May is the month to bicycle to work and burn calories instead of gasoline.
While May is Bike to Work Month across the United States, every day is Bike To Work Day for some Lawrence residents.
Keith McMahon, an associate professor in East Asian languages and cultures at Kansas University, has two options to get to campus from his home near Ninth and Ohio -- his feet or his old five-speed Schwinn.
McMahon tackles the steep grades of Mount Oread daily on his bicycle, rain or shine, partly for the challenge and partly because bicycle transportation is more interesting. Although he has a driver's license, he doesn't own a car.
Riding to work and around town isn't so extraordinary for McMahon, who spent five years in China where private automobiles are the exception and bicycles are the rule.
"In China it's not unusual to ride one hour to work, and a half hour is no problem," he said. "But the bicycle jams in Beijing are famous. There's a lot of ringing and it's very tense."
The Chinese have no choice except to use bicycles. Americans, many of whom live more than a few miles from their jobs, usually choose cars instead, McMahon said.
Mark Bechtel wants to see more Kansans hop aboard two-wheelers or lace up their walking shoes to get to work or run errands around town.
Bechtel is the state's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and a transportation planner with the Kansas Department of Transportation.
He works with bicycling groups, such as the League of American Wheelmen celebrating its 38th annual Bike to Work Month, as well as local clubs across Kansas. One of his goals is to encourage increased use of bicycles and other alternative transportation, as outlined in the federal Intermodal Surface Efficiency Transportation Act, or ISTEA (pronounced "ice tea").
ISTEA sets aside 10 percent of federal transportation funds for "enhancements," including bicycle and pedestrian programs.
The Kansas Bicycle Plan, under review by KDOT, details the multifold health and environmental benefits of bicycling.
For example, every 100 miles traveled on two wheels instead of four burns 4,000 calories and means 94 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide and 4.2 fewer pounds of carbon monoxide are released into the environment.
Bechtel, however, doesn't ride a bike to work in Topeka.
"No, I carpool," he said. "But I utilize bicycles. I ride around town on errands. When I lived in Wichita, I walked to work. I try to do intermodal things."
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