By Canon Luerkens, Posted Sunday, May 23, 2010 on the IR
Outside Montana, we have long had the reputation of having more cows per capita than people. Living in Montana, we know that one of the best things about our state is the small, neighborly feel of our cities.
In Helena, we are especially lucky that we have the amenities of a city without frustrating hours of commuting in rush-hour traffic or long drives on rural highways. The benefits of living within a few miles of work, schools, stores and downtown are innumerable — the most important of which is being able to ride a bicycle just about everywhere you need to go.
Unfortunately, I feel that few take advantage of the joys and benefits of bicycle commuting. Just as with any type of transportation, there are positives and negatives. Even though the thought of commuting on a bicycle may conjure pictures of the snowy, sub-zero days we had this winter, the benefits of bicycle commuting far outweigh the negatives. With a little planning and patience we can find a better way to get to work and feel great doing it!
Since gas prices increased a few years ago, it seems that people all over America have taken a second look at bicycling as a viable form of transportation for short trips that are often taken by car. Additionally, energy independence is quickly becoming one of our most important economic issues. Bicycling can be a part of the solution; if one out of 10 commuters switched to walking or biking, we’d save 2 billion gallons of gas a year.
Bicycling is also a great form of exercise. In about the same amount of time that it takes to drive to work, bicycle commuters can get to and from work and incorporate daily exercise without having to spend extra time at the gym.
Cities and towns across the nation are beginning to embrace bicycle commuting as an alternatives to driving, making it safer and easier for cyclists everywhere. In March, Federal Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood announced his plans to integrate the needs of bicyclists into federally funded road projects. He also said that state and city projects using federal dollars need to take nonmotorized traffic into equal account within transportation designs focusing on safe and accessible routes.
On Wednesday, May 26, Helenans can learn more about taking advantage of the benefits of bicycle commuting in our own community. Please join me and many others supporting bicycle commuting and alternative transportation by coming to Bike to Work Day. The Capitol Rotunda will host a dozen groups from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. representing many aspects of bicycling. The city alternative transportation coordinator will speak about plans for the city of Helena; Adventure Cycling, the largest international bike touring organization, will have displays about present and future national bicycle plans; the Transportation for America Campaign will describe their coalition’s work to make lasting infrastructural impacts through legislation; and Friends of Centennial Trail will have information about their campaign to raise matching funds to pay for construction of the first inter-city greenway across Helena, the Centennial Trail System.
Others representatives will include the Helena Safe Routes to Schools Program, Lewis and Clark County Obesity Prevention Task Force, Department of Healthcare and Benefits, Helena Police Department, and local bike shops like Big Sky Cyclery, Great Divide Cyclery and Capital Sports. We will also have some brief words from both Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. There will be prize giveaways and snacks donated by the Real Food Market and The Bagel Co.
Keep on riding your bikes after work down to Alive @ Five and enjoy premier, hassle-free parking right near the entrance. See how fun and convenient it is to ride to an event.
With the weather warming, I encourage all Helenans to give bicycle commuting a try — for saving on gas, for making our community more energy independent, for living healthier and just for plain old fun.
Canon Luerkens is a daily bicycle commuter and chairman of the State Employee Alternative Transportation Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 444-9685