From WILL - The Public Square -

Cope Cumpston of Urbana on National Bike to Work Week

Springtime in Illinois is a great time to think about getting out your bike and getting serious about using it more often.

Need some moral support? Next week, May 16th to the 20th is National Bike to Work Week. Give it a try; see how much better you feel when you've started and ended your workday with some fresh air, a closer view of what's going on in town, and some exercise to clear your head.

Gas prices are going up; parking spaces are harder to find; there's even the occasional traffic jam in Champaign Urbana. Want to avoid all this, save money, get in shape, and enjoy yourself all at once? Ride a bike!

Biking is convenient. It doesn't take too long to get anywhere in town; and you can park right by the door. If you have a long way to go, put your bike on the rack on an MTD bus and then ride at the other end.

Biking is healthy. Have trouble scheduling your exercise? Feeling sluggish? Get on a bike and feel alive!

Biking saves money. In a year, the average cost of keeping a car on the road is $3,000. Most bikers spend less than $300.

Biking helps the environment. Get away from smog, gas fumes, filling up the landfill with giant dead cars. Ride a bike instead!

Sure, it's hard to get started. What if you have to carry a heavy load to the office? Or dress up for an important meeting? Or when it rains? There's a way around all these dilemmas, and it's not that difficult. Or just ride when you feel like it - one day a week is plenty for starters. Make it your Friday treat.

Biking is a sport. You can join a biking club in town. You can get into riding for speed or distance or just enjoy a long ride in the country.

There's support in the works from the government. Both federal and state legislation are look at a requirement that new road construction include enough money for "complete roads" that are safe for cars and bikes. There's a bill about Safe Routes to School for kids. There are incentives to give bikers cash in exchange for not using a car, and for taxi credits for a "guaranteed ride home" if you have an emergency in the middle of the day.

The University of Illinois is supporting Bike to Work Week and is interested in input from staff and students about ways to encourage bicycle commuting.

This community isn't always the easiest place to ride a bike with confidence; motorists often think they have more of a right to the road. Bike paths may not be in the best places. But we have them, and we have a growing network of long distance bike paths. When more bikers speak up, we'll become a more bicycle-friendly community.

Bikers have to be good partners on the road too. Sure it's tempting to wheel up that one-way street or to fly through a stop sign. But motorists don't appreciate renegade competition for road space. So, bikers - follow the rules, and be considerate of everyone else.

What do you need to get started? Check out those cool new bikes at the bike store, make sure your helmet is in good shape. Get on a bike next week and see how it feels. You may just discover how much fun it is -- and all the advantages of getting around on a bike.