21st Century Dad
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Riding My Bike To Save Money

April 25th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad
Riding My Bike To Save Money
Illustration by Elliott Kim

I live in a neighborhood that allows me to accomplish errands on bicycle and has good access to public transit. It is something I have done intermittently in the past, but have recently stepped up my efforts. Even if gas prices weren’t where they are now, I would still look for opportunities to walk, ride my bike, or take public transit.

I have a spotty record as a crunchy eco-warrior, but I do what I can. In the days leading up to and since Earth Day, I have taken advantage of several opportunities to run some errands on my bicycle.

Frugal Dad is now a bicycle commuter. I did it a few times a week. I find it silly to get in my car for anything less than 2 miles away, unless I’m hauling a large volume of stuff. Some of the easy things I’m able to do on my bike include:

  • Picking up small items at the store
  • Go to the post office
  • Prescription drop off and pickup
  • Go to the library
  • Pick up movie rentals at Blockbuster

There are times when we do need to run out to the store for just one item. These are the times when a bike ride is ideal. It does take a little longer, but you’re supposed to be fitting exercise into your day, right? Why not double-dip and accomplish both tasks?

When I maintained a gym membership, I found one close to home. I biked the 4 miles each way. The 30 minutes it takes to ride my bike to and from the gym was my cardio workout. If I drove, that was 20 minutes that I was accomplishing nothing toward my fitness goals. I combined part of my workout and travel to and from the gym. This is a case where the slower form of transportation saves time.

It’s not easy to be a bicyclist in South Florida. The suburban landscape is on a scale more appropriate for cars. Anything smaller than a Ford Taurus is invisible to most drivers. Drivers here are bad about yielding to pedestrians and cyclists. If motorists aren’t watching out for you, then you need to take care of yourself on the road:

  • Wear a helmet (I know, I need to take my own advice).
  • DO NOT listen to an MP3 player while cycling. If you absorb only one piece of information from this article, make it this one point. Your ears are like another set of eyes. If you are riding in the street, you are technically operating a motor vehicle and bound by the same laws as automobile operators. Listening to headphones is expressly forbidden while operating a motor vehicle in many, if not all states.
  • If you ride in the evening, you must have a headlight for the front and a light on the back. Check with the laws in your state or municipality. I know it’s the law in Florida.
  • Wear light colored clothing. You’re only slightly less invisible. You get bonus points for wearing a reflective vest and a safety blinker.
  • Do not let items hang from the handlebars. If you are doing your grocery shopping on bike, invest in a set of panniers and a cargo rack.
  • Ensure your bicycle is in good working order. Inspect it before every trip.

There are downsides to cycling too, but the benefits are realized quickly, sometimes instantly. I feel great knowing that I’m taking care of myself and our planet.

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