AP Centerpiece: More Take 2-Wheel Commute

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By TERENCE CHEA
The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 16, 2006; 3:28 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fed up with sitting in traffic and paying more than $50 to fill his tank, Scott Morrison ditched his gas-guzzling pickup and started biking to work.

Rain or shine, Morrison now bikes the six miles from his home in Fairfield, about 45 miles northeast of San Francisco, to the packaging plant where he works as a machine operator. Six months after switching to two wheels, he feels more relaxed and healthier, having lost nearly 50 pounds.

"Every time I get on the scale, it's like I'm getting rewarded for riding to work," said Morrison, 38. "The two biggest complaints people have are not having enough money and obesity. I'm taking care of both."

As gas prices climb to record highs, more Americans seem to be abandoning their cars and biking to work to save money at the pump. This week, as cities across the country celebrate National Bike to Work Week, advocates are promoting bicycle commuting as a way to trim transportation costs, get in shape and help the environment.

"Every additional person who rides their bike to work would start reducing our dependence on foreign oil immediately," said Tim Blumenthal, who heads the Bikes Belong Coalition in Boulder, Colo.

Cycling to work is just one way Americans are seeking relief from skyrocketing gas prices. People who normally drive to work are riding public buses and trains, working from home and carpooling with colleagues.

"People are starting to look for fundamentally different ways to travel," said Bill Wilkinson, executive director of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking in Bethesda, Md. The soaring price of fuel "prompts people to really think about where they live and how they get around."

Bike shops nationwide are seeing more customers who want to buy new bikes or repair old ones to commute on, said Fred Clements, who heads the National Bicycle Dealers Association in Costa Mesa, Calif.

"They have seen a surge in interest from the public about riding bicycles as a way to reduce the impact of high gas prices," Clements said. "People that already have bikes suddenly realize this would be a great way to save money."

About 20 million bikes were sold in the United States in 2005, one of the industry's best years ever, and retailers are optimistic that escalating gas prices will lead to record bike sales this year, Clements said.

Organizers are promoting National Bike to Work Week with a series of events aimed at getting drivers to try commuting by bicycle, if only for a day. Many cities including Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., will host special events for commuters on Friday, National Bike to Work Day.

The San Francisco Bay Area is marking its 12th annual Bike to Work Day on Thursday, when volunteers will hand out refreshments, breakfast foods and biking information at 170 "energizer" stations in nine counties.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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