JACKSONVILLE — Friday, May 20 is National Bike to Work Day and if you’ve been considering biking to work, we got some tips from the pros.
Biking to work is popular in many U.S. cities. But Jacksonville is big. Really, really big. So while it may not be the best option for everyone, it still is for plenty of people.
Commuting on two wheels is really, really good for your health. Doctors say that in all but the most polluted parts of the world, the health benefits of biking far outweigh the adverse effects of injuries or health effects from pollution .
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regular exercise can cut your risk of depression and anxiety while also helping you sleep better. “Especially given how cooped up we’ve all been for the past year, it’s definitely got the mental health benefits of being out in the open air,” says Erich G. Anderer, MD, the chief of neurosurgery at NYU Langone Hospital.
And, of course, with gas nearing $5 a gallon, biking to work can save you some money in gas.
Florida ranks as the third most dangerous state for cyclists, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year, there were 268 bicycle crashes in Duval County, which killed six people. “I believe a lot more people would bike to work if it were safer,” said Councilmember LeAnna Cumber. She represents District, which includes San Marco.
Cumber, who’s running for mayor, pushed for a pilot program to better protect cyclists. It involved spending $120,000 to paint bike lanes along the ⅔ mile stretch of Old St. Augustine Road from Phillips Highway to Inwood Terrace the color green. The program will extend down to Emerson Street after a resurfacing project wraps up within the next year. The goal is to add even more green lanes throughout the city, with federal funding.
“Drivers really do try to stay out of painted lanes,” she said. “It kinda pops.”
According to the National Association of City Transportation, the following U.S. cities have already adopted colored pavement in bike lanes:
New York, NY
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco, CA
“When you saw those green bike lanes, what was your first thought?” Action News Jax reporter Jessica Barreto asked Scott Gross, the co-owner of Open Road Bicycles in San Marco. “Thank goodness. Way to catch up, Jacksonville!” he said with a smile.
Gross has been riding for 40 years. “I like the freedom, the freedom that it gives me,” he pointed out.
With his experience, he helps cyclists like Greg Woelfel hit the road in the safest gear. “One of my passions is being able to ride to work,” Woelfel said. “It’s a real good release of energy and stress.” Woelfel moved to Jacksonville last summer from Virginia.
“I love moving to new areas and finding all the roads to bike,” he described.
And oftentimes, they’re the same roads drivers use.
“We need to also change driver behavior,” Cumber emphasized.
Cyclists agree this is especially important in shared lanes, where drivers may not realize people on bicycles need space.
“We are allowed to take the whole lane and sometimes that’s necessary,” Woelfel said. “I think there’s a misconception that cyclists are antagonistic and we don’t wanna be,” Woelfel further clarified. “We wanna be good citizens and enjoy the road just like everybody else.”
“Try to remember we are a part of the traffic too,” Woelfel said.
If you feel like you’re ready to join the bike-to-work movement, these pros say: go for it! “Give it a shot, maybe one day a week,” Gross recommended. “Get accustomed to it then maybe move it to two days a week, three days a week. If you work and live in the same general area, it’s not hard to do.”
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get out,” Woelfel said. “It doesn’t have to be a fancy bike to bike to work,” he stressed. “Start off something small,” Woelfel says biking to work has allowed him the opportunity to explore everything Jacksonville has to offer.
“The fresh air is one of those things that just keeps me going. I see a beautiful sunrise most of the time, or a beautiful sunset,” Woelfel described. “Keeps me out, enjoying the state of Florida.”
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