From the Annals of “Duh” Research

I just read a headline that goes along nicely with my item yesterday about biking to the grocery store. Apparently, researchers found that people who bike or walk rather than commute in their cars lose weight. Honestly, did this research result actually surprise anyone?

After adjusting the data to account for other factors that might contribute to weight loss, the researchers found that people who switched from using a car to walking, cycling or public transit had an average weight loss of about 2.2 pounds.

What surprises me here is that the public transit users saw a reduction as well as the walkers and bikers. This only surprises me because I have not been keeping up on the research in this area. (I feel so bad about that, too!) The article reporting the study cites 6 different journal articles dealing with the correlation between public transport and an active lifestyle. And unless your bus stops are as close as your garage or as your parking spot at work, then it makes sense that you’ll be doing some walking in order to reach the ride.

Public transit, biking, and walking aren’t for everyone. I could walk 1.4 miles to a bus stop and then board the first of three buses that would take me 1 hour and 46 minutes later to the door of my employer. A safe bike route would be some 27 miles and at least 2 hours. Doing that twice a day isn’t terribly realistic. Still, the idea of replacing car trips with more active trips when possible seems like a worthy one to explore.

The original journal article is available online.

Biking It

A couple of days ago, I rode my bike to the grocery store. The trip wound up logging 4 miles due to the fact that I got to the bottom of our street and realized I had left my helmet sitting in the garage. In reality, the store in question is 1.8 miles away.

Besides the stupid inefficiency of getting down the hill before missing my helmet, I wasted a good bit of time on this jaunt trying to keep the new bag that Penny bought me from jamming up in the spokes. I also managed to get stopped by a train. On a good day, when my gear is properly on my head and attached to the bike, I should be able to make the round trip in about 18 minutes. That’s moving at a fairly modest 12 miles an hour. If I were particularly earnest about things, I could probably manage an average of 15, but let’s be conservative.

Driving the same route, I can go as fast as 35 for the bulk of the way. That’s nearly three times as fast. On the other hand, stoplights take the same length of time for bikes and cars. Plus, I can’t drive 35 on my street without incurring the wrath of my neighbors, and there’s all that time you spend walking from your car into the store. (Yeah, I really said that.)

Is there a point to all of this? Yes, there is. When I bike at 12-14 mph, I burn something like 57 calories per mile or 205 calories for the round trip. What do I lose by riding to the store? I lose perhaps 15 minutes of my time, maybe 20. What do I gain? For starters, I gain the $2.07 that the IRS would allow me to deduct for mileage. I know that I won’t actually see that $2.07 in my wallet, but the expenses add up. I also gain a decent little workout, the equivalent of running about a mile or a bit more. Is that a fair trade-off?

Granted, I’m not going to be doing my major shopping trip on my bike, but much more often I head to the store to pick up a few apples, a bottle of BBQ sauce, or some other smallish item. But if I were to make this run one time a week for a year, I’d save some $100 and add 50 miles worth of workouts to my year. That 10,000 calories amounts to about 3 pounds lost for the year.

I like that trade-off. It seems like good stewardship all around.

Thanks for the Road Advice

BicyclingOn a recent Sunday, I went for my first long bike ride of the year, eventually putting in 18 miles before I had the sense to head home. During this trip, I got to experience all of the things that make biking such a joy to me.

  • A strong headwind made me feel like I was going to die.
  • A gradual uphill portion of the route felt like a hors catégorie climb in the Tour De France.
  • Somebody ran a stop sign, despite looking right at me as I approached.
  • Some kind fellow in a white pickup offered me advice: “Get on the sidewalk!”

How do we respond to when some knucklehead demands something of us that clearly we’re not obligated to do? In case you’re not clear on that, cyclists are drivers. The Bike League of America makes this all clear:

In all 50 states, people on bikes are required to follow the same laws as other drivers. Drive your bike as you would any vehicle.  Everyone on the road is entitled to the lane width they need. This includes the space behind, to each side and the space in front. If you want to use someone else’s space you must yield to whoever is using it.

Clearly that driver of the pickup would not be driving on the sidewalk; neither should I be doing so on my bike. (And by the way, I probably delayed his drive by a good 15-20 seconds at most.)

So I did not hang my head and scoot over to the sidewalk when this character yelled out his open window. But what should I have done? Clearly, while wearing my “Cycling for Jesus” t-shirt, which I don’t own and which may not exist, I am not going to make obscene gestures or rush to catch up and hit his truck.

I did, in a moment of irritation, shout, “I will not! I am a vehicle!” This made me think about the Elephant Man’s “I am not an animal. I am a human being,” for a few blocks, which, I have to confess, disrupted the clarity of the encounter. But as I went on, I questioned whether shouting at a motorist–who probably couldn’t hear me anyway–was a proper response.

What is the correct Christian response to being criticized for doing the right thing, whether that be on a bicycle, in the workplace, or at home? I’m thinking that Jesus, although not a cyclist, might have had me in mind when He said, not only “Blessed are the peacemakers” but also, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” Granted, the righteousness that I exhibited in riding on the right side of the proper lane of traffic was not profound in the great scheme of things, but it was righteousness. The persecution hardly rose to a level that justified the word, but it was persecution of sorts. My peacemaking, on the other hand, did not impress God or me.