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The Two-Wheel Commute

As Bike-to-Work week approaches, cycling advocates speak out.

H.G. Wells need not despair of the future of the human race: Bicycling has become ever more popular.

Biking is a healthy, sustainable, and fun way to commute, according to Alex Karman, transportation planner with the  South Western Regional Planning Agency, or "SWRPA."

“Between the price of gas and congestion, riding a bike to work can be good option for a lot of people," Karman told The Hub.

New Census figures show 40 percent growth nationally during the last decade, according to SWRPA. To highlight the trend, SWRPA, together with the , the and MetroPool, announced two Bike-To-Work events. They are among the many state- and nation-wide events taking place during .

Of course, that doesn’t mean can’t bike to work any other times or from any other cities.

“It’s become almost fashionable as we try to live in a more sustainable way,” Karman said. “I just reviewed some Census figures and it appears that number of bike and walk commuters in the southwestern region grew pretty substantially over the past decade, maybe in the range of 25 percent to 50 percent.”

Karman said he didn’t have more precise figures since the different methods used to collect the data between the 2000 and 2009 Census makes any comparison difficult. Part of the reason is the 2009 data comes from a small sample.

That said Karman wants to see more bikers in more towns. Greenwich and Stamford were selected because of the number of workers.

Flo Teixeira, a manager at Stamford’s MetroPool, Inc., said she’ll be on site supporting SWRPA for the two events. MetroPool wants to encourage alternative transportation such as carpooling, vanpooling, riding the bus or train, bicycling, walking and telecommuting.

But in a state where bike lanes are few and cyclists don’t want to be mistaken for a deer darting across the road, the idea of biking to work can be scary.

“It’s tough to get used to riding on the road if you’re a novice,” Karman said.

For those interested in commuting to work the choice of what to ride can be overwhelming. But for Matt Regan, an employee at Westport’s , there’s only one option.

“A hybrid most definitely,” Regan said. “Road bikes are more about performance. A hybrid isn’t as aggressive and you can be in an upright position.”

What’s more, riders can put racks on hybrids to carry grocery bags, book bags and laptops, Regan said.

Now there are plenty of rail trails and scenic routes throughout Fairfield County, from Trumbull’s near Tait Hill Road to in Norwalk. Yet, bike paths on main roadways in most of the region are few to non-existent.

“Sure, it would be very nice if there were bike paths everywhere,” Regan said.

As such safety must be a priority.

Cyclists should be visible at all times and predictable. They should wear bright clothing and remember to signal turns. Look before changing lane.

Karman advised riders, recreational and commuters, to make sure they get a spring tune up at a local bike shop. And, always wear a helmet. Ride in the right-most lane going in the direction you are traveling. Obey all stop signs, traffic lights and lane markings.

Bicycle commuters, or newbies, can meet fellow cyclists and grab free refreshments and other giveaways at the following events.

The first event is in Greenwich, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. May 18 at the . The second event is from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. May 20 at Stamford's .

For those who worry about damp foreheads and wrinkled clothing some long-time bicycle commuters advise bringing a change of clothes in a small knapsack. But for the most part it shouldn’t be a problem, Karman said.

“It’s still cool enough so you shouldn’t get to sweaty,” he said. “It’s a good healthy thing to do. You can get a little exercise.”

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