Central Floridians Encouraged to Join Bike to Work Fridays

A man carries his bike after riding to work
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Healthy Central Florida, AdventHealth and the Winter Park Health Foundation are encouraging Central Floridians to join a new initiative in 2016 Bike to Work Fridays.

The movement, spearheaded by Healthy Central Florida, is aimed at encouraging exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.

This is the time of year when many people are setting new health and fitness goals, and Bike to Work Fridays is a great opportunity to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, said Jill Hamilton Buss, executive director of Healthy Central Florida. With I-4 traffic getting worse and the weather getting better, now is the perfect time to try riding your bike to work.

From weight management to stress and anxiety reduction to boosting brain power, the benefits of exercise and bicycling are numerous.

Central Florida has more than 50 miles of paved trails and many roadways with bike lanes or low traffic count making commuting easier, Hamilton Buss said. If anyone needs help planning their route, there are additional resources, including ReThink Your Commute, which will actually ride with you and find the safest, best route.

Certainly trails are most comfortable and more are being built, which allows residents who live in the suburbs, Oviedo, for example, to ride to the downtown Orlando area without having to ride on busy roads.

If you live a great distance from work and the thought of cycling all the way to work is intimidating, another option is to cycle to the nearest SunRail station, and then take the train to work, Hamilton Buss said. With I-4 under construction, cycling and taking SunRail can reduce traffic and your stress.

While Central Florida roads are considered dangerous by many, we are making strides to be more bike and walk friendly. Orlando and Winter Park are designated as Bicycle Friendly Communities at the Bronze level by the League of American Bicyclists, and Maitland received an honorable mention by the organization in 2015 for their efforts.

The League estimates that fewer than 1 percent of U.S. residents currently bike to work. In Winter Park, by comparison, that number is more than double closer to 3 percent. Healthy Central Florida's goal is to support residents so that number increases every year.

Many residents already are commuting by bike, showing that it can be done. Some don't even own a car, like Travis Martin, who commutes 32 miles round trip every day from his home near the Dr. Phillips area, to the Whole Foods in Winter Park. Martin has been making this commute for more than two years and loves it.

When I finish my ride, it makes me feel good, Martin said. Biking is therapeutic. It's the best part of my day.

Alaina Casioppo, who lives in Winter Park and works in Altamonte Springs, agrees. She rides to work three days a week on average.

The slightly extra time it takes to bike is completely worth it, Casioppo said. When you arrive, you are awake and ready to start the day. It just makes my whole day more positive and productive. The more I bike to work, the happier I am.

Commuting by bike also gives Casioppo the opportunity to exercise on days when her time is limited.

Some days there is no extra time to go to the gym or work out, so by commuting I get some exercise and it makes crazy days a little less crazy, she said. Her workplace also has showers available which helps when riding on hot days.

More employers are adding amenities such as showers when they build or renovate offices, said Hamilton Buss. They recognize the fact that more millennials are delaying getting licenses and some are opting not to own a car at all and are instead walking, biking and taking mass transit. But we know it can be challenging to cycle to work during Orlando's hot summers and afternoon showers. That's why winter and spring months are the perfect time of year to try bike commuting.

Leaders with Healthy Central Florida, AdventHealth and the Winter Park Health Foundation encourage all Central Floridians to join this movement, and employers to support their employees as they aim to improve their health, the environment and help reduce traffic congestion.

Residents who join Bike to Work Fridays are encouraged to share their experience on social media using #biketoworkcfl.

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