is (when weather allows it). But for those who have a more tentative relationship with their bicycle, National Bike to Work Day is approaching soon and could be your opportunity to test out what your daily commute could look like. Save money, exercise during your commute, and lessen your environmental footprint all at once.

In the United States, approximately 40 percent of all trips are two miles or less, which makes bicycling a feasible (and fun!) way to commute. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of commuters in the United States traveling by bicycle increased by over 62 percent. In 2010, the City of Denver reported that one out of every 28 adults participated in Bike to Work Day, the highest rate of participation in the nation that year. High participation translates to increased regular bike commuting, as data shows that many first time commuters during the annual event become regular commuters.

History of National Bike to Work Day

In 1956, the League of American Bicyclists (the League) established May as National Bike Month to celebrate biking from coast to coast. Originally founded in the 1880s as the League of American Wheelmen, the League has been advocating for bicyclists (formerly called “wheelmen”) against the “antagonism from horsemen, wagon drivers and pedestrians” as well as for better roads. Today, May is filled with many educational activities—from rides with the mayor, to commuter races, smart cycling workshops and bike rodeos—to highlight the many reasons why people love their bicycles, and the national League will help local organizations and groups put on these events. The biggest day of the month is Bike to Work Day, where local organizations and volunteers set up water (and coffee!) stations throughout participating cities. Some even provide free shirts for participants. This year’s National Bike to Work Day is May 18.

State legislators and advocates alike recognize that unpredictable weather patterns and mountain terrain can make May a treacherous time for biking across the state, so Colorado celebrates its Bike to Work Day in June. Mark your calendar—June 27, 2018, will be Colorado’s Bike to Work Day. Register to participate, volunteer or help organize here.

Will this year’s Bike to Work Day be your first? Check out these pointers for new riders.

Why bike to work?

The benefits of biking to work, and of using a bicycle as your major form of transportation, are many—it is healthier for the biker, while contributing to more sustainable and cost-efficient transportation costs within your city. Not only do you improve your own health and the health of your community, but you can meet other bikers and interact with the communities and neighborhoods you bike in and through, which can improve your sense of place and of city.

The Transportation Research Board found that over 80 percent of cyclists believe their own health has improved since they started commuting by bike. Compared with bus passengers, cyclists are exposed to less pollution. A 2017 study found that biking to work burns the same amount of fat as spending five days a week at the gym for 40 minutes daily; it’s a “free gym on wheels.”

For many living in the beautiful state of Colorado, bicycling is already central. In 2015, Governor Hickenlooper announced a four-year initiative and a $100 million public-private partnership to make Colorado “the best state for biking.” Known as the Colorado Pedals Project, the initiative seeks to center bicyclists and pedestrians in future transportation policies, to improve health and wellness, the local economy and the environment.

A 2016 study of the health and benefits of exercise conducted by the Colorado Pedals Project found huge economic benefits to the state, with bicycling contributing $1.6 billion “in economic and health benefits to the state’s economy in 2015.” Oregon’s regional trail network is estimated to save Portland $115 million in healthcare costs per year, a 2011 study found. These findings are in line with national studies that have found that on average, bicycle commuters take 15 percent fewer days off work compared with non-cyclist commuters. Plus, individual savings are significant: The average annual operating expense for a car is over $8,000 compared with only $308 for a bicycle. Further, 30 minutes of biking a day can save you $544 in annual healthcare costs.

Bicycle organizations in Colorado

JVA has had the opportunity to work with some of the amazing organizations using bicycles for social change in Colorado, including BikeDenver and Denver Food Rescue. BikeDenver supports safe biking in Denver, through local advocacy, community building and education efforts, including the Bike Ambassadors program in the Baker and Five Points communities, Urban Commuter Classes, and weekly rides through the city. Denver Food Rescue seeks to increase health equity in food insecure communities, and volunteers deliver food across the city via bicycle.

Other area bike organizations include Bicycle Colorado, which has been working since 1992 with local and state officials in Colorado to improve conditions, increase safety, work toward the inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian projects within transportation policies, and increase accessibility. Bikes Together, formerly the Bike Depot, aims to “foster bicycling in Denver as a viable means of transportation, and as a means to address wealth and health disparities that exist in our communities” through being a hub for education, bike maintenance (with access to used parts), bike camps in the summer, earned bike programs and retail. We also love Scraps, which uses pedal power to pick up compost from residents of condos and apartment buildings that the City cannot service with its existing composting program.

Want to get more involved here in Colorado?

  • Sign up to be a volunteer with Bikes Together.
  • Join or renew membership with Bicycle Colorado.
  • Become a Bicycle Ambassador with BikeDenver or sign up for an Urban Commuter Class.
  • Live in a multifamily building in Denver and want to start composting? Sign up with Scraps today!
  • Hop on your bike for two-hour shifts to support Denver Food Rescue.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate Bike to Work Day.

As we race toward summer, our staff here at JVA wishes you fun and safe bicycle journeys—happy biking.