On June 17, the third Monday in June, we want as many of you as possible to ride your bikes to work. It’s part of a national movement to raise awareness of motorcycles, to put pressure on lawmakers to create motorcycle-friendly roads, and to make the morning commute safer and quicker for all of us.
Most motorcyclists keep their bikes for hobby riding. The bike sits in the garage all week, and only comes out at weekends. Of the five million bikes in this country, only 150,000 are used for getting to work. The rest of the time, you drive your car.
It’s no surprise. You’re not going to get rained on. It’s easier to carry your laptop. You don’t have to worry about keeping your suit clean. You can make those important calls as you drive. You don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to stash your helmet. You’re not breathing in exhaust fumes when you’re stuck in heavy traffic on the Interstate. We’ve all heard the reasons, and they’ re all true. But have you thought how different your daily commute could be if you did it on two wheels? You could be arriving at work with a smile on your face, instead of trying to shake off the frustration and wish away the simmering road rage.
Motorcycles Make Sense For Commuting
Okay, hold tight, we’re going to throw some numbers at you.
The average commuter in the US travels 29 miles a day, at an average speed of 32 mph, which equates to an hour a day commuting. Motorcyclists save up to 33 minutes per hour when riding through towns and cities, and 20 minutes per hour on other roads. In other words, bikes are nearly twice as quick. If you’re a typical commuter, you’re wasting as much as ten hours a month just sitting in traffic when you could be riding. That’s basically a whole day of your life doing absolutely nothing except getting frustrated and cursing at the other drivers, every single month. Twelve days a year. Over a whole year of your life, gone.
And of course bikes are cheaper to run. Once you take into account small bikes and scooters, the average two-wheeler delivers 50mpg, compared to 22mpg for cars. That’s less than half the fuel costs. With your typical monthly commute at 600 miles, the car’s using 27 gallons, while the bike’s using just 12. At $3.50 a gallon, you’re saving over $50 a month, or $600 a year. What could you do with $600?
If you look at the big picture, those fuel savings really add up. On Ride To Work Day, the extra 150,000 motorcyclists add up to a one-day saving of 60,000 gallons of fuel across the nation. If those people stuck with the bike every day, that would make 15 million gallons of fuel saved every year. And of course, with the lower emissions from bikes, that means our air is cleaner, our health and our children’s health will benefit, and we wouldn’t need to be importing as much oil from overseas.
Inside our cities, bikes reduce the need for parking. You can fit three to five bikes in a single car parking space. In high-density urban locations, parking is an expensive use of city center real estate, but it’s necessary. More bikes would mean less parking space required, which means more space available for commercial and residential premises. And we’d all be spending less on parking fees – if you’re spending $5/day to park your bike instead of $15/day to park your car, you’re saving an incredible $2,500 a year. That’s got to be worth it. (And if you’re in somewhere like Manhattan where parking fees can hit $50/day, you could be saving even more than that!)
Commuting by bike saves time, saves money, saves fuel, and saves the environment. Why aren’t more of us doing it?
Make Our Roads And Cities Safer
129 million people commute to work every day. Of those, just 148,000 ride motorcycles. That’s about 0.11% – about one in a thousand. Our roads, our highways, and our city streets are designed for cars and trucks. Drivers are conditioned to look out for larger vehicles, and don’t always see the bikes. And when cars and bikes collide, it’s always the biker who comes off worst.
If there were more bikers on the road, two things would happen. First, drivers would be more aware of bikes and would look out for them. That’s not just wishful thinking. Research has repeatedly shown that where bikes are more common, drivers adapt their behavior to compensate for them. They’re better at checking blind spots, looking before switching lanes, and taking extra care when pulling out of side streets. It’s partly that they get more used to seeing bikes, and partly that where you have a lot of bikers, drivers are more likely to be personally familiar with someone who rides regularly and has personal experience of the risks and dangers involved.
Secondly, traffic laws and city ordinances will be changed to accommodate bikers. We can demand laws that protect bikers, treating them as vulnerable road users and adding extra penalties for careless car drivers. In some countries, and in some parts of the US, motorcycles are allowed to pass between lanes of traffic. It’s called lane splitting or lane sharing. This helps reduce congestion – in slow traffic, the bikes can get through and keep moving. It’s also safer for the motorcyclist, who can see ahead by looking between the vehicles on either side. In some cities around the world, you have lanes devoted to motorcycles, which allow two-wheeled traffic to flow freely even when the cars and trucks are jammed solid. And with more bikes on the roads, there’s more pressure to provide dedicated bike parking areas.
Just look at the numbers. It wouldn’t take much of a change to make a big difference. If just 1% of car drivers switched to riding their bikes to work, that would take over a million cars off the roads, every single day. And instead of 150,000 of us riding our bikes to work, there would be 1.5 million. That’s the kind of number that makes city mayors, transport officials, city planners, and elected representatives take notice.
It’s already working for bicycles – cities across the US vie to be the most bicycle-friendly locations. But bicycles don’t work for everyone. We’re not like Europe where everything is close by. We need powered transport to cover the distances to our workplaces. We need to focus our efforts on making sure that motorcycles have the same respect and the same facilities as pedal-powered bikes.
Think of it this way. Over five million people have bikes – and nearly all of them sit idle every day. Right now, there’s probably one person in your neighborhood who rides to work every day. Maybe it’s you. But if one person in every street rode their bike – we would change the morning commute for everyone. If you’re not that person – then now’s the time to step up! Make the change, and maybe you’ll inspire someone else too.
How You Can Take Part
Obviously, ride your bike to work on June 17! That’s a great start. The more of us who do this, across the entire nation, the more awareness we can all raise for bikers as a whole. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you’ve got – a superfast Japanese crotch rocket, a lumbering piece of Milwaukee iron, or a tiny little scooter. If it’s got two wheels and an engine, take that instead of the car.
Take a passenger if you can. That’s one less car on the road, and it’s a way to demonstrate how efficient bikes are. Maybe you’ll convert a newcomer to riding motorcycles, or perhaps you’ll remind someone who hasn’t ridden for a while how much fun it can be.
If you’ve got a spare bike in the garage, consider loaning it out for the day. Maybe your old set of training wheels would be perfect for a neighbor’s kid, or you’ve got a buddy who used to ride but had to lose the bike when he had kids – we all know plenty of those. Yeah, we know it’s not easy lending your ride, but it’s in a good cause, right?
Anything you can do to promote the event and get other people involved will make a big difference. If each one of you just persuades one more person to ride to work on that day, it’ll help swell this into a real movement with real power. Tell your friends on Facebook, email, Twitter and make sure they know about it. The RTW site also has stuff you can use to make flyers, posters, signs and pins. Put up info at work, and on the day, have stickers or pins that riders can wear.
Finally, take a group photo on Monday with all the riders at your workplace and send it into RTW. The more of these they can assemble, the more power it gives them in promoting the event in future years and working for your rights.
You can find all you need to know from the official Ride To Work Website at http://www.ridetowork.org/
They’ve got great resources there, as well as interviews with the organizers, fact sheets, and logos you can use for making stickers, cards, and other promotional material. You can also donate to the cause and help them get more people out of their cars and onto bikes.
Let’s make America motorcycle-friendly!