The clock reads 7:45 A.M. Though his entire house is still asleep, fourth-year Bryan Chao is already out the door. A student at UCI and a resident of Newport Beach, Chao bikes to and from campus everyday. With parking permits at an all-time-high, Chao, like many other bike commuters, relies on his bike everyday to get to school. This saves roughly $300 per quarter (not including gas costs), which leaves students with a generous amount to spend on groceries, bills, and other necessities.
Not only does it save money, but biking to and from campus also saves a lot of time. As opposed to students who depend on carpool or bus schedules, bikers have the freedom to come and go as they please.
Biking to and from campus daily also forces students to exercise regularly. With all the different kinds of activities and responsibilities that students must juggle (such as classes, studies, work, clubs, relationships, friendships, etc), exercise usually ranks at the bottom of the list. The insignificance of regular exercise is ironic considering that it helps to maintain healthy bones and muscles, control weight, improve brain function, manage stress, raise moods, etc.
However, despite the many benefits, only 16 percent of U.S. residents (aged 15 and older) participate in sports and exercise activities on an average day (2008 United States Bureau of Labor Statistics). Therefore, by biking to and from campus everyday, students can squeeze a healthy amount of exercise into their busy schedules, and thus maintain healthier lifestyles. Another benefit to squeezing bike workouts throughout the day is that exercise boosts brainpower — something most, if not all, students desire.
According to Dr. John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, exercise causes the brain to produce human growth hormone, which functions in pumping up brain volume (U.S. News). Biking to and from campus allows us to get in a healthy amount of exercise, thus increasing function in short-term memory, focusing, and maintaining attention. As a result, students can perform better on exams and in classes.
However, one might say that biking takes longer than driving and that he/she simply doesn’t have any spare minutes to waste. Well, if that’s you, I have two things to say. First, if you’re too busy to spare ten to fifteen minutes a day, then you’re much too busy anyway and ought to relax. Second, studies show that exercise — specifically aerobic exercise — releases endorphins in the brain, which function in reducing pain and inducing euphoria.
In other words, endorphins help a person feel more peaceful and happy by reducing the amount of stress hormones in the body. In fact, Chao attests that biking is a “great way to wind down, and shake off all the stress that comes with being a college student.”
Though biking to and from campus may possess many benefits, like everything else in life, there are some downsides as well. For example, stormy weather leaves bikers stranded at their homes or on campus. Because the soaked asphalt causes tires to easily lose traction, biking is immensely dangerous in the rain.
In stormy conditions (like the rainstorms throughout the past few weeks), bikers must scramble at the last minute to find rides to and from campus, in order not to miss classes. This may cause even more stress in an already stressful life.
Also, because UCI can also be understood as “Under Construction Indefinitely,” the countless construction zones pose many risks for bikers. Often times, these zones cut into bike lanes, forcing bikers to bike even closer to the cars, which are traveling at an average of 40-50 mph in Irvine.
As a result, the potential danger of getting into a severe accident raises significantly when biking along the unavoidable construction zones.
In addition, leaving your bike unattended on campus poses several threats. I’m sure many bikers are familiar with the anxiety of finishing class, only to find his/her bike missing from the bike stands.
Tim Chang, a second-year student, had his bike stolen right outside his apartment in UCI’s Campus Village. Even though he had locked it the night before, someone cut the cord with a power tool in the middle of the night. Because of his unfortunate experience, Chang recommends student bikers to invest in a U-lock, making sure the tire, bike frame, and bike rail are all within the lock.
If you find yourself consistently wasting time waiting for a ride with no time to exercise, stressed out, or poor because of parking permits, then biking to and from campus is for you! Besides, it isn’t necessary to bike everyday. As John Ratey says, “something is better than nothing!”