Biking beneficial for mental and physical health

As I bike into the center of Amherst on May 20, I plan to make an unusual pit stop. This morning is the last day of the Bay State Bike Week, an annual campaign coordinated by volunteers with the goal to encourage more people to bike as their main means of transportation.

The event in Amherst includes a free breakfast on the town common, usually with bagels, pastries and coffee supplied by local bakeries.

This year’s event drew around 35 people including students, teachers, and bike enthusiasts. ARHS sophomore Jonas Kaplan-Bucciarelli, an attendee at the breakfast, says he tries to bike to school everyday, though he admits he only ends up riding about three days a week.

Kaplan-Bucciarelli likes to bike for a couple of reasons. “It feels really good to get up and get exercise,” said Bucciarelli. “It’s so nice in the morning,”.

The movement of bike riding to work and school has picked up speed in the last decade. In the United States, almost a million people bike to work every day, which is up from 400,000 people at the turn of the century. This is a small fraction of the total population that commutes to work everyday, especially compared to some European countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands where over 50 percent of people ride to work or school. Nevertheless, the progress in the United States is substantial.

ARHS junior Julia Warren tries to bike every day, but like Kaplan-Bucciarelli, she  winds up riding around three days a week. Warren bikes to get in some exercise and stay in shape, but also for the mental health benefits.

“It distracts me, helps me take my mind off things,” Warren says. Contrary to many frequent bikers in the age of portable music devices, Warren does not listen to music while riding. “I’m paranoid someone’s gonna be talking to me and I won’t respond,” Warren said. Kaplan-Bucciarelli and Warren agree that biking is a healthy way to start the day both mentally and physically.

“I wish more people would bike, there’s something [nice] about being out in the morning,” said Kaplan-Bucciarelli.