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Cartoon: Bicycle racing past cars in traffic

Blow Up Your Car and Get a Bike

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

If you live in an area where people bicycle to work in the morning, compare cyclists and drivers. You will almost surely find that the cyclists look fitter, healthier and happier than the drivers. You may see students, commuters, elderly people and families with young children all cycling to school, work and shopping while drivers grip their steering and curse the traffic jam they are stuck in, failing to realise that they are the traffic jam and not its victims. Indeed, if anyone is a victim of the traffic jam, it is children cycling to school and breathing in the fumes from the slow moving vehicles nearby.

If you drive to work, seriously think about getting a bicycle and blowing up your car − or at least leaving it at home. Then you can join the happy, healthy cyclists and stick your tongue out at the motorists. It is cathartic, I assure you!

 Bicycle Daily

If you live within 12km (7.5 miles) from work, then you can and should get in the habit of bicycling daily. If you live further away, there may still be options. I know people who have two bicycles. Every morning they ride one to their nearest train station where they jump on a train to a station near work. From there, they use the second bicycle, which they keep at the destination train station, to go to work. Perhaps there is a similar option for you.

If you are not used to bicycling, then even 12km to work will be too much. In this case, start bicycling on the weekends. Start slowly and go for 30 minute rides at a comfortable pace. As you get used to the bike, you can increase your weekend rides from 30 to 45 to 60 minutes. Once you can cycle comfortably for an hour, you are ready to start cycling to work. For the average cyclist, a 12km ride will take about 45 minutes.

Cycling Errands

Aside from going to work, you can and should get in the habit of using your bicycle to go shopping, visit nearby friends and go out for the evening (ensuring you wear a reflector vest and have good lights). Every time you bicycle to work or to the shops, you do the environment a favour. Your bicycle is less polluting than the most environmentally friendly car.

A bicycle is also a great way to discover your neighbourhood. The chances are that there are some beautiful spots, you never knew about, near your home. On the weekends, get your family on their bikes and explore. If you don't have a family yet, a bicycle date is great fun and will surely be more memorable to your partner than another dinner and a film. Indeed, my first date with my partner was a bicycle ride to Tervuren Park.

Even if it is not possible to bicycle to work, it is possible to use a bicycle for many errands where you'd normally use a car. And every time you do, you do your health, your environment and your world a little bit of good.

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