February 22, 2010

First Person: Why I ride my bike to work

Tonio Andrade (Editor's note: Practice good safety measures by wearing a helmet when riding a bike.)

Tonio Andrade is associate professor of history.

Here’s a secret about bicycle commuting: It’s great. I don’t just mean it’s good for the environment, although it is. I mean it feels great. I arrive at work with my metabolism active, my blood moving, ready to think and write and plan. I’m fitter than I’ve been for years.

I realized how much I loved it recently when it rained and I had to drive to work two days in a row. Sitting at lights behind rows of cars I fiddled with the radio dial. I gripped the stick shift. I tapped the steering wheel. My body wished it was moving. The whole day I felt listless.

I started riding to work abruptly one day two years ago. I had stepped out of my car to close the gate behind me to begin my five-mile commute to work and through the open door I heard the announcer say, “Did you know that every mile you drive to work puts a pound of CO2 into the air?”

A pound per mile. That means 10 pounds a day and 50 pounds a week and 2,500 pounds a year, give or take.

So the next week I enrolled in Emory’s Cliff Permit Program. It gives you a free parking pass good for 12 days of parking each year, with the option of buying more days if necessary (20 days cost $75).

That means I’m saving around $50 a month in parking fees, to say nothing about gas and car repairs. Since I started cycling I fill my tank less than once a month, and there’s almost no wear on my car. Cycling to work probably saves me $80 or a $100 month. That’s more than a thousand dollars a year.

But the best thing is how I feel. I’ve lost 15 pounds. Cycling burns around 25 calories per mile while you’re doing it, but just getting your metabolism going in the morning provides all-day benefits. I see all these frustrated drivers stuck at a light tapping their steering wheels. Not me. I’m moving my legs and breathing the morning air and feeling great.

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