More Iowans than ever before are expected to use pedal power during this Bike to Work Week. The event last year registered 2,400 Iowa bike commuters and had participation from more than 700 employers and 114 towns. Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says he expects higher turnouts this year.
“We have great events across the state, every place from Sioux City where you can test out their new bike racks on their buses,” Wyatt says. “Iowa City has a Ride with the Mayor that’s a big celebration, Mason City is doing a Ride of Silence (to honor and remember cyclists who’ve been hit or killed by motorists), Cedar Falls is doing a Pack the Rack event.” Some cities are holding free breakfasts for bicycle riders, including Iowa City, Cedar Falls and Burlington. If you haven’t been on the bike in a while, it’s as easy as, well, riding a bike. Wyatt says bicycling to work is simpler than you’d think with a little forethought.
“Make sure your bike’s in good working order,” Wyatt says. “Start to plan out your route and you can test it on weekends and see if it’s going to work for you. Go slow. Take your time and enjoy yourself. Once you get to work, if you have a place to shower or to towel off, change clothes and you’re ready to go.” He says you’ll find yourself more refreshed and ready for the day if the morning starts with an exhilarating bike ride. Hardcore biking enthusiasts may spend thousands of dollars in their bikes, but Wyatt says most folks can get along fine for significantly less.
“That’s the thing about a bicycle,” Wyatt says. “The technology really hasn’t changed much over the years. That bike that’s hanging in the garage or sitting in the basement could be an effective mode of transportation. As gas prices creep up, people will pump up the tires and get out and give bicycling a try.” An estimate finds 350-thousand adult Iowans ride bikes during the summer months, but Wyatt believes there are many tens of thousands more. Wyatt says he’s a perfect example of why biking to work — works. He lives in Iowa City and works in Coralville.
“It’s shorter for me to ride my bike to work than it is to drive because I don’t have to go around the interstate and over to a bridge and I can just go directly to work on a trail that takes me there,” Wyatt says. “Sometimes, it’s about the same time, too. With traffic lights and signals, if you take some of the back roads, you don’t hit that traffic backup.”
He says biking to work can be part of a healthier lifestyle, decrease traffic congestion, lessen parking constraints, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Learn about local rides and all sorts of bicycling information at: www.bikeiowa.com, and register for Bike to Work Week to be eligible for prizes.