Apart from getting hit by the occasional car, Brian Hughes says there are few downsides to riding your bike to work.
"It's great" he said. "It makes me feel good. I get the exercise I need, and when I get to work I'm pumped up and ready to give my best."
Dr. Hughes is one of those brave people who regularly bikes to work. In a time when it seems the car has become secondary only to oxygen for human survival, there are still those who take their chances on a bicycle. According to statistics from the League of American Bicyclists, approximately 3.2 million Americans bike to work at least once a week.
"I got hit by an old man in a car about two years ago" Dr. Hughes said. "But it wasn't so bad. I only got bruised. Ninety-nine percent of the car drivers are courteous. It's the final 1 percent that can drive dangerously at times."
Dr. Hughes lives in Evans and rides his bike to Medical College of Georgia, where he is an emergency physician.
"On the days when I have to meet patients, I take the car. I always get a bit sweaty, and in some cases it wouldn't be safe to treat the patients then," he said. "But when I do administrative work I take the bike."
For Dr. Hughes, taking the bike means pedaling 30 miles roundtrip, which takes about three hours. Still, he said he saves time by biking.
"I have five kids, and biking to work allows me to spend more time with them" he said. "Instead of having to go to the gym and work out when I get home, I can just hang out with my kids."
Dr. Hughes may be joined by other cyclists as annual Bike to Work Week begins Sunday.
"The warm weather, coupled with the increase in gas prices, motivates people to start biking instead of riding their cars to work," said Andy Jordan, owner of Andy Jordan's Bicycle Center on 13th Street. "This is clearly the time to take advantage of the warm weather."
Evans resident Mark McDonald was a bike commuter until he changed jobs a couple of years ago and the distance he would have to cover became too far. Like Dr. Hughes, Mr. McDonald used to work at MCG.
"What a bummer" he said. "I really miss it. Just the feeling of watching the sun go up over the hills of North Augusta. ... It was great."
When Mr. McDonald worked at MCG, he rode downtown on the Augusta Canal towpath, just as Dr. Hughes does.
"That's a very safe route if you're a biker," Dr. Hughes said. "It gets a bit more scary when you turn onto 15th street and face all the traffic."
Bike to Work Week was created in 1957 by the League of American Bicyclists, the largest and oldest bicyclists' organization in the United States. Founded in 1880 to improve the condition of roads and biking pavement, the organization now has about 35,000 members nationwide.
"Bike to Work Week was started so that people would get the motivation to use their bike more often," said Patrick McCormick, director of communications at the League of American Bicyclists' headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"The positive aspects of riding your bike to work are many: You reduce the risk of getting heart disease; you get to come out in the open air and you cut down on car pollution," he said.
Bike to Work Week is traditionally promoted during the third week of May every year.
"In later years, we have seen a rising interest in the event, which may have to do with the increase in gas prices," Mr. McCormick said.
Here's some advice for beginning commuters from the League of American Bicyclists and London G. Eubanks, a Richmond County sheriff's deputy and bike patrol instructor:
If you have a short commute, ride in your work clothes at a relaxed pace.
Use waterproof and breathable fabrics to stay comfortable and dry.
Wear bright clothing if possible to make yourself more visible.
USE CORRECT EQUIPMENT:
Always wear a helmet. Riders younger than 16 must wear helmets. Adults who wear helmets protect themselves and set a good example.
Be sure your lighting gear works. Front light beams should reach at least 100 yards. Back light beams should be visible from at least 200 yards. Always use lights when driving in the dark. Every bicycle should be equipped with a reflector of some kind.
Consider weather protection such as fenders and a rack for carrying capacity.
Invest in a rechargeable headlight; it will save you money in the long run.
Choose routes carefully; consider distance, traffic volume, road width and condition.
Always signal before turning.
OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS:
Technically, a bicyclist should obey the same laws as a car driver. However, for everyone's safety, a bicyclist is required to use the right-most lane and ride to the right in that lane.
Don't ride on the sidewalks. If you do, it should be at a very slow tempo, no faster than if you were walking.
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