Springtime: the roads are clear, the outdoors beckons, and gas prices have gone through the roof. Furthermore, you've just had a good look at your rear end in last summer's shorts. Time to get the bike out of the garage!
“If you're worried that you are becoming a couch potato, you may want to consider cycling to school or work instead of being driven,” says Sylvia Welke, Safety and Promotion Coordinator at Citizens for Safe Cycling.
“Just think about the exercise you'd be getting. Only 30 minutes a day can keep your cardiovascular system in shape, not to mention your legs. Exercise before and after class also gives you energy...no more falling asleep in school. You don't have to work up a sweat or mess up your hair, just take it easy and enjoy the scenery. Cycle with a friend and be social.”
Cycling for errands is a major part of Agnes Davis' fitness plan.
Using a cycling computer that fits on her handlebars with a front-wheel sensor, she monitors her distance and average speed when she rides out for groceries or small purchases. “By keeping track of each trip, and adding it to the collection of photographs on the kitchen fridge, I can feel a sense of pride for the gas and pollution I have saved by cycling, not to mention all the calories I can eat to fuel my bicycle.”
Then there are the mental health benefits. Sharon Boddy is looking forward to the Tulip Festival. Every time she cycles her favourite route past Dow's Lake, an “explosion of colour hits me,” reminding her why she loves living in Ottawa.
Carlington resident Richard Taylor cycles for the feeling of accomplishment— door to door to his Kanata job in 50 minutes, beating the bus— as well as the stress relief. Now that he's cycling again, he doesn't need to make a special trip to the gym for a cardio workout.
To make your trips safe and enjoyable, just remember these safety tips.
Make sure your bike fits. Both feet should reach the ground when you are on the saddle, flat on the ground when you stand straddling the top tube.
Check tires, brakes, and chain lubrication be fore you set out.
Ride in a straight line about one-half to one metre from the curb or from parked cars, in the same direction as traffic. Be predictable. Signal your turns. Obey traffic rules: you are a vehicle!
Be visible. Wear bright colours, put reflective tape on your bike and use a light at night.
Don't ride on the sidewalk. It's illegal and it's not safe. Car drivers don't notice you at intersections and driveways until it's too late. “Twice as many adult cyclists are hit while riding on sidewalks as while riding on the road,” says Sylvia Welke of Citizens for Safe Cycling.
Wear a helmet. Safe riding habits are your most important defence, but if you do fall or get hit, at least your head will be protected.