Earth Gauge: Bike to Work Week

May is National Bike Month and May 12-16, 2014 is Bike to Work Week. The number of Americans commuting by bike increased by 47 percent between 2000 and 2011. Bike commuting rates in large, bicycle-friendly communities like DC, Philadelphia, Denver, Portland and Lexington, KY, increased by 80 percent over the same time period. Need convincing to hop on two wheels? Consider this:

*Biking benefits your health. Being active outside improves mental and physical well-being. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk for many health conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

*Biking benefits the environmentâ?¦and your wallet. Leaving your car behind for even one trip saves gas and reduces air pollution. In 2012, traffic congestion in the U.S. wasted about 2.9 billion gallons of gas â?? enough to fill the New Orleans Super Dome four times! The total cost of all that congestion? 112 billion dollars or about 818 dollars per commuter.

Viewer Tip: Try biking to work or school just one day this week. Research has shown that the length of about half of all car trips â?? three miles â?? can be covered as quickly on a bike when parking and traffic delays are taken into account. These resources will help you on your way:

Find National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week events in your community.

*Plan a bike route using Google Maps.

*Get cyclist and pedestrian safety tips from the Federal Highway Administration.

*Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) before you head out. When the AQI hits â??Code Orange,â?? sensitive groups, including people with asthma, lung disease or heart disease, may experience health effects from air pollution. When you need to, adjust your outdoor activities to reduce the amount of pollution you breathe in.

*Donâ??t have two wheels? Try carpooling or walking to work or school instead.

(Sources: League of American Bicyclists. â??May is National Bike Month!â??; Centers for Disease Control. â??Health Communities: Physical Activity.â??; Texas A&M Urban Transportation Institute, â??As Traffic Jams Worsen, Commuters Allowing Extra Time for Urgent Trips.â??