Reported by Kristen Elicerio | bio | email | twitter

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Forty percent of all trips made in a car are less than two miles. With gas prices being so high, those small trips can add up.

This week bicycle advocates are challenging people to make a small change in their transportation habits.

Employees throughout our area are being encouraged to leave their cars behind and instead travel to work on their bicycle.

But, there's some who have found it's their passion to do it year-round. For these people, it's a small change that makes a big difference.

Barb Bjornstad is a music teacher in La Crescent. She rides her bike to work every day of the year; rain or shine and even snow.

"A good 10-15 years ago, just to start getting some good exercise and cut down on gas mileage," said Bjornstad.

She lives in La Crosse, so her early morning trip brings her through the downtown area and across the blue bridge to Minnesota, "That gets me to my first stop for work," said Bjornstad.

Once at work, she spends her mornings teaching elementary kids and her afternoons at the middle school.

"In the afternoon I head another mile south to the middle school/high school and teach my fifth and sixth grade and then come back here and head on home," said Bjornstad.

Scott McMurray is another person who bikes to work year-round. Serving as the pastor of three different churches, he's got a lot of ground to cover.

"A daily basis, it'd be from my home in Onalaska out by Menards to the southside of La Crosse. That'd be 8 and a half miles each way. Or, I come here to St. Luke which is about five miles," said McMurray.

Tim Keniepp, President of the Driftless Region Bike Coalition in La Crosse is also a rain or shine, all year biker. His organization works with communities and policy makers to encourage bike friendly transportation.

This week, he says the message is simple.

"Instead of hopping in your car to drive five blocks, hop on your bike. It's not going to take you any longer and you build up a habit," said Keniepp.

That habit is something people like Bjornstad and McMurray have come to appreciate.

"It's relaxing and it's good exercise," said McMurray.

"I can see so much of the world happening around me. This morning there were more than 100 pelicans feeding right at the bottom of the hill up here. And I stopped and I just got to watch them for a while. And I wouldn't have noticed that in a car. I would have been going too fast," said Bjornstad.

Both are encouraging others, too, "Try it. Start slow. Get yourself outfitted with a bike that fits you," said McMurray.

"It's not a tough as it looks. Try it one day and you'll get hooked," said Bjornstad.

Bicyclists say there huge financial benefits, too. The estimated cost of owning a car is between $5,000-8,000. And with gas prices where they're at it's getting even more expensive.

People who use bike as their main form of transportation say they spend less than one thousand dollars a year, some even as low at $600.