Get out there on National Bike to Work Day!
Baltimore minor league pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Parker Bridwell used to ride their bikes to the ballpark in Delmarva until Rockies pitcher Jeremy Guthrie crashed riding his bike to a game in Colorado last month. Their manager then banned the bike commutes, citing safety concerns.
"From where they live," manager Troy Mattes told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, "you're either in the middle of chicken country or you've got 18-wheelers carrying huge [containers] of chickens down windy, two-lane roads. I really don't want to hear about one of these guys getting run off the road and hitting a tree or falling in a ditch or, god forbid, getting hit by a car."
Mattes' concern is completely understandable. He's responsible for the development and safety of a young pitcher his employers signed for $6.5 million. The last thing he wants to worry about is road rash in addition to pitch counts.
But the message is all wrong. Rather than scaring people off, we should encourage more people to ride bikes. There is safety in numbers. Studies have shown that the more people biking, the fewer the accidents because of increased driver awareness. And if losing weight, improving your general health, saving fuel costs and just having fun aren't reasons enough, here's further encouragement to get in the saddle for National Bike to Work Day, and every day:
Some of your favorite athletes do it.
With endorsements, LeBron James makes more than $40 million a year, but he wasn't afraid to ride his bike to a Heat game earlier this season. And it didn't hurt his performance -- he dropped 35 points against the Bulls that day. James is an avid cyclist who holds an annual charity bikeathon in Akron.
"I've been riding bikes my whole life," he told Bicycling magazine in 2009. "I was probably 3 or 4 when I got my first bike and learned how to ride. It's something I always did as a kid. Me and my friends would ride all over the city going to play basketball and lock our bikes up on a tree. For conditioning reasons, I've been doing it about five years now. It's great for your legs."
Former linebacker Dhani Jones used to ride his bike to practices with the Cincinnati Bengals without any problems, probably because riding his bike was safer than actually playing football.
After 15 years changing teams, changing pitches and fighting to establish himself as a major leaguer, Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey finally earned a $7.8 million contract and his own parking space (with his number on it) at the team's Port St. Lucie, Fla., spring training facility in 2011. "I have a place that is mine," he wrote in his recent memoir, "Wherever I Wind Up." "I am not a guy just passing through or living on a minor league salary. I belong. What a wonderful concept."
It didn't matter, though. He still rides his bike to the park most days.
"First, it is a great form of cardio and much more fun than running. So I am prone to bike to the park the day after a start. About a 10- to 15-miler is about right," Dickey replied when asked why he bikes. "Secondly, biking is a great way for me to clear my mind. I think very lucidly when I bike. Maybe the rhythm of the crank or the sound of the wind hurrying by. Either way, I love it."
Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen also rides his bike to spring training and has occasionally commuted the 15 or so miles to Safeco Field from his home in Bellevue, Wash., during the season. So does Mariners catcher John Jaso. Even after Guthrie's accident, the Mariners haven't discouraged their players from riding. In fact, Wilhelmsen joked, "We're going to get a tandem bike. Pitcher and catcher riding together. Hey!"
"We could probably push up the hills a little better," Jaso said. "As long as he puts in his share of work. He's a lot bigger than me."
Jaso said he was inspired by his father, who rides his bike to work every day. Jaso also was sure to mention his bike commute to his former manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon.
The Rays manager is such a cycling enthusiast, he has a Lance Armstrong autograph framed in his office. He used to ride to the ballpark when he coached in Anaheim but doesn't now because there isn't a good route from his home to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg (though he still rides regularly away from the park). Maddon said the way to get more people riding is better bike paths.
"Create more bike-friendly trails within cities," he told me. "I'm talking [about] lanes that are well-lined -- and let people know, not just bikers, that cars [need to] stay out of this lane. Advertise a little bit, educate the masses. I would like to see more cities with legitimate trails lined off for bikers."
That's the key. Don't scare off people by saying biking isn't safe. Make biking safer so that more of us can ride.
Do your bit by celebrating National Ride to Work Day. Just be sure to bring some clothes to change into. Bike shorts can be a little embarrassing at work.