Riding a bicycle 62 miles every day to and from work is part of the routine for Paul Carpenter.
While he doesn’t recommend novice cyclists take on a comparable commute, he would like to see more people ditching their cars for a bicycle.
With National Bike to Work Day coming Friday, Carpenter, DeKalb County bicycle enthusiasts and business owners are encouraging more people to join the ranks of those who get to work using two tires instead of four.
Carpenter, 55, has been biking from his home outside Batavia to work year-round for 12 years regardless of wind, rain or snow. He is the department chair of kinesiology and physical education at Northern Illinois University.
“There are some days I wish I had driven,” Carpenter said. “But I feel better when I ride.”
According to the League of American Bicyclists, there were more than 33,000 bicycle commuters in Illinois as of 2011, a number that is likely growing as more people choose to save money, commute with an environmental awareness or try to improve their health.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit estimates the annual operating cost for a bike is $308, a far cry from the same expenses for a car at more than $8,000.
Besides the financial benefits, riding a bike also offers some notable health perks. A 180-pound man will burn 400 calories on a 10-mile ride and a 130-pound woman can burn 300 calories in the same distance.
If saving money on commuting or burning calories aren’t incentive enough, DeKalb County businesses are offering rewards to people who ride their bikes to shop through the rest of the month.
A full list of participants is available on livehealthydekalbcounty.org, but some of the discounts include 10 percent off a purchase of $10 or more at Herbal Embers in DeKalb on Friday or two games of bowling for $5 plus free shoes at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb on Saturday.
Bicycling also gives riders a chance to develop a greater sense of community, said Tobie DePauw, the owner of North Central Cyclery in DeKalb and founding member of bicycle advocacy group Axletree. He suggested those who are considering riding a bike instead of a driving a car should start small or find other people to ride with.
“Pick somewhere close to home you’re familiar with and bike there,” DePauw said. “Just jump on the bike and go. Keep it simple.”
Those who choose to bike should follow the rules of the road, DePauw said. Safe and courteous riding includes going with the flow of traffic when on the road and acting like a car, giving clear signals of directions.
“You have to make sure it’s going to be enjoyable,” Carpenter said. “Make sure you’re not going to be miserable.”
Enjoying a bike ride rather than dreading it comes down to considering every aspect of the ride, from the route the trail will follow, what to bring on the ride and what to do once the ride is over. Carpenter suggested mapping the route, having a repair kit and knowing how to use it and bringing a change of clothes.
Members of the DeKalb County Active Transportation Committee, an offshoot of the Live Healthy DeKalb County Initiative, are trying to make cycling more enjoyable as well, said Cindy Capek, DeKalb County Health Department assistant administrator.
She said the group is using standards implemented by the League of American Bicyclists to earn a designation as a bike friendly community. Eight communities in Illinois have earned the recognition, including Batavia, Naperville and Champaign.
Bike-friendly communities are required to meet criteria such as having a well-maintained bicycling network, an up-to-date bicycle map and bicycling education courses for adults, among other things. It will take more than three years to earn the designation, Capek said.
“Our hands are in a lot of things, but our goal is to get bicycling in the forefront of the community and to get that bike-friendly designation,” Capek said.
District 7 DeKalb County Board member Misty Haji-Sheikh on Friday will unveil another tool to make DeKalb County more bike friendly.
At 10 a.m. Friday at North Central Cyclery, 534 E. Lincoln Highway, Haji-Sheikh will launch the Pedal Pal program, which will allow businesses to display a sticker in their window indicating a cyclist can come inside for a drink of water, to use the bathroom or, in emergencies, the phone.
“I think if people have places to go and they are safe, people will go there by bicycle,” Haji-Sheik said. “People can ride a bike, because it’s good for exercise and saving money and the environment, or they could do it just because they like to.”
County hosts raffle
To be entered into a raffle for Bike to Work Day, take a photograph of the person or group that biked to work and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with the names of each participant and the mailing information for the business by Friday. Each participant’s name will be entered into a raffle to be drawn May 30.