With the arrival of May typically comes warmer weather as we begin to transition from spring into summer. As part of this transition, many of us begin to spend much more time outdoors, walking, jogging, and, of course, bicycling. It should come as no surprise, then, that May is Bike Month, which serves as a great opportunity for us to get on our bikes! Not only do we reap the health benefits and cost savings of biking rather than driving, but there is also a great opportunity to win a prize just for participating! How do you enter to qualify? Well, read on to find out!
How do I qualify?
First, I’ll tell you how you can participate in Bike Month to win the prize – which will be a gift card – and I’ll tell you what types of cycling trips qualify. Many of you have already downloaded the RIDE Solutions app, which is what you’ll need to qualify to win. If you don’t yet have the app, simply go to our website, www.ridesolutions.org, click “Login/Create Account,” select “Join,” and then enter your first and last name, your email, and create a password. That’s it! Shortly afterward, you should receive an email that asks you for your address so that the app can easily identify routes to enable you to bike or walk from home to your destination, or so it can identify ride-matches for you if you would like to carpool. The app is completely free, both to download from your app store – as either an android or iPhone app – and to use once you’ve downloaded it.
Any time during this month of May, bicycle somewhere for a purpose other than simply a recreational bike ride. For example, biking to and from work, the store, a doctor’s appointment, to visit a friend or family member, to school, or anything similar, qualifies. When you complete your trip, log it into the RIDE Solutions app by selecting the following: Trips–Record a Trip—Mode—Bike—Origin and Destination. That’s it! As long as you log at least one trip by bicycle into the app during the month of May, you are automatically entered to win a gift card at the end of the month, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)!
Later in this article, I’ll explain to you another excellent benefit of using this app.
Bike to Work Week in the NRV (New River Valley), and Bike to Work Day
If you live in the New River Valley, which includes Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski Counties, as well as the City of Radford, the New River Valley Regional Commission (NRVRC), which administers the RIDE Solutions program in that region, runs a unique campaign for Bike to Work Week. According to the NRVRC:
— Ride Solutions is sponsoring a Bike to Work Week Challenge from May 19 to May 25. We’re keeping the challenge simple to make it accessible to anyone who can ride a bike for some part of their commute – everyone who tracks at least one bike trip to work on the RIDE Solutions app during the week-long challenge will be entered to win prizes including a gift card and RIDE Solutions swag!
Participants can sign up for free through the Ride Solutions app to log trips. More about the challenge and links to the app downloads can be found here: https://ridesolutions.org/bike-nrv/. This page includes some tips to make the bike commute easier.
Ride Solutions staff are also available to give a boost to employer promotion efforts, if you’re interested in organizing a specific internal challenge or activity. We also have a flyer and poster available to help promote the event at your site; you’ll find this Employer’s Toolkit attached and at the link above. If you do use these, please let us know – we enjoy hearing what everyone is doing to participate and celebrate the bike as transportation!
And please share any events you have scheduled to celebrate Bike Month or the Bike to Work Week; we’d love to link to it. Send the URL to us and we’ll add it to the growing list of events planned around the New River Valley.
Mark your calendars now! The challenge starts on Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 19. We’ll announce the prize drawing winner on May 25. —
Please note that the New River Valley’s campaign is not raffling off a separate gift card from the one that will be raffled off throughout the RIDE Solutions service area, but this event is a great opportunity to win that gift card! In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to win some RIDE Solutions swag through that program’s campaign.
If you’re more comfortable biking just once as part of your commute this month just to see how you like it, consider biking on Bike to Work Day, which is Friday, May 19th. To learn more about Bike to Work Day, including its history and other information, please visit https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-bike-to-work-day-third-friday-in-may/.
Now, please read on to learn how using your bike instead of driving for local travel is beneficial for the environment, but especially for you!
Why should I ride my bike instead of drive?
Why bicycle, anyway? An avid cyclist could give you a number of great reasons to do so. However, most of us would not consider ourselves avid cyclists, though we may occasionally go for a bike ride, while others may not have not been on a bike in years. You may want to bike because:
- Riding a bike that you’re comfortable on is a great way to spend part of your day and to take in the landscape. Unlike walking, you cover so much more ground more quickly. And unlike driving, you’re not going so fast that you breeze by everything; you get to take your community in a bit more and perhaps notice things you hadn’t noticed while you were driving.
- Biking provides you a great workout without going to the gym – and you’re truly going somewhere, rather than sitting on a stationary bike. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise are recommended on a weekly basis, and bicycling is a great way to achieve this guideline, since, in addition to serving as a great means of exercise, it’s a great mode of transportation to do your shopping, visit friends or family, or travel to work or school as well. More specifically, in terms of health benefits, cycling:
- Helps to improve mood and conditions such as depression.
- Is a great way to lose weight, enabling you to burn at least 400 calories per hour.
- Improves the function of the immune system, particularly the upper respiratory system.
- Is a great way to reduce occurrences of heart disease and cancer. In fact, those who bike to work could see their risk of developing these two conditions decline by 50 percent, according to a University of Glasgow study.
- Unlike running, bicycling is low-impact, meaning that it puts less physical stress on your body, and, therefore, results in fewer injuries.
- Offers great cognitive benefits owing to the increase in blood flow to the brain. In fact, one study indicated that exercise boosted blood flow to the brain by about 28 percent, while a 70 percent increase was exhibited in certain parts of the brain. One of the benefits to your brain, therefore, is the reduction of changes to this organ, which could reduce the likelihood of dementia later in life.
- Bicycling to your destination rather than driving will save money because you’ll spend less on gas and maintenance for your vehicle due to routine wear-and-tear. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the average commuting American would save $981.30 annually, based on gas prices at the present time. The organization further notes that half of driving trips in the U.S. that are accomplished by personal automobile are under three miles in distance, which translates to about a 20-minute bike ride.
I can attest to this last point, given that I once lived about a half-mile from a rail trail in my former community, and I sometimes biked this route to my job at a local supermarket. While my bike was not nearly as fast as my car, the route, along the trail, was more direct, and I did not have to sit in traffic or wait at many traffic lights. Driving took perhaps 15 minutes, while bicycling took just a few minutes more – perhaps 20 minutes. At the same time, I was getting a free workout and saved gas money and wear-and-tear on my car.
- Bicycling is great for the environment! Every time you bike rather than drive, you forgo releasing emissions into the atmosphere. If you drive an EV (electric vehicle), you’ll forgo extra energy consumption and expenses required by these vehicles. Additionally, you’ll forgo releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, and therefore help to keep the planet cool! According to The League of American Bicyclists, the “Drive Less, Bike More” challenge in 2021, involving more than 30,000 bicyclists, resulted in more than 291,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions being kept out of the atmosphere; this equates to 63 personal vehicles taken off the road for one year.
More about the RIDE Solutions app
In addition to serving as a tool to log your trips so that you’ll be eligible to win a gift card at the end of the month, the RIDE Solutions app does so much more! It will help you to find the best route between your home and destination, whether you bike, walk, or take transit (the bus). If you wish to find someone with whom to carpool, the app will do that for you as well. For either of these options, select “Rides” on the app, choose the purpose for your trip: commute (work or school), event or destination, or a single trip such as to go shopping. Next, enter your starting point and destination, which can be either a specific address, a road, or a city or town. After this, choose the transportation mode you plan to use (transit, carpool, bike, or walk), and you’ll be shown a route with step-by-step directions. If you are looking for a carpool partner, the app will show you whether there are any carpoolers along your route, whom you can contact through the app. The accompanying image is a screenshot of the app, which depicts a theoretical trip from Liberty University to the Lynchburg Amtrak station, using the assumption that a student plans to bike from the university to the station as part of their trip home.
Another great feature of the RIDE Solutions app is the rewards you’ll accumulate just for using alternative transportation, whether that includes carpooling, vanpooling, bicycling, walking, using transit, or even teleworking instead of traveling at all. Each time you log a trip using one of these modes, you’ll earn 100 points; to begin with, you’ll earn 1,000 points as a gift just for registering! You can redeem these points for discounts on shopping (including online shopping), dining, activities/entertainment, and services. If you prefer, you can even use your points to enter a monthly raffle for the chance to win a gift card. Again, the app can be downloaded at www.ridesolutions.org.
To learn more about bicycling resources, we at RIDE Solutions encourage you to visit the ConnectingVA site, which is managed by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). This resource will provide you with additional information showing you how to earn rewards for your bicycle commute, how to pair your cycling trips with public transit, bike share programs that may be available in your area, trails in Virginia, bike safety tips, and much, much more. To access this page, please visit https://connectingva.drpt.virginia.gov/bike/.
 “Health Benefits of Cycling and Do’s and Don’ts.” Cleveland Clinic. June 6, 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-cycling/.
 Arthurs-Brennan, Michelle. “Why cycling is great for your legs, lungs, immune system and mind, plus 11 other great benefits of life on two wheels.” Cycling Weekly. November 18, 2022. https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/benefits-of-cycling-334144.
 “Drive Less, Bike More.” The League of American Bicyclists.” Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://bikeleague.org/events/drive-less-bike-more/.
 “Drive Less, Bike More.” The League of American Bicyclists.” Retrieved May 3, 2023.