The second Bike to Work Challenge kicks off today throughout metro Atlanta. It is organized by the Georgia Department of Transportation, The Clean Air Campaign, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Atlanta Regional Commission, and was started to encourage residents to bike to work this month to compete for prizes and help reduce air pollution.
Last year, more than 1,000 metro Atlanta commuters participated in the challenge and more than 17,000 bike trips were logged. This reportedly eliminated nearly 130,000 miles of car travel and 64 tons of pollution, according to The Clean Air Campaign.
“Bicycling to work can free you from traffic and provide many health benefits,” said Tedra Cheatham, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign. “Last year, both new and veteran bicycle commuters came out in full force and proved that Atlanta has a strong biking culture. We hope to see even greater participation this year.”
Bruce Sofge of east Cobb, who began biking to work in June 2008, is a first-time participant in the Challenge and joins 20 others from Cobb and 533 statewide who have signed up for the month-long campaign.
The 57-year-old engineer said he started biking to Lockheed Martin in Marietta from his east Cobb home as a way to save money and burn some calories. To date, he’s made about 500 of the 11-mile, 45-minute, one-way commutes.
“When preparing to bike to work, have a can-do attitude and just do it,” Sofge said. “I probably started just because folks told me it would be crazy. Find a buddy who rides and meet up with him/her to start with if you are unsure.”
He is one of several people at Lockheed who bike to and from work when weather permits, and like many others, Sofge has developed a system to make biking to work easier.
Monday he drives his car into work and takes a couple of days’ worth of clothes and meals so that he doesn’t have to tote it on his rides. He will then bike home that night and typically ride to work throughout the week. There is a shower on-site that Lockheed employees can use.
“It’s been great at reducing my mileage and when I’m in good shape, I can bike every day,” he said.
Sofge, who is also a CrossFit exercise instructor, said staying healthy is one aspect of being successful at commuting on a daily basis.
“It starts with food,” he said. “I eat whole foods, organic in many cases, and almost nothing that comes with a label.”
Sofge also recommends safety first when biking to work or for exercise.
“You can never be completely safe, even in your car,” he said. “Lighting to be seen is the best thing I can do. Ride to the right side of the right lane, never on the sidewalk. Drivers will not be looking for you there.”
More about the challenge
Single riders and teams of two-to-five people can earn points throughout the month of October by riding their bikes to work, attending instructional bike classes and submitting photos from their biking trips during the online Facebook contest.
Participants can also track their progress against leaderboards, and top individual and team winners will be announced Nov. 4. Prizes include Patagonia rain jackets and more.
As an extra incentive for new cyclists, participants who bike commute for the first time will get bonus points. Plus, all teams will be required to have at least one new cyclist.
The Clean Air Campaign is also extending the Bike Challenge to teens, ages 13 to 18, in metro Atlanta schools.
Students can participate in the Teen Bike Challenge and log bike trips via The Clean Air Campaign’s website at cleanaircampaign.org. Participants may enter as teams or individuals and qualify to win weekly prize drawings.
Also, schools that motivate a significant portion of their student body to take part in the Teen Bike Challenge can qualify for Clean Air School recognition for the 2013-14 school year.
To learn more about the challenge or to register, visit atlbiketowork.org. The team registration deadline is Oct. 4 but individuals may continue to register through the end of October.