For would-be long-distance bicycle commuters, a folding bike can make otherwise impractical trips a snap. The Montague CX Comfort, for example, folds up in seconds and stows easily in the trunk of a vehicle, making part-car, part-bike commutes a possibility. The wheels on the folding Dahon Vitesse D7 are so small that it's a simple matter to bring it along on the subway or bus.
It's often the serious sports enthusiasts who staff bicycle shops, and they sometimes take a dim view of comfort bikes, cautions Amy Walker, the publisher of Momentum, a magazine focused on the biking lifestyle. So the vibe can be intimidating for newcomers. She advises finding a shop where the service is friendly no matter what your experience level and test-riding as many bikes as necessary to find a good fit.
Cycling safely. One big roadblock to a rise in bike commuting is a concern about safety. In 2006, 773 people were killed bicycling, and tens of thousands injured. Of all the consumer products considered in a comprehensive 2008 report by the National Safety Council, only beds, floors, and stairs were associated with more hospital emergency room visits than bikes. Rutgers researchers who compared the safety of walking, biking, and driving found that, per kilometer traveled, bicycle fatalities were 11 times higher than car fatalities.
Still, experts say, some perspective is in order. In the Rutgers study, the rate of pedestrian fatalities associated with walking on the sidewalk was a full 36 times higher than car fatalities. And the health benefits of cycling probably far outweigh the risks. Regular moderate exercise is a boon for the heart, and research has shown that biking helps stave off obesity, arthritis, and depression. One Danish study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that because of the health benefits of bicycle commuting, the mortality rate among noncyclists was 39 percent higher than among the bikers. Another report, published by the British Medical Association, found that the benefits of cycling overwhelmed the risks by 20 to 1.
Updated on 8/4/08