“What do bikes mean to you?” from the Alliance for Biking & Walking

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by Brighid O’Keane, interim executive director

Bikes bring people together. Riding a bicycle is an affordable, healthy, and fun way to engage with the people and places in your community. The Alliance for Biking & Walking is a coalition of more than 200 state and local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations across North America. For each organization, each staff and board, each member and volunteer, there is a unique and personal reason why bicycles are important.

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And May is an exciting month when a spotlight is cast on the work we do in our communities all year long. For each new person who jumps on his or her bike, or feels a new sense of pride in riding, our movement is growing and connecting our transportation choice to our work, family, home, opportunities, and all the other things we care about.

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How are some advocates maximizing National Bike Month? How can you ensure your organization gets the most out of a month with so many opportunities to bolster the visibility of the important work you do in your community? Here are some tips from advocates in Long Beach, Seattle, and Washington DC:

  • Work with community partners – major employers, bike shops, local non-profits, or places of worship – to enhance the reach, impact, and success of your event or programming
  • Find new audiences and activate supporters with social media
  • Don’t start with the bike – think about the things that inspire people’s passions and connect bicycling to that activity in a fun and effective way
  • Be clear about what you can offer, whether it’s safety training, educational materials, or free schwag
  • Make participation easy
  • Make it about more than biking to work; encourage people to bike to all of their destinations

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For more ideas for maximizing Bike Month and keep the momentum going beyond May, read and listen to the Alliance’s recent webinar. You’ll learn more about the work of the Alliance for Biking & Walking as well as becoming involved with your local advocacy organization.

“What do bikes mean to you?” from Rails to Trails Conservancy

rails_to_trails-logo-headerBy Katie Harris, Communications Coordinator, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Imagine a country where you can safely get everywhere you need to go on bike or foot. The infrastructure suits your needs, your kids can ride along with you without concern, and a trip to the grocery store on two wheels is a no-brainer. It’s a nation of connected networks, with trail systems as the norm—not the exception.

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), that’s the world we’re working toward, and, clearly, bikes are an integral element to that envisioned future. Let us show you how.

Bikes allow us to…

Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail - Photo by Jim Brown

Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail – Photo by Jim Brown

Explore

With more than 22,000 miles of multi-use trails in the United States, there is a lot of exploring to be done! Bikes allow us to see new areas but also allow us to discover our own backyards from a different perspective. Traveling by bike, whether it’s a day trip on your favorite rail-trail or a multi-day excursion on a regional trail network, you can truly explore and experience a place…the sights, sounds, topography and climate.

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Grand Teton Multi-Use Pathway, WY – photo by Camrin Dengel

And while bikes are only one way to explore the trails that connect the country, we think they’re a pretty great way to do it!

Transform

Bicycling allows us to transform our lives by giving us the opportunity to prioritize health and family, all wrapped up into one activity! A bicycle is a simple, but transformative, machine. (Few would argue otherwise.)

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Photo by Jillian Imilkowski

As more active-transportation infrastructure projects—including connected, regional trail networks—are planned and constructed across the country, it’ becoming much easier for folks to integrate biking into their daily routines—transforming sedentary, “business-as-usual” habits into vibrant and active ways of life.

Mon River Trail, WV, MCCVB_Steve Shaluta

Mon River Trail, WV, MCCVB- photo by Steve Shaluta

Connect

Not only do bikes allow us to explore and transform, they also connect us with where we need to go. RTC has helped build trail connections through rural areas that spool out over a hundred miles of open prairie, snake through mountain passes and cruise along river canyons. We’ve also helped facilitate connections within urban cores, across state lines and between towns and suburbs, linking communities along vibrant corridors in much the same way as the railroads did in their heyday. And we don’t intend to stop anytime soon!

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W&OD Trail, Virginia – photo by Milo-Bateman

To us, bikes are more than just tools or toys for recreation. They are active transportation’s secret weapon, a means by which to improve our health and well-being while broadening the mobility and access of every member of every community across the nation.

“What do bikes mean to you?” from IMBA

imba_logoby Michelle Barker, IMBA Upper Midwest Region Director

I’m lucky, as I have one of the best jobs in the world—a job that is focused on bikes. As the Upper Midwest Region Director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association, I interact daily with volunteers, land managers and the cycling industry through conversations about mountain biking, how to make it better and how to create more of it. I regularly travel across the Midwest and—along the way—experience great riding in our backyards, National Forest lands, state parks, county and city parks, and even inside old warehouses that have been transformed into all-weather bike parks.

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But mountain biking means so much more to me than just riding; it is a conduit for a variety of opportunities and itself represents opportunity.

In my line of work, bikes are an opportunity to engage with amazing volunteers who give generously of their time, energies and resources. Across the country, passionate volunteers set aside time on their weekends and take time off from their vocations to clear trail debris, meet with partner agencies and host exciting events—all because they desire to provide great mountain biking for themselves, their friends and their communities.

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I have witnessed how mountain biking can also be an opportunity for youth to experience outdoor recreation in their hometowns. I have two boys, ages 11 and 13, and they travel on many of my mountain bike trips to places like Copper Harbor, MI; Cuyuna, MN; and the Twin Cities. But they learned to ride and love riding on their local mountain bike trails, like so many other young people.

Mountain biking also opens the door to community activism and advocacy. My previous career was in education and, so often as a teacher, I heard complaints about apathetic youth. Through mountain biking, I have seen students attend public input meetings, write letters to elected officials, work on mapping projects and engage in conservation projects, all because they love to ride.

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Trails provide a unique opportunity to step off the metaphorical merry-go-round of a responsible adult life and just enjoy being outside on your bike. A quick lunchtime ride clears away the clutter in my brain and creates a happier, more productive me for afternoon work. Riding before work (or to work) puts me in a better place to tackle the day’s challenges and celebrate the day’s successes.

Riding singletrack is an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, and I absolutely love to mountain bike with my girlfriends! We all lead busy lives, so mountain biking is our opportunity to catch up, get outdoors, learn something new and sneak in some exercise. We come away tired, happy, re-energized and full of great, new stories.

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Mountain biking also creates special opportunities for travel. I have traveled with my family across much of the U.S. and even into Canada simply to ride bicycles in each other’s company. Along the way, we experienced excellent trails in each of our destinations and met like-minded people who remain lifelong friends.

Bikes—specifically mountain bikes—create opportunities to meet wonderful, passionate people, ride amazing trails across the country (and around the world), engage in local advocacy efforts, experience outdoor recreation, decompress and enjoy time with friends and family. Bikes are my passion, my avocation and—proudly—my vocation.

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“What do bikes mean to you?” from People for Bikes

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PeopleForBikes has more than a million individual supporters, which means that when you ask what bikes mean to us, you’re actually asking what they mean to each one of those people. With a million individuals you might get a million different answers, and we think that’s just fine. And just like there isn’t one kind of PeopleForBikes supporter, there isn’t one answer to what bikes mean to those who ride. Here are a few ways we could answer that question.

Bikes mean a sense of adventure, on roads or on mountain trails.

For lots of our supporters, biking is how they explore their world. Some of them might do it by riding 100 miles on nearby roads, while others prefer to pedal over rocks and roots on mountain biking trails. Some people travel the world, others find adventure right out their front door. To us, bikes mean discovery, no matter where and how you ride.

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Ride on Chicago – Photo by Jamie Kripke

Bikes mean bonding for friends and families who bike together.

PeopleForBikes sees bicycling as a perfect way to unite people. Parents and children, neighbors and teammates, to us bikes mean fun for everyone. Our goal is to make every bike ride better, so you can enjoy it whether you’re a beginning rider out for the first time or an experienced bicyclist who goes out every week rain or shine.

Bikes mean affordable and convenient transportation for commuters.

Whether you own your own bike, or you use a bike share, biking for transportation is a big part of what bikes mean to us. We support and fund ways to integrate bikes and cycling into the community, like bike lanes, because biking for transportation is what motivates many PeopleForBikes supporters to ride each day.

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Bikes mean victory for competitive bike riders.

The same routes that people take to work Monday through Friday often become part of a racecourse on the weekend. For those riders who get suited up in head-to-toe spandex and ride like the wind, bikes are more than just a tool for getting from point A to point B. PeopleForBikes is for these people too. From downhill mountain biking, to cyclocross, to road racing, bikes are a great way to get the competitive juices going.

What all these different people have in common is that they love biking because of the way it makes them feel. Commuters, recreational riders and racers alike can all agree that when you ride a bike, you feel better. Some call it meditation, others say it’s a form of therapy. We call it shedding the monster. The anger and frustration melts away and you turn from a growling beast into the best version of yourself. Our latest video, Shed the Monster, is our way of saying that when you ride a bike, good things happen. This is what bikes really mean to us, no matter how you ride.

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“What do bikes mean to you?”: Guest Post from the League of American Bicyclists

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The League of American Bicyclists is the oldest bicycle advocacy organization in the country. Founded in 1880, the League believes bikes bring people together.

When more people ride bikes, life is better for everyone; communities are safer, stronger and better connected; our nation is healthier, economically stronger, environmentally cleaner and more energy independent.

So, “what do bikes mean to you?” To us, bikes provide the path to that better life for everyone.

Our mission is to lead that movement to create a bicycle-friendly America for everyone. As leaders, our commitment is to listen and learn, define standards and share best practices to engage diverse communities and build a powerful, unified voice for change. Our vision is of a nation where everyone recognizes and enjoys the many benefits and opportunities of bicycling.

The League has sponsored National Bike Month since 1956, and we look forward to celebrating bikes with local communities near and far every May. But National Bike Month is so much more than 31 days in May.  It’s a celebration of bikes; an impetus to get rolling again; a gateway to riding more often; a time to evangelize the beauty of bikes; and much, much more.

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Jim Oberstar Memorial Ride at 2015 National Bike Summit – Photo by Brian Palmer – Courtesy of League of American Bicyclists

National Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day are often cited as the month’s flagship events, occurring the third week and third Friday of May, respectively. Indeed, bike commuting has grown by 62% from 2000 to 2014 — but Bike Month is about so much more than just getting to and from the office.

Everyone can take a leading role in organizing events for Bike Month, whether you’re part of a city government, advocacy group, local business, bike shop, school or any other group interested in making your community better.

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Thousands of organizations, many in the more than 325 League-designated Bicycle Friendly Communities, organize, plan and host events throughout the month of May, introducing bicycling to new riders, cultivating local bike culture and  helping build momentum among the already converted.

The momentum is building: With growing cultural awareness around health and wellness, sustainability and economic savings, bicycling is being seen by new and broader audiences as a simple solution to many complex problems, from reducing obesity rates to increasing mobility options.

And with the help of folks like you, we’ll be able to carry that momentum from Bike Month forward throughout the year. Learn more about all the things the League does throughout the year — from helping businesses, communities and universities become more bike-friendly to uniting the voices of bicyclists on Capitol Hill and amplifying the voices of women, people of color and youth in the bike movement – at bikeleague.org.

May is Bike Month at Performance Bicycle

May is National Bike Month and we’re marking the occasion by helping people across the country get out on their bikes and by making cycling more accessible through support of People for Bikes.

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From May 4-10, cyclists can bring their bikes, no matter where they were originally bought, into any of Performance Bicycle’s 100+ nationwide locations to receive a free safety inspection to get ready for national Bike to Work Week, May 11-15. A Performance Bicycle specialist or Spin Doctor mechanic will take about 5 minutes to inspect the main components of each bike to ensure the gears, brakes, tires and wheels are in working order.

“Each year, we look forward to National Bike Month and kicking it off with free safety inspections to help new and experienced cyclists get out and ride,” said Performance Bicycle CEO David Pruitt.

Performance Bicycle has partnered with PeopleForBikes, a charitable foundation with a goal of making every ride better by collaborating with riders, businesses, community leaders and elected officials to improve cycling infrastructure.  Cyclists can make an in-store or online donation of $2 to support PeopleForBikes’ mission of by creating more trails, bike parks and protected bike lanes. Performance will match up to $10,000 of all donations collected. “We are very excited to be partnering with PeopleForBikes.  Our combined advocacy efforts for improved cycling infrastructure across the country are essential in making cycling more accessible and enjoyable for everyone,” said Pruitt. “It’s really quite simple – cyclists need more and safer places to ride.”

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All Performance Bicycle stores will lead teams in the PeopleForBikes National Bike Challenge, a nationwide event running May through September that unites thousands bicyclists across the country.  All cyclists, no matter what level of experience, are invited to join their local store’s team where they can log their miles and find support and encouragement from other cyclists in their area.  Riders join their local store team by creating an account on the National Bike Challenge website and searching “Performance Bicycle (City Name).”

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All 100+ retail locations will be hosting free cycling clinics on Thursdays and Saturdays that will provide tips and tricks on maintenance and repair, getting back into cycling and riding with others. The full schedule is below:

  • May 2 – Getting Back On The Bike
  • May 7Basic Bike Maintenance And Commuting Tips
  • May 9 – Basic Bike Maintenance
  • May 16 – How To Ride With Other People
  • May 23 – Riding With Kids (a clinic for parents and children)
  • May 28 – Brake, Gear And Derailleur
  • May 30 – Trailside And Roadside Repair

We’ll also be sharing photos, tips of the day and more throughout the month of May on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. And we’re hosting a photo contest where cyclists are encouraged to use the hashtag #mybikemonth when posting their cycling photos for a chance to win 1 of 2 bikes!

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National Bike Month: Meet The Alliance For Biking & Walking

 

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As National Bike Month winds down, we bring you the last of our Advocacy Interviews. We had a chance to catch up with the folks from the Alliance For Biking & Walking— an advocacy group that strives to improve our communities by helping to recraft them into more livable spaces.

By lobbying local, state and Federal government organizations, collecting data for governments and groups to use, and helping to found grassroots organizations all over the country, the Alliance has done a lot to help riders and walkers everywhere.

Read on to find out more.

1. What’s the goal of your organization?

Communities are better places when it’s comfortable and safe to get around by bike. And the people who affect change for better biking are the grassroots advocates who make sure that bicyclists’ interests are represented in state and local government. We give advocates tools to win campaigns that transform communities into great places to bike and walk.

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The Alliance for Biking & Walking believes that communities are better places to live when it’s easier to get around

2. What projects are you working on currently?

We’re currently organizing a training for city-based advocacy groups who want to build protected bike lane networks in their cities. Advocates are increasingly in positions to push their cities to build awesome protected bike lanes so that everybody can feel comfortable biking around town. We’re going to train about 25 advocates on how to launch campaigns similar to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting the City initiative, which was a total game-changer for SF.

We’re also organizing our biennial Leadership Retreat, a big pow wow for state and local biking and walking advocates. It’s the homecoming ball of bike/ped advocacy.

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Events large and small are important for increasing visibility for biking

3. What actions can I take locally to make the experience of cycling better in my community?

Get involved at the local level through being a member, volunteering, donating, and encouraging others to get involved. Local advocates are the folks who are responsible for getting bike lanes on the ground, passing pro-bike legislation, and building bike share systems.

If there isn’t yet a bike advocacy group in your area, consider starting one. Contact us at the Alliance for Biking & Walking for tips and coaching.

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If you’re not involved in a local advocacy organization, consider joining one to help improve cycling infrastructure in your city

4. What are you doing to get more people on bikes?

The Alliance is uniting, supporting, and funding the people who teach local biking classes, start Safe Routes to School programs, make bike maps, lobby your government to make biking better, and tons of other pro-bike stuff.

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Networks of “green lanes” are a major project for the Alliance for Biking and Walking

5. How can your message resonate with non-bike riders?

More and more people are recognizing that better biking isn’t just about better biking – it’s also about building the types of places where people want to live and work and shop.

 

National Bike Month: Meet the League of American Bicyclists

May is National Bike Month, a celebration of all things cycling, so it seemed like the perfect time to chat with our great cycling advocacy partners who work hard to make riding bikes better. Every week this month we will introduce you to a different group that is making a difference here in the US. First up is Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists.

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What’s the goal of your organization?

The mission of the League is to lead the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. We believe that bicycling brings people together, and that as more people ride life is better for everyone; communities are safer, stronger and better connected; and our nation is healthier, economically stronger, environmentally cleaner and more energy independent. We want everyone to enjoy the benefits and opportunities of bicycling. I’ve been with the organization for more than ten years, and I feel like our mission is more relevant and valuable now than ever. ( I can’t speak for the entire time since we were founded in 1880!)

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Advocating for cycling on the steps of the US Capitol

What projects are you working on currently?

Today, we aim to achieve those goals through advocacy, education, and promotion. We have a national advocacy presence in Washington DC where we work with Congress and the Federal agencies to ensure funding, policies and programs are in place to build a more bicycle-friendly America. We run the Bicycle Friendly Community (and Business, University and States) program that recognizes cities for their work but more importantly provides a roadmap or blueprint for becoming much more bike-friendly. On the education side, we run the only national certification program (with curricula and materials) for bike education experts — we currently have around 2,000 active League Cycling Instructors sharing their passion and knowledge for safe cycling with anyone that will listen!

National Bike Challenge

Events like National Bike Month, Bike to Work Day, and the National Bike Challenge fall into the promotion category along with the extraordinary volume and variety of rides that our 900+ affiliated local clubs and advocacy groups put on year-round. The National Bike Challenge has to be the most inspiring way of getting more people riding. Every year we are blown away by the stories of lives transformed by participation in the Challenge. We love it and hope you are signed up and part of the Challenge. And as if that weren’t enough, we are also actively engaged in promoting greater participation by women in bicycling, the bike movement, and the bike industry.

May is Bike Month

What actions can I take locally to make the experience of cycling better in my community?

In each of those areas, there are ways for individual cyclists and local organizations to plug in and take action. You can sign up for action alerts — both national and local “calls to action” when we need the voice of cyclists to be heard — or attend the National Bike Summit each March to be part of the advocacy team. We have scorecards you can use to do a quick analysis of your community or business to determine how bike-friendly they are; every BFC  and BFB application generates specific feedback — we encourage you to join your local advocacy group to get plugged in there. If you can’t stop talking about bikes and bike riding and safety…maybe you need to share that passion with others by becoming an instructor. If you aren’t quite ready for that, the classes those LCIs teach are full of great advice whatever your level of experience.

Having said all that, there are TWO really simple things you can do to make your community more bike friendly. Number one: ride your bike. Number two, write to your Mayor, County Executive or Council member and tell them you care about bicycling and want bicycling to be better. Throw in a couple of specific examples of improvements, and you are on the way!

Bike to Work Day: Portraits from our Home Office

We love to ride, so we’re pretty serious about National Bike to Work Day. Check out the collage below for just a few of the folks who pedaled in to work today at our home office here in North Carolina!

Gaynor’s Bike To Work Week Wisdom

Our Head Spin Doctor (and all-around motivator) Gaynor has been busy reminding, encouraging and cajoling everyone here at our home office to participate in National Bike to Work Week, and especially on National Bike to Work Day (Friday, May 18th). His big goal is fulfilling our “Empty Parking Lot Challenge” on Friday – an ambitious target, but we’re certainly going to give it a try! Since Gaynor is so effective at rallying the bike commuting efforts here at our home office, we thought we’d share some of the bike to work wisdom he’s used to motivate us. Hopefully you can use some of Gaynor’s wise counsel to encourage friends or coworkers to give bike commuting a try!

Reason #1: According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.”

Most of us know this but how do we find the time to exercise? It’s easy – commute by bike! By cycling to work, you are scheduling 2 exercise periods each day you ride. The ride in provides a quiet time to plan your day before the confusing onslaught of details and demands. The ride home gives you time to reflect, decompress and let the tension go. You’ll be healthier, happier and more productive.

But don’t trust me! Here again from the Mayo Clinic: “Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike [or a bike ride] can contribute to this same feeling.

Reason #2: Biking to work saves bucks. The average American commutes 33 miles each day. The average American car gets 22 miles per gallon. Regular gas costs $3.85/gallon. Average Joe spends $29/week, $115/month and $1500/year for gas.

If you only live an easy 5 mile commute to work, you’ll still save $8.75/week (the cost a six pack of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale), $35/month and $455/year.

Reason #3: Add some adventure to your day. Shake up your routine, try something different, spice up your life. Why settle for the same-old, same-old? Become the hardy, intrepid person you really are.  Commute to work!

Reason #4: Show the doubters. Think of all the times that someone told you that you could not do it. That you were too old, too young; too big, too small; too dumb, too smart; too thin, too stout; too loud, too quiet; too brash, too timid. You’re a girl; you’re a boy! It’s too long, it’s too steep; it’s high, it’s too deep; it’s too fast. It’s too slow. Ride to work! Show ‘em you won’t be stopped!

Reason #5: Join a gang. By riding to work you are joining a select group of mostly well-adjusted, fun, happy and pleasant bike commuters.

Reason #6: Save the planet. Each year, the average passenger car on an average commute of 33 miles produces 77.1 lbs of hydrocarbons, 575 lbs of carbon monoxide, and 11,450 lbs of carbon dioxide. Aside from a little methane from too much roughage, commuting by bike produces zero pollution!

Reason #7: If you ride to work you won’t get pulled over for speeding. Ride a bike = no tickets. Drive a car = tickets.

Reason #8: Beer Pressure. Cycling dramatically improves the taste of beer, especially good beer. Ride for beer but drink responsibly.

Reason #9: Peer Pressure. Your coworkers and friends will be cycling to work. What’s your excuse when others less fit but spunkier are riding? Ride and have no excuses!

And finally…

Reason #10: Because it’s fun! When you commute by bike you have another reason to ride your bike, and what’s not to like about that?

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