May is National Bike Month and during this time I encourage Iowans to explore, exercise, enjoy the weather and take advantage of all benefits of riding your bike.  As the thousands of Iowans who participate in RAGBRAI every year already know, cycling can be extremely rewarding.

Since 1956, May has been recognized as National Bike Month.  And during this month we also recognize Bike to Work Week.  According to The League of American Bicyclists, the national organization for cyclists, more than half of the U.S. population lives within five miles of their workplace.  Unfortunately, many Americans are deterred from commuting by bike because they are not aware of all of the benefits - and the benefits of biking are many.

Not only is biking an enjoyable and efficient mode of transportation, but it can also be an important part of a healthier lifestyle.  In fact, employees who are more active tend to be more alert, take fewer sick days and are often more productive.

Children are also encouraged to join along in the excitement and fun of bike riding.  Introducing a bike routine in a child's daily activities has shown to boost morale and inspire healthy living.  Lack of physical inactivity is one large factor contributing to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States and biking to school or with friends and family can help reverse this dangerous trend.

Biking to work and school can also have a positive impact on our environment and the air we breathe.  It is efficient, economical and ecological - helping to reduce your carbon footprint and relieve traffic congestion while also saving you money on gas.  Automobiles are the largest source of air pollution in the United States and according to the League of American Bicyclists, on short auto trips, an average car would emit 3.6 pounds of pollutants into the atmosphere for every mile of the trip, while a bike has zero emissions.

In order for Americans to make the decision to leave their car at home and bike instead, it is important that our streets, intersections and trails are designed to be easy and safe to use.  As it is, Iowa leads the nation in Rail to Trail conversions and has over 1,200 miles of extensive, interconnected multi-use trails - but there is even more we can do.  That is why I introduced the Complete Streets Act, which promotes the design of streets that are safe for all that use them.  And in the wellness portion of the health reform bill that was signed into law earlier this year, we included community transformation grants to encourage healthier living and create safe spaces to exercise and get outdoors.  When people have access, the possibilities for improving healthy living are endless.

For more biking tips, a step-by-step guide on how to organize a bike to work event in your area, or safety tips, please visit www.bikeleague.org.  For a list of bike trails in Iowa please visit www.bikeiowa.com.

###