Gas Prices, Health Benefits Boost Allure Of Bicycle Commuting

While so far only a "white-collar movement," the growing trend of biking to work is leading many cities to provide new amenities to bike commuters, and the federal government to propose employer tax breaks for each employee cycling to work.

"A growing number of cities are making it easier to ride your bike to work -- erasing hurdles big and small, from securing bikes safely downtown, to taking bikes on public transit, to finding a discreet place to shower." Bike stations -- public facilities complete with lockers, showers and repair shops -- are being built in downtowns from California to Washington, D.C. To manage bicycle-related efforts, cities including Chicago, Louisville, Portland, Oregon, are creating biking-policy departments to coordinate bike stations and the building of new bike lanes. A survey of U.S. cities conducted in 2004 found that more than 80 percent of municipalities planned to build new bikeways.

"Nationally, a bill introduced in the Senate last month would give employers a tax incentive to offer employees $40 to $100 a month to cycle to work, and a similar bill is pending in the House."

[Editor's note: Although this article is only available to WSJ subscribers, it is available to Planetizen readers for free through the link below for a period of seven days.]

Full Story: The Cycling Commute Gets Chic



Blue Collar Cyclists

It is typical of the Wall Street Journal to interview people who characterize bicycle communting as "white collar." Many commuters are working class people on junker bikes; they cannot afford cars, busses don't go to their workplaces, and they cannot afford helmets or lights. These are the probably the cyclists most at risk for injury or death from cycling. Here in the Richmond, Virginia region, four cyclists have been killed in the last three weeks. They were all riding on high traffic roads at night, without lights and without helmets. Three of them were riding home from work.

I am white collar and I ride to work as often as I can. But the other commuters I see on the road are likely headed for jobs in restaurants, on construction sites, or in landscaping.

Mary E. Reynolds, AICP

Public-Health Fashion

The story of "workers switch to bikes" is like "workers choose transit as alternative." For many, public transit is the only option, albeit very last-resort in most areas, yet those who need it have been using it for years. As a white-collar "public-health fashion," though, suddenly transit becomes a priority. The same goes for bicycling (and, perhaps, walking). It's not fashionable to live the actual day-to-day life of a blue-collar worker, but it is fashionable to be zero-emission and physically fit.

It certainly is a notable cultural shift when white-collar workers accept bicycling and public transit for commutes when they could more or less easily opt for single-occupancy cars instead. This might actually be a trend that can seriously further the cause of non-automobile commuting. But treating these modes as something new, or something that only matters when the white collar pick it up, indicates society's general lack of respect for blue-collar workers.

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