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Finding the Healthy Commute

Hundreds of commuters geared up for Bike to Work Day.

Bruce Wright of Reston can barely remember his work commute … by car. Since moving to Reston in 1979, Wright has biked to work, except under impossible weather conditions.

“In this area, you can commute [by bike] almost year round,” said Wright, who travels 12 miles to Vienna and back for work each day.

To Wright’s delight, commuting to work by bike is no longer limited to the Lance Armstrong types.

The community of bike commuters has grown so large, the bike company Breezer has started designing bikes for the purpose of short commutes to work, to the grocery store or other short trips. The bikes, which come in several varieties, almost uniformly offer oversized carriers, tail- and headlights and a bell to make them more functional for everyday tasks. “Don’t be surprised as your car becomes your second vehicle,” says the Breezer Web site.

IT’S A SIMILAR message promoted last Friday, May 19 by Wright at Reston’s 5th Bike to Work Day, an annual celebration to promote bicycling as a healthy, fun, and viable form of transportation.

“I hope you all find out this is a great way to get to work,” said Wright, who chaired the organizing committee for the event in Reston. “It’s a great way to get a workout. It’s inexpensive. And it’s good for the environment.” Wright also pointed out that about 60 people gathered at Reston Town Center for the inaugural event in 2002. But, last Friday, the event in Reston has grown to more than 400 participants, he said.

Across the region, Bike to Work Day, organized by Commuter Connections, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, attracted more than 6,000 bicyclists at 21 different sites. According to organizers, it was the region’s biggest bike to work day ever.

“I’m sure the high gas prices helped this year,” said Larry Butler, Reston Association’s director of parks and Recreation, referring to the increase in commuter bicyclists.

“THIS IS THE EVENT that starts me [bike commuting] for the year,” said Christopher Crocoll of Reston. During the warmer months, Crocoll rides his bike to work in Arlington. When he’s not biking, he uses public transportation, which takes him one hour and 15 minutes. By bike, he said, it takes about 15 minutes more.

After Bike to Work Day, said Crocoll, a government worker, he’ll begin biking to work about twice a week. He’d do it more but “it’s not so easy to get cleaned up at the office,” he said.

On the morning of Bike to Work Day, people sporadically arrived at the Equity Office Pavilion at Reston Town Center before beginning their commute. Local sponsors, like Whole Foods Market, Greenberry’s Coffee and Reston Bike Club, provided free beverages, breakfast, a T-shirt, raffles of bike-related prizes and encouragement to the cyclists. County and other officials were on hand to inform participants of the benefits biking to work provides for personal health, reduced congestion and environment.

Kathleen Herron, a Kindergarten teacher at Forest Edge Elementary School, biked with her two children, Caitlyn, 11, and Connor, 9, for the fresh air and exercise. “It will be more enjoyable,” she said, comparing it to her commute by car.