Bicycling is a great way to get exercise and get around. In addition to health benefits and the chance to explore and experience nature, places and people more closely, bicycling has many advantages. Free parking is always available close to your destination so you don’t waste time walking from the parking lot to where you are going. Maintenance costs are low and most maintenance can be done at home. And biking is pretty much free – you can go for miles on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the energy equivalent of about 730 miles/gallon!
To get started it’s important to find a bicycle that is a good fit for you and suits your needs. Bicycles come in different varieties from lightweight bicycles with drop handlebars (well-suited for long distances) to upright comfortable models that are good for pedaling around town. And if you don’t want to work up a sweat, try an electric pedal-assist bicycle.
Safety can be a concern but knowing the rules of the road and common dangers to avoid will increase your safety. Bicycles are considered vehicles according to the law and cyclists have similar rights and responsibilities to those of car drivers. Bright clothes and bike lights and reflectors increase visibility in the daytime and are a must at night. There are efforts at the State level to promote bike safety.
Build your family’s comfort and skills on the bike paths that are already enjoyed by many, paved and not, in town and nearby. Isn’t it time we all got back on our bikes?
The Ashuwillticook Trail that starts in Pittsfield and runs all the way to Adams is a wonderful path alongside lakes and through wetlands.
And bike lanes are becoming more common on roads in Pittsfield and other Berkshire towns. Let your town leadership know that you value and want more of them!
- If you have a bicycle that you have not ridden for a while, take it to a bike store to have it checked out. A tune-up will cost between $45 and $75.
- If you do not have a bicycle, go out and buy one! There are many styles to choose from and there are even electric pedal-assist bicycles out there. The kind you choose will depend on what kind of riding you expect to do. It is best to go to a good bike store where the staff will be able to help you find what is best for you and to find one that is the right size. You can often find excellent used bikes there as well.
- Bone up of the rules of the road. Go-by-Bike is a good resource.
- Get out there and ride. It’s good exercise and is a practical way of getting around town and riding to work, if your commute is not too long.
- If you are not comfortable riding on the road, practice your skills by riding on a bike path.
Purchase prices vary enormously, from about $300 for a basic bicycle to over $3,000 for a light-weight carbon-frame road bike. Payback time depends on how many miles you ride and the cost of the bike that you chose. If you ride 35 miles a week for six months of the year, you will ride 910 miles a year. In five years, you could save enough money in gasoline purchases to pay for a good quality bike.
There are no tail-pipe emissions from a bicycle. The only CO2 associated with bicycling is from breathing – and that associated with food production.
Other Benefits or Potential Draw-backs
Bicycling is a healthy activity and studies have shown people who bicycle to work have a lower risk for heart attacks and have other health benefits.
There is no doubt that bicyclists have a greater risk of injury than people traveling in cars. But much can be done to alleviate that risk by obeying the rules of the road, wearing bright clothing and displaying lights so as to be seen, and signaling your intended turns to other road users.
You are limited in what you can carry on a bicycle but baskets and paniers can carry a lot of small items.
Q: What clothes should you wear when riding a bike? A: You can wear anything you feel comfortable in. If you are wearing street clothes, it is a good idea to wear a fluorescent yellow vest or other bright clothing. Also, a reflective velcro band around your ankles keeps your pants legs away from the chain and makes you more visible.
Q: Isn’t it safer to ride on the sidewalk? A: No. Government statistics show that the risks of riding on the sidewalk are greater than riding on the road. This is probably because people pull out of driveways and side roads without looking for bicyclists on the sidewalk.