By Douglas Franklin

In May we celebrate our Mothers, Cinco de Mayo, and Memorial Day.  What you may not know is that May is also National Bike Month, which celebrates bicycling as a clean, fun, and healthy way to get to work.  On Friday, May 20, 2016 Bike to Work Day will be celebrated all over the Washington D.C. metropolitan region.  Bike to Work Day is free and open to riders of all ability levels, especially those who have never commuted by bicycle before.

Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association coordinate this free and exciting event every year.   This year there will be over 80 pit stop stations set up throughout the District, suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia where bicyclists will get free T-shirts, refreshments, and giveaway goodies while supplies last.  Plus, all participants will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win one of many shiny new bicycles being awarded.  And we’ll even give you a well-deserved pat on the back for getting out there and doing it!

The free T-shirt is your “I did it” trophy.  Come snag that free T-shirt, you earned it!  You just have to be one of the first 15,000 to register for Bike to Work Day at www.biketoworkmetrodc.org, and there is absolutely no cost to do so.  Secondly, on your way to work via bicycle, stop at the pit stop station you designated when registering.

There are so many people who help put together Bike to Work Day, it’s such a positive outpouring of volunteerism and camaraderie, and we want you to be part of the fun.  Will this be the year you finally make your move and brush the cobwebs off that lonely bike of yours?  Or perhaps make an investment in a new bicycle?

Remember riding a bicycle to get around as a kid?  It was a certain rite of passage and was simply second nature as your method of transportation.  Flash back on that fateful day when dad finally removed those 051515-B2Wtraining wheels and you flew solo for the very first time.  To your parents, that moment in your life was nearly as meaningful as when you walked for the very first time.  To you it meant freedom and accomplishment, and a crowning achievement.  In a certain way, the joy of bicycling as an adult harkens back to the spirit of our inner child.  Now’s your chance to capture that spirit again on Bike to Work Day.

Admit it, with a job to go to each day you don’t go to the gym like you know you should.  If only there was a way to get exercise that doesn’t really seem like exercise.  Wouldn’t it be great to get that needed exercise while doing something as mundane as commuting to that pesky job of yours?

As if you didn’t know, bicycling has all sorts of health benefits.  And the cure to just about everything is eating a healthy diet and getting exercise; we hear that over and over again.  The physical benefits of bicycling are many.  Bicycling engages the muscles in your legs without the strong damaging force of coming down hard on your knees. It gets your legs moving and your heart pumping, and since it’s low impact, it’s far easier on your joints than running.

Bicycling is a legitimate method of transportation to work for tens of thousands of commuters in the region.  Bike to Work Day is your chance to try it for the first time, and join those who’ve discovered the secret of bicycling already…it’s fun and healthy.

Bicycling is also great for the environment since it doesn’t give out any carbon based emissions; it is a 100 percent green form of transportation.  There are zero fuel costs at the pump; the only fuel you’ll be burning are calories.

As far as the mental benefits of bicycling, another big aspect is that it can help reduce stress. It will just make you feel better.  The sense of freedom that comes with open air movement at a smooth pace is good for the soul.  It helps us explore the area around us.  Once you bike in areas where you typically drive, you’ll be surprised by what you notice.

A recent study by the New Economics Foundation found that commuters have reported lower stress levels than their counterparts using cars.  The Commuter Connections 2013 State of the Commute Survey report found that than nine in ten who traveled to work by bicycling/walking (93%) reported high satisfaction with their commutes, more than any other mode of transportation.  At 61 percent, commuters who drove alone to work by car were the least satisfied.

Prepare for the event by using some of the great resources at biketoworkmetrodc.org9

Learn more about bicycle commuting, how to ride in experienced commuter bicyclist lead convoys, where to brush up on cycling skills, and participate in a cycling class to learn how to safely share the road with cars, other bikes, and pedestrians.

If you don’t want to go it alone, try finding a ride buddy for Bike to Work Day at the Washington Area Bike Forum, www.bikearlingtonforum.com/forum.php.  The online Bike Forum is a place to connect with other area bicyclists.  You can look for riding buddies, ask questions about commuting and route selection, and discuss bicycle safety, advocacy and so much more.  The community on the forum is helpful, knowledgeable and open to riders of all ability levels.

Last year’s Bike to Work Day event drew more than 17,500 bicycle commuters. Get your Pedal On for Bike to Work Day 2016 happening Friday, May 20.  Grab hold of the freedom that bicycling provides and make this year your year. You’ll be so happy you did.

Register for Bike  to  Work  Day  at biketoworkmetrodc.org   and   follow us   on  Twitter    @BikeToWorkDay, #BTWD2016.

Doug is a TDM Marketing Specialist and coordinates Bike to Work Day for Commuter Connections.