Bicycling is the world’s most popular form of transportation with some 20,000 commute trips being made weekly in Atlanta, according to the Clean Air Campaign. The organization offers commuter rewards and resources for those who participate in carpool, walking or riding a bike to work. Doing so helps to reduce air pollution, save money and burn calories.
Kaj Engberg of Marietta works for UPS’ corporate marketing group in Sandy Springs and has been biking to work for nearly three years. He said he enjoys it tremendously.
“There are not many things where you can do something for yourself, like exercise, and not take so much time away from your home life and family life,” he said. “Being able to ride in to work has allowed me to instead of dreading my commute enjoy it. I recommend people consider it and give it a try.”
He said some people look surprised when they learn of his decision to ride his bike to work.
“Atlanta has horrendous traffic and people can’t imagine riding their bike in it. But I’ve worked out a route that is pretty safe,” he said.
Engberg has used personal recommendations and online resources to determine the safest routes for his seven-mile commute. He uses Google Maps and finds routes that take him through neighborhoods instead of main streets, something he said is safer and more enjoyable.
Although some people might be hesitant to trade the car for the bike, Engberg said it’s easier than they think but it does require some careful consideration.
“When you’re driving in and before you first do your first ride, look at those intersections and shoulder of the road,” he said.
Former Marietta resident Sarah Mills is a financial analyst who also rides her bike to work. She is a member of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.
Mills lives in Atlantic Station and works at an office on Northside Drive. From Marietta, it was a 14-mile commute, but now it’s only two. However, Mills said safety is always a factor.
“A lot of the challenges revolve around preparation, making sure you have everything for the day,” she said. “You sort of just travel to plan ahead since you are not going to be as mobile as you would be in a car,” she said.
Her bike has a basket, which she uses to carry items such as clothes, lunch and water. She utilizes the website www.ridethecity.com to help navigate the safest route.
Like Engberg, Mills said biking to work isn’t that difficult. However, she encourages interested people to give it a dry run and get educated. She has participated in classes where she learned to change her tire and replace a chain, all which she said makes for a safe commute.
“Bike commuting is really, really easy once you’ve done all of your research,” she said. “Pack all of things you thing you’re going to need. Make sure you have room on our bike to carry everything you need. Actually ride the route on a day when you don’t need to get there on time so it’s not rushed.”
Through a collaboration with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the Atlanta Regional Commission’s RideSmart division and local transportation management associations, the Clean Air Campaign’s Bike to Work Challenge will give individuals or teams of two to five people a chance to win prizes, such as gift cards from REI, and more.
Registration is available at www.atlbiketowork.org. There, challenge participants can also log their commute trips, track progress and earn points for prizes.
Brian Carr, Clean Air Campaign director of communications, said the organization and its partners are always looking for ways to offer alternatives to driving alone and to create alternate and more environmentally friendly ways to commute.
“One of the things we’ve never tried yet is to get more people on bicycles to be able to make their commute trips to and from their jobs,” he said. “We figured this was a great time to give this a try.”
Carr said high gas prices, employee wellness issues and cooler weather are all reasons to incorporate this program. Getting there safely is a priority.
“It’s paramount people consider their options for a safe ride to and from their jobs,” he said. “This region obviously is in a transition where we need more bike infrastructure to support biking, but there’s already a lot that’s already here.”
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition offers Confident City Biking classes. Making proper turns and learning how to lock up a bike are some of the topics that are covered in these classes, Carr said.
In order to participate in the Bike to Work Challenge, commuters must live or work in Georgia. They must be an employee commuting to and from work on one or more weekdays. Bicycles must be used as a commute mode for at least a portion of the commutes during the challenge (Oct. 1 to 28). Teams must include at least one new cyclist, someone who has not rode their bike to and from work more than seven times in the past 60 days. Team members must be enrolled by Oct. 5. Prizes will be awarded weekly and the competition will culminate in a grand prize win. In addition to logging their miles, challenge participants can also earn points by attending biking education classes.
The competition is open to people of all skill levels, and Carr said the challenge will offer resources for people to help plan their routes as well as an online community and support networks. To learn more, visit www.atlbiketowork.org or www.cleanaircampaign.org.