Seriously, I think bike commuting is one of the best things I've ever done. Here are the reasons why:
*It saves gas. As everyone else despairs watching gas prices go higher and higher, I am cheering them and hope they go higher yet! Yes, I know this will bring up the cost of everyhing else too, but I really don't know what else will get Americans out of their SUV's and into alternative-fuel vehicles or mass transit. Since I started bike commuting for real, I have managed to get my gas consumption down to one tank per month. So even if a full tank used to cost $25 and now it costs $40, if I used to have to fill my tank up every week and now I have to fill it up every month, I'm still saving money. ($60 a month, give or take.)
*It burns calories. BIG numbers of calories! My commute is 12.5 miles each way, so that's 25 miles per day. On the rare occasion that I can't get up the energy for another workout after work, it's not the worst thing in the world because I've already burned so many calories on the bike alone. This, along with eating sensibly (not starving myself like I did last time I lost weight) is letting me lose weight easily at about 1-2 lbs per week. It's great watching fat get sucked away from my stomach and watching my thighs turn from flab into muscle!
*It gets me to work in a good mood. I get to look at beautiful sunrises every morning, the endorphins get going, my metabolism gets a kick-start for the day, the weather is spectacularly perfect (cool -- for now) when I ride, and I get to feel superior to all those people driving alone in their cars for the 5 or 6 or however many miles they drive to work.
*It is less stressful than driving. I hate my commute in the car -- all those stop lights, backed-up traffic, etc. On the bike I can monitor the traffic lights from half a mile away and adjust my speed accordingly so I practically never have to stop at a light. It feels great to cruise up past a quarter-mile of stopped cars and then casually roll through the intersection as soon as the light changes. I can beat the bus up both Broadway and 22nd in the afternoon, not just sometimes but ALL of the time.
I really can't think of many downsides. There really isn't ever a time I don't want to ride. I guess one downside would be that I either have to ride to work in my work clothes or else carry extra clothes to change into when I get there. For now I ride in the same pants I wear to work, usually jeans, and bring a fresh shirt in my backpack. It works for now but when it gets hotter I will probably have to switch to shorts.
Another disadvantage is that it takes more planning to get to the store. I can stop if I just need one or two things, but I can't do my grocery shopping on the way home like I used to. On the other hand, that keeps me from buying unnecessary crap I don't need. Or at least not buying it so often.
I really think many people in Tucson could be riding to work if they wanted to. I know that I would consider anything up to about 15 miles away to be bike commutable. Beyond that it would start getting tough, but most of us honestly don't live that far away from work. "But doesn't it get you all sweaty?" people ask. Well... yes. But it's not anything that some paper towels and water, deoderant, fresh clothes, and, of course, putting your hair back can't fix. (Particularly for me, since I work outside. Trust me, in the summer by 10:00 a.m. there is no difference in smell between a mobility instructor who biked to work and one who drove in an air-conditioned car.) Besides, I really don't care if I arrive a little sweaty -- I am proud of being a bike commuter and not contributing to America's foreign oil dependency problem or the high costs of health care brought on by the American obesity problem.
One more thing -- I have started seeing more bike commuters as gas gets more and more expensive, but I have to ask, why are they all male? I don't think I have ever seen a female cyclist in the mornings, as in, not EVER! I so hope it's not because of the hair-getting-messed-up thing. Please tell me that's not it!