Bill

Crist

Commuting to work in Brownwood can be a hassle – that is if you manage to hit a red light on the way to the office. The biggest backups we face are typically around the schools during the morning drop-off and afternoon pickup periods. Even those who commute from outside the city, or even the county, generally find a smooth trip into the workplace on most days. Let’s face it, our daily commute is nothing compared to many areas of the country.

However, as concerns about rising gas prices and environmentally dangerous exhaust fumes are coupled with our nation’s alarming obesity rate, alternative methods of commuting – specifically by bike – should become more appealing. In a later edition of the Bulletin you’ll meet two local people who have by and large given up four wheels for two when it comes to getting around town. The reasons for doing so are numerous, as are the advantages, but there are many factors to consider before trading in your auto for a bicycle or scooter.

But is Brownwood ready to embrace that change on a large scale? Locally, The Bike Peddler recently tried to organize a free workshop that would have provided information about commuting by bike, but no one registered or even inquired about it. For many of us, the biggest obstacle is changing routine or trying something new, which may have been the reason for the lack of interest in the workshop. Other communities, in Texas and across the country, have embraced bicycles as a way to commute and run errands. Sure we love our pickups and SUVs here, but have we grown to oattached to them for our own good?

There are any number of reasons for changing our lifestyle, including how we get around. Vonne Cornett, co-owner of the Bike Peddler provided answers to some of the most common excuses given for not commuting by bike.

If you think you are out of shape, Cornett says riding at an easy pace will improve your overall fitness level when done on a regular basis, thereby making it an easier ride each day. As you’ll read tomorrow, traveling nearly all the way across town on a bicycle takes one rider just 20 minutes each way, certainly not a long commute. Those of us who have to dress nicely for work can simply keep a change of clothes at the office, or carry our clothes along with us each day. An early morning commute usually takes place when the temperature is still pretty mild. Under those conditions, an easy paced ride shouldn’t work up so much of a sweat that a damp washcloth, towel and a few toiletries can’t clean up.

Speaking of those trucks and SUVs, not to mention cars of all sizes, many riders are concerned about their safety on a bike. With proper equipment such as bright clothing and a helmet (and lights and reflectors for dawn and dusk rides); paying attention to traffic signs and rules as well as the vehicles around you, riding your bike can be just as safe as driving.

Is everyone able to ride a bike to work each day? Probably not. Many of us have jobs that require us to drive great distances during the day. Some of us do live too far from the workplace to ride a bike. But as more commuters do find alternatives to driving their vehicle, commuting by bike or scooter will become more accepted – and then more safe. The health benefits alone are reason enough to make a change. The environmental improvements are another. The biggest benefit, though, may be felt in your wallet, which isn’t being drained by $4 per gallon gas. Tomorrow, you can read about a couple of your neighbors who are realizing all three of those benefits.

Bill Crist is associate publisher and general manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at bill.crist@brownwoodbulletin.com.