The Top 10 Reasons Everyone Should Bike to Work

Biking to work is fun, easy, and affordable, but that’s not all!

Photo by Todd Mecklem

Photo by Todd Mecklem

Despite vast improvements in cycling infrastructure in many cities across the continent, the majority of North Americans still don’t bike to work. While the benefits of cycling to work are nearly innumerable, we managed to round them down to just ten so we wouldn’t run out of space on the Internet. From the Momentum Mag staff, here are our top 10 reasons to bike to work:

1. Fun!

Biking to work is fun, plain and simple. Many people look back wistfully on fond childhood memories of riding their bike around their neighborhood, wishing they could still be so carefree amid the rigors of working life. Biking to work allows you integrate that simple feeling of exhilaration into your daily grind. Observe your surroundings, listen to the birds and wave at passing cyclists as you ride. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself wishing your commute were longer.

2. Fitness

Biking to work is good for you. While the exact calories burned on a ride varies between each person, their speed, and the topography, cycling on average burns as many calories as jogging, with considerably fewer negative impacts on the joints. Cycling improves cardio-vascular and aerobic fitness, lowers blood pressure, boosts energy, builds muscle, and improves coordination. Sneaking the health benefits of biking into your daily commute is so easy it almost feels like cheating!

3. Happiness

Biking to work makes you happier. While most people would not identify sitting in traffic, navigating a congested city, or riding crowded public transit as activities that calm them down or make them happy, cycling to work can actually transform your daily commute into a moderate form of therapy. Numerous studies have shown that daily exercise can reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of depression, improve sleep patterns for individuals with insomnia, and reduce anxiety. Furthermore, exercising outdoors – both in urban and rural contexts – has been proven to boost self-confidence and improve overall mood.

4. Brain-power

Biking to work makes you smarter. While it may not turn you into an astrophysicist overnight, research has proven that moderate, daily exercise can prevent cognitive decline, sharpen memory and learning, and improve overall brain performance. So even if biking to work doesn’t turn you into a Rhodes Scholar, at the very least it will make you better at your job.

A Study Finds Cyclists to Be Six Times Healthier than Other Commuters. Read here.

5. Money

Biking to work saves you money. Lots of money. In 2015, the average American household is forecast to spend $1,962 on gasoline and motor oil. Shockingly, that would be the lowest average fuel expenditure in the US since 2009! Add on vehicle maintenance, the occasional repair, insurance, and the skyrocketing cost of parking, and you have an average yearly cost of $9,000 USD just to own a standard sedan in America. Conversely, a brand new commuter bike retails at anywhere from $250-$1,500 USD depending on the brand, style, and components you’re after, with an average yearly maintenance cost of around $50 USD. Unless you want to maintain your bike yourself, then it’s close to free! One-off purchases of a lock and lights will run you about $60-$200 USD depending on the quality. So even if you went for the most expensive options in each case, you’re still looking at savings of around $7,050 USD in your first year, with savings of up to $9,000 each year after that. Not a bad deal!

6. Money Again

Not only does biking to work save you money, it saves everyone money. A 2011 cost-benefit analysis of biking investments in Portland, OR, by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health determined that Portland residents could save between $388 and $594 million in individual health care costs by 2040 because of the city’s increased investment in bike infrastructure. Add that to savings yielded by employers who invest in a company bike culture, the billions of dollars generated annually by the wider bike industry, and the economic benefits that strong bike communities bring to businesses, and you have yourself a solid financial case for hopping on a bicycle that even the most staunch defender of the automobile would have a hard time talking down.

7. Fresh air

For you and others! The transportation sector accounts for nearly 30 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions, with cars and trucks delivering nearly 1/5th of those emissions. While a solo driver in an average North American vehicle releases about 1.2 pounds of C02 per mile, the average cyclist releases only 0.7 grams through respiration. And while a bicycle’s life-cycle energy use including manufacturing and maintenance over a 15-year period is 60 kilojoules per Passenger Mile Traveled, the life-cycle energy use for a standard sedan clocks in at a whopping 4027 kilojoules/ PMT. That’s some serious energy savings with a seriously simple change.

8. Convenience

One of the most common misconceptions about biking to work is that it’s inconvenient. But what’s more inconvenient than spending 10 minutes looking for parking every morning or getting stuck in an unexpected roadblock on the way? When you bike to work, finding parking is as easy as spotting the nearest pole, locking up, and walking away. Cyclists don’t get stuck in traffic jams and aren’t susceptible to the usual transit delays of driving or public transportation, making bike commuting as fast or faster than driving for most urban commutes. Panniers and cycling bags make carrying your work materials easy, and many workplaces are now including secure bike parking, showers, and other facilities to make things even easier for employees who cycle to work.

9. Safety

The more cyclists there are on the roads, the safer they will be. A 2008 study from the University of New South Wales determined that biking safety is a virtuous cycle. As more people ride in a given city, the number of collisions between drivers and people riding bikes decreases in absolute terms in that city. And this is not simply because there are fewer cars. Driver behavior actually changes to include safer driving practices when the number of cyclists and pedestrians increases. Because the perception of the relative safety of cycling improves with a decrease in collisions, more people then begin riding bikes. Virtuous cycle!

10.  Freedom

For most kids, the moment that they first lose the training wheels and go flying down the road on their bicycle feels like freedom. It is a defining moment of many happy childhoods. Then the teenage years roll around and the car comes to define a new sense of freedom. But after a few years and far too many hours wasted in traffic jams or circling a city block looking for parking, the car begins to feel more like a prison. Toss off the shackles and find that feeling of freedom again. Explore the city at your own pace, try a new route, stop for coffee on the way to work and check out a new neighborhood on your way home. Cycling opens up avenues, both literal and figurative, to see your city in a whole new way. It’s your community, go live in it!

Are you ready to put pedal to pavement and commute by bike? Let us show you how to bike to work.

City Bicycle Secrets Guide

Bicycle Living Secrets: The Ultimate How To Guide

While we understand that some journeys simply cannot be made by bicycle, after reading the following guide you’ll discover just how many opportunities there are to hop on your bike.

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This story was originally published in 2012 and has been updated.

23 Comments

  • Jim

    Started intermittently cycling my 10 miles to work 4 years ago, fair weather only, but the bike still paid for itself by the end of the first year. Then last year I pimped my hybrid with an e-bike conversion kit, 47-700c tyres, plus a fat comfy saddle and I haven’t looked back since; everyday is cycle day now rain or shine. I actually get to work quicker (in term time) and I always have a ‘parking space’, just 10 feet from my desk. So, I’m saving £150+ a month on fuel/parking, and the kicker is I charge my battery at work! I do all my own maintenance (it having become something of a hobby to me) so my commuting costs are absolutely zero…if you also count the exercise as a replacement for gym membership costs (which I do) and factor in my environmental halo then I happy to concede that when all’s said and done, I’m Smuggy McSmug face as I glide into work each day and would recommend it for everyone 🙂

  • Friendship/Community: When I’m out on errands or commutes on my bike I always run into people I know or want to know and am able to strike up a conversation while on the roll, or pause and have a quick catch up before rolling along. These connections would be impossible in a car!

  • Richard

    You’re right, the benefits are innumerable, there is one important one not on your list: reliability. With a bike you know to within a minute or two how long your journey will take, and traffic snarl ups don’t bother you. In a car, it only takes one collision for the whole district to grind to a halt and you never know how long your journey will take.

  • Loved this article! The one about freedom is so true. Nothing beats the freedom of always having your bike around. 🙂

    I put together top 6 list on my blog: http://www.outdoormaster.com/2016/03/28/6-benefits-biking-work/ I hope some of you mind find it equally interesting.

  • Thom Foote

    Everyone? A 40 or 50 mile commute might be a tad unreasonable. One solution never fits every situation.

    • Doug

      Move closer to work. Or work closer to home. Or don’t read articles like this, as they’re not intended for you.

  • charlzm

    I’m trying to wrap my head around 30 miles each way through the heaviest traffic in America with an elevation change of 1400 total feet (with changes of 500 feet twice on the route) while needing to be at work at 8:00am.

    • DK

      Move closer to work….the Universe does not revolve around you. But you will bitch and moan and find some excuse, so just keep supporting the Saudis and misogyny , environmental destruction and sloth. Enjoy working until 70, I am retiring before 50, already saved over 1 million by not having a car.

      • Thom Foote

        Yeah, move closer to work. Pack those people into cities and suburbs. Expand those housing developments. Pave that farmland. A ridiculous suggestion.

  • sean

    I’m trying to figure out how I could ride a bicycle to work with hundreds of pounds of tools, equipment, & material…not to mention 21 foot lengths of steel pipe.

  • Rob

    3 years ago a lady ran a stop sign and totalled my car- Best Move EVER!! Been biking [and sometimes skytrain\bus] to work since and I Love it.

    • Momentum Mag

      While we would never say congratulations on being in a traffic accident, happy to hear it got you on your bike. Once you get into it, it’s hard to remember why you even drove in the first place!

  • Ralph Branch

    love robyn’s comment with the #1 reason about the kids. one of my reasons is the smiles and excited cheers as little kids see the bike whizzing by. and one day while i was going by in my usual cycling outfit – dark grey helmet, yellow jacket – a little boy yelled out “you look like a giant highlighter” i laugh every time i remember it.

  • robyn

    5. because it gets me there with a smile 4. it makes my co-workers happy. 3. i meet great people. 2. it encourages people to donate to MS150 when they see my jersey. and the #1 reason: the preschool kids wave every morning and say ‘hey bike lady’ and blow me kisses,

  • Matthew

    Hmm where’s ‘save a fortune in petrol’? That’s why I’m buying a bike, to save £75pcm

  • wing-siu wong

    My son Andy is a daily bicycle commuter. He is 16 and rides everyday to school. He has been doing so since kindergarden. When he went to pre-school, we rode there together on a trail-a-bike.

    When I was writing an article a few years ago about kids and bicycle commuting, I asked him: “Off the top of your head – what are the five things you like best about riding your bike?” he said

    (1) “Freedom.”
    
(2) “Getting to go fast and not having to wait for the bus.”

    (3) “Not having to ask for a drive.”
    
(4) “Being able to go somewhere and being free to leave when I want to.”
    
(5) “It’s a great workout.”

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