Should you consider a bicycle commute?

Listen to a radio interview about bicycle commuting

Bike riding can save money and help you combine your workout with your commute. (Be sure to always wear a helmet; Upstate’s Trauma Service sells them for about $10.)

Meet three Upstate people who have decades of experience as bike riders:

Teresa Hargrave MD rides a blue Cannondale 21 speed hybrid.

Psychiatrist Teresa Hargrave MD

Assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences

What she rides:

A blue Cannondale 21 speed hybrid

How long she has been commuting:

“It’s been more than 20 years. I rode a bike as a kid, but I’ve become a lot more avid biker in my adult life, particularly since I married a biker.”

Where she lives:

The Westcott area of Syracuse, a little more than a mile from Upstate.

Why she rides:

“It’s good for me, and it’s good for the planet.”

Once at work:

She removes her backpack, peels off some layers and is ready to see patients.

In bad weather:

“I do not bike in icy weather. If the road is dry, or even wet but above freezing, then I’m up for biking. Sometimes, if it’s really nasty I don’t do it, even though I could. I have rain gear.”

Safety measures:

“I choose my route very carefully. I prefer to take an alternate route other than East Genesee Street. I wear clothing so that people are going to see me. I wear reflective items for the dark. And I always wear a helmet. Always.”

Advice to would-be bicycle commuters:

“Take the plunge and do it. You have to not worry about how you look, and wear whatever clothing you need to stay warm and protected and safe.”

Mike Lyon PhD sometimes rides a recumbent bike.

Michael Lyon Phd

associate professor of otolaryngology and communication sciences

What he rides:

“Sometimes a recumbent bike, and sometimes a Cannondale or a Giant.”

How long he has been commuting:

“Since 1995.”

Where he lives:

“Memphis, 18 miles from Upstate.”

Why he rides:

“For pleasure and for fitness. I like to eat, and when I bike I can eat. This does create a problem in the winter when my miles decrease.”

Once at work:

“It is too long a commute to wear work clothes.  I shower here.”

In bad weather:

“If it is raining before I leave the house I tend to avoid it, but I have ridden in some really bad rain.  Snow, I also try to avoid. That is when I ride the Giant, my ‘winter rat.’  Coming in to work, I frequently leave before the sun is up, but this is not like leaving late from work.  I can’t always leave here early enough in the winter to avoid the dark. That is not my favorite time to ride.”

Safety measures:  

“I have a number of lights and reflective clothing items.  I always try to let the cars know well in advance what I plan on doing.”

Advice to would-be bicycle commuters:

“Just do it.”

Rich O’Neill PhD rides his son’s old mountain bike.

Psychologist Richard O’Neill PhD

Associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences

What he rides:

“An inexpensive mountain bike, a hand-me-down from my son when he went off to college.”

How long he has been commuting:

“Four or five years. I was running back and forth before that.”

Where he lives:

“Exactly four miles from campus. I go through Thornden Park and then across Westcott. I try to stay off the main roads so I have less traffic.”

Why he rides:

“I’m a runner. I started to bike ride to work because I wanted to get in some more training, and I didn’t want to spend more time running, and I wanted to have less pounding on my joints.”

Once at work:

“I have a closet in my office, and I keep several sets of clothes in my closet. And I have curly hair, so I just fluff it up after I take off my helmet.”

In bad weather:

“With the right kind of gear you can manage virtually any kind of weather. I ride in the rain and the cold. The Syracuse Public Works plow people do a great job keeping the streets plowed and salted. There are very few days when you can’t actually ride your bike. Two winters ago, there were only about 15 days when I couldn’t ride — and on those days I run.”

Safety measures:

“Ninety-five percent of bicycle fatalities happen to people who are not wearing a helmet. So you have to wear a helmet.” He also wears clear ultraviolet goggles to protect his eyes from the sun and any flying road debris.

“I have two headlights, one that blinks and one that’s a constant on for riding in the dark, and a flashing red light in the rear.”

Advice to would-be bicycle commuters:

“You will get very good at minimizing the amount of stuff that you have to carry. You will get very good very quickly about how to dress and how many layers. It takes a little time, but if you start in the summer, by the time winter rolls around you’ve learned how to ride in virtually any kind of weather.”

Buy a helmet from Upstate’s Trauma Service for about $10.

Listen to Health Link on Air about bicycle commuting.

This entry was posted in community. Bookmark the permalink.

86 Responses to Should you consider a bicycle commute?

  1. Very inspiring. Nice feature.

    • Dee says:

      I would so love to ride a bike to work but I’m in marketing and have to look “presentable”. I also live in Texas and the sweating would be a problem once I’ve arrived at work. I’ve tried to brainstorm a way around these two obstacle but haven’t found solutions yet. Any advice from anyone?

      • Zumbs says:

        We have showers at my workplace, maybe yours do as well? Also, make sure to bring a change of clothes.

      • when i worked as a fashion consultant i still biked to work! it can be brutal here in tennessee, too. i just made sure to get to work a few minutes early to cool down from the commute and to dress in layers that you can easily add/subtract when you need to. i also found i always sweat less than imagined, but that might not be the case for everyone! best of luck cycling!

      • Hibari says:

        My students in Japan would bring small towels since there’s no A/C, and some would even have them around their necks. I decided to try it one day, and it really did help make me look less like a sweaty mess.

      • MegsFitness says:

        A change of clothes, some personal wipes and a good “dry” shampoo will do wonders when you don’t have a shower available 🙂

      • ejrunyon says:

        Try ‘wiping down’ with a washcloth soaked with 1/3 vinegar, 2/3 water once you’ve cooled off – it works wonders – and surprisingly will not leave a ‘vinegar smell’. Put the wet cloths in a ziplock baggy, 1 for each day you plan on biking and every Monday – bring them all into work so you have them there waiting.

        Try the routine over a weekend : bike the distance you would to get to work. Then cool down for the same amount of time you’d allow yourself to in the real situation, then try the wipe-down cloths, if it works for you in a no-risk ‘weekend’ test-run, you’ve got a great solution the problem.

      • tonalf says:

        Zagreb, Croatia also gets quite hot during the summer, but you learn to adapt (I did, anyway…): no rushing (up to 20km/h), anticipating traffic, e.g. if you’re not going to make the green light 100 m ahead, you reduce speed to spend as little time standing in place, taking advantage of the built-in ventilation in a bike ride…sometimes I cycle in circles just to keep the ventilation going. 🙂 Simple things, once you know them. This all works if the terrain is mostly flat. However, if you still need more, you can use a pedal-assist bike: you ride faster (which means better ventilation), with less effort and still remain low-impact, silent and healthy.

        I’ve also written about commuting by bike in opposite weather (Winter cycling), as well as other things troubling green commuters in Croatia.

      • palmer33 says:

        I ride to work and our dress code is shirt and tie. In chicago there are humid summer days that can get pretty bad. I reccomend wearing a dry fit undershirt and shorts (i prefer underarmour but there are less expensive brands) that wick away sweat to help you stay dry. I fold my dress pants neatly in my backpack and use a rolling technique for my shirt to decrease wrinkles (but i also keep a small iron at the office). For the sweat make sure to give yourself 10-15 minutes to cool down, the sweat doesnt really hit you till you stop moving. I bring facewash and deoderant to stay fresh. I also leave my dress shoes at the office so there is less to carry back and forth on the commute. Best of luck to you!

  2. As a full-time freelance writer, I work from home. This makes riding a bicycle for my commute — well, unnecessary!


    But I can imagine it would be a practical option for many — and should be a feasible option for many more. Great post.

  3. Tiffany says:

    My city has a sizable amount of avid bikers who are trying to promote the biking commute initiative. The problem is that bike lanes are essentially used as parking spots in the downtown area and the infrastructure, consisting mostly of highways, delay an otherwise simple commute into a bus detour if bikes are involved.

  4. Just got a bike to zip around the city and am hoping to start using it to commute to work.

  5. Patsy says:

    I live in Charleston, SC and avid bikers are rare here (except if you live and work downtown). The roads barely have shoulders and the couple of times I’ve tried to take my bike out, I’ve almost gotten run over. I used to bike to work when I lived in Arlington, VA and it was nice because there were trails and I felt safe! Here I feel like I’m going to be road kill!

  6. juanita says:

    It’s funny that I just found this blog – I have recently decided, after several very bad close calls in the last few weeks (espcially around SCHOOLS!), that bike commuting is no longer worth it. I use my car when I need to go out in traffic, and I’m not going to feel any guilt about it. “Saving the planet” isn’t even an option anymore, and given my commute, the gas savings just didn’t add up.

    Good luck out there.

  7. GrantOster says:

    This is great! Sadly I live in the south, and it is very hot the majority of the year; however, I did see A LOT of bicyclists out this morning. If you check out my blog today, it tells about my coming to fruition of today’s National Bike to Work Day. Also gives a brief history on bicycles! Check it out!

  8. I have ridden a bike to work, and I can tell you it’s a great way to get your exercise while commuting. You don’t really lose much time from your day, because the time you were going to work out, is now the time you’re getting to/from work.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  9. JudeLaw LLC says:

    Be safe out there, remember to follow the same laws as a car if you ride your bike

  10. I wish I was brave enough, but the thought of riding a bike around London scares me. Congratulations on being freshly pressed 🙂

    • littleredblue says:

      @AngySanchez C – I live and bike in London. Its funny that a lot of people say that about biking in London. However, its your viewpoint. Even as an avid biker I get scared when I am walking and looking at the cyclists. I would recommend getting on a Barclay bike and you will notice its not at all scary. Because, its about perspective. Seriously, I prefer biking in London over any Canadian cities (I havent biked in the US). I find it to be much safer even though London has smaller roads.

      In any case, you will never get over your fear until you confront it. And you are seriously missing out on the beauty of London viewed from a bike.

  11. Inventor says:

    The answer is definitely yes with a basic health clearance and the right gear beforehand and a place to wash up afterwards. Some major part of the world commutes this way, thankfully, with lower taxation on other resources. I have been the transformational inventor in the bicycle industry (as well as other recreational goods and transportation) since the 1960s — watch for my upcomng post.

  12. Duas says:

    Very inspiring. My teacher used to come to school everymorning only by car. His wife was also a teacher at the same school, and guess what? She came there by car. My teacher never gave up, he said there must be at least one in the family who saves the nature.

  13. Catherine says:

    I telecommute right now, but I love the idea of cycling in to work. I think I’d be terrified the first few times, but it would be great to start and end the workday with exercise–and to avoid sitting in traffic (I’m in the DC area and it’s the worst!).

    Cool post and congrats on the feature!

  14. aebutchko says:

    Great post!! I’m a student at Syracuse and just love seeing all the professors, students, and professional employees pedaling to work. It’s also an amazing way to loose weight!

  15. Jessica says:

    Awesome post! I bike commute to work too. It’s so much nicer to spend your commute getting some fresh air and exercise than stuck in a car or on public transport.

    But wow, 18 miles like Michael Lyon?? That’s some serious dedication!

  16. I would LOVE to ride my bike to work but…first of all I work 20 miles away and secondly I would be worried about being all sweaty and
    I think that people that live close enough should ride their bike at least once and a while. It will keep you young and strong AND save you a ton of money!!!

  17. elbablogs says:

    I love to ride my bike.

  18. Marcela says:

    Ok., I am trying to get myself all ready to start biking again so posts like this is helping me get motivated to go out and just do it:)

  19. MegsFitness says:

    I am hoping to start biking to work soon, but the only route that I have found to avoid highways is a side road that has a posted speed limit of 45…. and motorists are commonly doing 10 mph over the speed limit, so it’s practically a highway anyway. I’m pretty intimidated.

  20. Schwinn says:

    Biking is good for our healthy. By biking we can save much money and can save our environment. Support the bike to work movement!

  21. Sarah Harris says:

    I totally wish I could ride my bike to work, but since I have to pass LAX, there are too many unfamiliar with the area drivers, hurried running late commuters, and taxis to make it worth it for me. I used to ride my bike to school when I was young and LOVED it – except the day after it rained when I wore white pants and had to go around school with a brown stripe up the back of my pants all day!

    I will say though that for SURE, make yourself like a glowing stick man if riding at night. Strobe/flashing lights means that cars will see you better and seriously, there was one guy I’ve seen who has lights up and down his arms and legs, he really does look like a glowing pedaling stick man.

    Drivers – give bikers room! Take a breath and wait til there is enough room to pass!

  22. madmark42 says:

    I relate to Richard. I just graduated from Boulder CU where the streets are a mess but at least everything is within riding distance. It was great, except for when it was snowing in CO or until my bike got stolen, it IS a lot easier to get a bike stolen than a car.

    Regardless, bikes still beat cars. Just remember to be save people!

  23. pavanscorpio says:

    In traffic-insane country like India and a city like Hyderabad, we are a group of cycling enthusiasts have started the practice of cycling to work atleast one day in a week, preferably Friday. My work place is like 25 kms from where I live.

  24. skyride says:

    Great, informative post. I like the interview format, and nice photographs, too!

    I know lots of people both here in Phnom Penh where I live now as well as back home who bike to work. It’s something that I’ve long wanted to do, myself, but have put off on one excuse or another. Mostly I am afraid of being run over (especially here in Cambodia, where cyclists do not have right-of-way, there are no bike lanes and where hit-and-runs are sadly not uncommon)… I’ve seen it happen too many times, where someone on a motorbike clips a person on their bicycle, and the former takes off while the latter is picking themselves up off the ground and brushing the gravel off their clothes. That just freaks me out.

    On the other hand, I’ve had friends who’ve literally biked across this country. Some of them bike to work every day. They’ve had a fair share of accidents, though– I hate to think they’re pressing their luck.

    I could definitely see biking around when I get back home, though, to the Lansing area (Michigan, U.S.A.); lots of my friends and colleagues bike there, and it is generally a more cyclist-friendly place (if you can get over the weather!). I think I’m more of a walker, personally; when I can, I always prefer walking to driving, when given enough time, and I’m currently looking for a place nearer to work so I can walk instead of commuting by moto every day. I will always have loads of respect for cyclists, anyway– you set a great example!

  25. VincentWee says:

    Reblogged this on newemergent.

  26. Chef Nusy says:

    When I lived “far enough” from work/school, I used to ride every day. About 7 miles to work, and after I quit to go back to college, not quite 3 to school. Now I live only about half a mile to my college, and living in a second-floor apartment, I rarely feel like lugging my bike down when I can just walk in about 15 minutes.
    As for weather issues, I live in Central California, so snow is not exactly an issue. Rain, however, does become one – we get rain very rarely here in the Central Valley, so when it does start to rain, the roads become slick with the old oil and gunk being washed out by the water. So if it rains, I never ride – my bike can’t really handle that kind of a road.
    Finding a “safe route” can be a challenge in Fresno, but our city council has made a lot of improvements and implemented “road diets” at several locations. I can only urge other cyclists to write (e-mail or traditional) to their councilpersons or county supervisors about making roads more bike-friendly. Here in Fresno, we have an organization (IBikeFresno) who coordinates it, and makes sure we’re posted on council meetings and upcoming agendas.
    Happy Riding!

  27. Otto says:

    You might want to check out my blog here on bike night lighting. It features cheap but effective units good for both city streets with streetlights where you want to be seen by traffic, and, on dark roads and trails. (ps, I don’t sell anything; just have the info/videos)

  28. Simon Dyer says:

    Recently I fell off my bike and those darn clips held my foot in a bad position so I badly twisted my ankle. Ouch ! It happened because I didnt have a light and lost my balance at slow speed. Now I always wear a 2C Solar Light Cap under my helmet – not a huge beam – but plenty to be seen and best is it doesnt need batteries which is a big advantage – it charges while I wear it – so I can always be confident of having a light. Really useful as emergency essentials too. I got mine from

  29. wardenfree says:

    Yes,i wanna participate it !
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    please let me join you!

  30. angulam says:

    great idea, i should try it too…

  31. crackingfelt says:

    Great article, been commuting for about five years now and would not change it for the world, I feel better than I did 10 years ago 😉 It takes a while to sort out what layers to wear, but you get it after a while. Also with the right kit, you can pretty much ride in anything. As others have said – “Just do it”

  32. Sajib says:

    Take a look at my blog and you’ll see I’ve become a fan of bicycles. However, the only physical problem I have is sweating. I know they sweat when cycling. But I sweat unusually. It’s not just when cycling. I go out at a stone’s throw distance on foot and come back all sweating like I just swam. I wish I didn’t sweat like this so I could use bicycle for everyday commuting.

  33. I ride my bike every day! I live in Copenhagen which is probably the most bike-friendly city in the world. Roughly 500,000 citizens choose the bicycle in Greater Copenhagen every day. 🙂

  34. lijiujiu says:

    Excellent post.
    I like riding bicycle, but my work place is far away from where I live, I must drive for 1 hour to there …

  35. Jean says:

    I don’t drive. We’re car-free. Hence I’ve been cycling regularily for transportation (work, groceries), fitness, fun and vacation touring travel on bike with my pannier baggage for last 20 years. It’s alot of money that one saves up to use for other stuff. I’ve commuted to wrok to different employers and workplaes. The longest commute was when I lived in Toronto on the edge of suburbs. It was a 30 km. round trip every day spring, summer and fall. Part of the trick is also live close to public transit for truly snowy, icy or super rainy days.

    Here is my story and money saved. Yes, it is phenomenal in terms of benefits of commuting by bike.

  36. Jean says:

    I should add that I have 4 bikes and I’ve used them all. Still all those bikes add up to less than cost of a used car and driving it.

  37. Alyssa says:

    These people are amazing, despite their age. As for me, I don’t think I have the stamina to pedal all the way to my office.

    colorado springs divorce lawyers

  38. I gave up my cars a few years ago – – and cycle in London, UK.

    My safety advice: Cycle like crazy. Disrespect rules. Cars will stop because they don’t want to kill you. Drivers are scared of being sued.

  39. kevinmayne says:

    Great post – nice to see cycling in Freshly Pressed. I was about to give you a wholehearted “Like” when I discovered the nonsense about helmets – unsubstantiated myths that just make cycling appear dangerous. The safest countries for cycling in the world are those where helmet wearing is lowest.

    A shame – H. G. Wells said “when I see an adult on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race” – your positive post could be in that spirit.

    • westonfront says:

      I wonder, are you mistaking cause and effect here? Helmets are ugly and a pain, but having had one save me from major head injury I would not go without mine anymore. Cycling is fine, it’s the car drivers which are dangerous!

  40. norcalman says:

    I guess I can’t bike to work since I only have a Bachelors degree instead of a PhD.

    • westonfront says:

      As with so many practical aspects of life, you may find that you are at an advantage over those more qualified.

      WW Ph.D C.Chem MRSC

  41. What if you get sick? Don’t try to be a hero and ride to work with a chest cold. There’s no shame in taking a break from bike commuting if you feel bad. Don’t make it worse by shocking your already over-worked immune system with cold weather and physical labor. My general rule is “if I’m too sick to ride, I’m too sick to work” but I have a few paid sick days per year. I’d rather take a day off to stay in bed because I feel a little ill than come to work, make it worse, and infect all of my co-workers. If you think you really need to show up to work while you’re too sick to ride, you might want to find another way in.

    Some experts also recommend:

    Adding a daily Zinc and Vitamin C supplement
    Anti-oxidants, such as those found in green tea, or moderate amounts of wine.
    Reduce stress. Try to enjoy life.
    Get the endorphins pumping. Very spicy foods, sex and laughter are good for this.
    Taking Echinacea at the first sign of cold/flu symptoms (while symptoms persist)

  42. erakanksha says:

    CYCLING ——- A Healthy option 4 u nad ur environment as well …
    keeps u fit…ECO-Friendly and economic too…

    so….best option…except wen raing, or too hot or too cold…..

  43. Sam says:

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  44. Should you consider a bicycle commute? Hmm, well, when the commute is a 100 mile round trip, then no. 😉 Great post though. I want to start riding my bike more often, even though I’ll have to stick to my car for my commute.

  45. kmcloren says:

    electrical assisted bike. Its the future.
    Besides you will bike more because it is fun.

  46. The great American trap 0- owning a car so you can get to work, and working to pay off the damned car!

  47. Renée Starr says:

    Inspiring post! I am shopping for a bike soon. I work from home, so I guess I could ride the bike around a bit before I am back where I started. 🙂

  48. roomaomao says:

    Commuting by bicycle in Shanghai is one of the best things I’ve ever done; No more jamming into the insanely over packed subway in the morning rush hour commute is so awesome! Biking in Shanghai may seem a bit intimidating at first but just keep an eye out and expect stupidity ( people flying through red lights , coming the wrong way down the bike lanes , and motorbikes on the sidewalk) and you will be alright.

  49. Zenwalker says:

    I really love to ride bicycle. Infact for my ex-company i used to commute this way every friday which is off totally 55 Kms. Alas the new company has very bad shower facility and i am all alone to ride. Hence bored 😦
    Wish i do get a company….

  50. Jay says:

    I just recently started biking to work now that I have steady hours, a shower at my workplace, and can plan out my days. It’s a hilly 6 mile bike ride with some treacherous roads along the way, but I love the cardio workout it provides me. Great article!

  51. Scott says:

    That is obviously a bicycle-friendly location–you are fortunate to live there.

  52. Incredible post! I love the different perspectives. I’m a college student at a small liberal arts university, so I can walk to my classes, but I ride downtown to the farmer’s market and for groceries when I can. I understand the sweat concern, but I do think it’s a manageable side effect of active transportation. If more people show up sweaty to work and change into appropriately dry clothes, colleagues will notice this effort, and culture begins to evolve. It’s a process. And that’s what we ultimately are aiming for – a society that starts to value active commuting for it’s environmental, health and financial benefits, and supports that with infrastructure. Hopefully we’ll get showers and changing rooms in the workplace for all those who choose to break a sweat in the morning! Keep it up.

  53. Jan says:

    Learn from the masters of cycling, the dutch:

    You don’t need special clothes, helmets, fast speeds that would make you sweaty and in need of a shower. If you wouldn’t dress for a 15 minute walk, why would you do so for a 15 minute ride?

  54. eve6barnido says:

    I do agree. Biking is a good sample of exercise besides that it is more cheaper riding on a bicycle, espeacially when you have to go to not very long distance. That’s why when me and my son got into the bicycle shop, I got 2 bicycle purchase within that day.

  55. John Saddington says:

    Reblogged this on 8BIT.

  56. whenquiet says:

    Inspiration. I so wish that folk walking their dogs would exercise the leash policy, especially when they see joggers and bicyclists.

  57. Reblogged this on Blessing Cafe and commented:
    Save your Heart and gas money too!

  58. diamonddust3 says:

    I need to be outside in order to feel balanced and healthy, so I might as well spend that time biking. If I don’t spend time outside I will have to go outside at some other time, by going for a walk or a hike or eating lunch. I can be outside and get to where I need to be at the same time! And I get my exercise! 😀
    – Andrea

  59. triptracker says:

    My husband and I have talked about getting bike to take on our trips. I think it would add to adventures

  60. annlivingston says:

    I live in a busy tourist town and I have been biking or walking to work for over two years now. Despite the amazing health benifits and work it’s done for my figure, it’s often the only way of navigating the crowds! I really enjoyed your article and would love to have you stop by my page sometime.

  61. Helmet propaganda! You do not need a helmet to ride and 95% of fatalities are not because the rider is helmetless. Talk like that is what scares people away from cycling. Remember the phrase “Easy as as riding a bike”Cycling is not dangerous! Be aware and have some patience. Your commute is not a race or a training ride. North America is stuck in this culture of false security if you wear the equipment and overprotective safety gear. Chances of getting in an accident are no greater than in a car or being a pedestrian.

  62. sujana6 says:

    I started riding my bike to university and it’s the best decision I made! It feels great to not wait for the bus all the time especially in rush hour.

  63. Getting out there on the road with the wind in your hair – unless of course you’re wearing a helmet – but you get the idea. I love it! :

    Like you said, “Just do it!” :

    Great blog – thanks 🙂 Kim*

  64. Pingback: Medical, lifestyle stories fill Upstate Health spring issue | What's Up at Upstate

  65. I love biking. That’s what I used to do everyday and it helps me reduce my weight. lol..Cool bike up there. I wonder how much effort you will give for a ride for that recumbent bike.

Comments are closed.