Have you considered biking to work, but have been too nervous to try? Now is your chance to take the plunge. This Friday, May 17th is Bike to Work Day. As part of National Bike Month, we encourage you to dust off your bike and discover all the benefits of biking to work. For riders in the Maryland, Virginia, and DC areas, you can register your participation and get access to additional fun and useful resources to help you get started.
Why Bike to Work?
It’s an opportunity to incorporate exercise into every day. It can be a struggle to get that recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day when you work full time. Biking to and from work will make it a natural part of each day. Arrive at work energized and work off the day’s stresses during your ride home.
It’s much better for the environment. Unlike cars, bikes are pollution-free transportation. They require no fuel and produce no emissions. This will help reduce pollution and improve air quality. Less traffic will also reduce the need for (and the cost of) road maintenance and construction.
You’ll save money. It’s much cheaper to buy and maintain a bicycle than a car. You won’t be filling your gas tank as often either. Even biking part way to work and using public transportation (either bus or train) to complete your trip is better than driving a car back and forth to work every day.
Tips for First Time Bike Commuters
Check Your Bike
Make sure your bike is adjusted properly and in good condition before your first ride. You should check that the brakes work and that the tires are in good shape. If you have any doubts, get your bike serviced by a professional. Remember, this is your vehicle! Just like a car, it will require occasional maintenance to keep it in safe, working order.
Use Safety Gear
You can’t just sling your messenger bag over your shoulder and hop on your bike. Having all the proper safety gear is a must. You’ll need:
- A helmet. This should go without saying. Be sure your helmet fits well so that it properly absorbs impact in case of a crash.
- A bell. Bike bells alert pedestrians and others when you’re passing. This is as much a courtesy as a warning.
- Reflective strips. Lack of visibility is one of the main causes of crashes. Your bike should already have reflectors, but additional reflective strips elsewhere (such as your bike wheels) will make you even more visible.
- Bright clothing. You should also dress for visibility. If this doesn’t match your office’s aesthetic, plan on changing your clothes when you get there.
- Headlights. If you commute early or late enough that it will be dark outside, invest in a headlight and taillights.
- Emergency kit. Hopefully you will not need it, but you should carry a crash pack in case of emergency. An emergency bike repair kit containing a spare tube, patch kit, and a multi-tool can also come in handy.
Plan Your Route and Practice It
Take some time to plan your commute route ahead of time. It’s ideal to practice the route during non-commuter times so that you know what to expect and roughly how long it will take. Traffic conditions will likely be different during your actual commute, but practicing will give you a starting point.
Tips for Employers
Want to promote biking to work for your employees? There are many things you can do to make your workplace friendly for bike commuters.
Showers and Changing Rooms
For many people, these make or break the idea of bike commuting. Nobody wants to be sweaty all day, wearing the clothes from their long bike ride to the office. These are also vital if your workplace has a dress code.
Bike Parking and Storage
Designated bike parking or storage lockers will also encourage people to bike to work. Cities usually have some public areas for parking bikes. If spots are limited or the areas don’t seem secure, however, many people won’t risk it.
Consider providing reimbursements for employees who bike to work. Employers can provide financial help in purchasing a bicycle and and offer a small amount monthly to cover maintenance expenses. This can offset other greater expenses, such as an expensive parking spot or subsidized public transportation.
Ready to Ride?
Check out the Bike to Work Day resources sponsored by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. They’ll help you find everything you need, whether you’re looking for a biking buddy, a commuter convoy, or even a bike rental.
If you don’t feel ready yet, consider taking adult bicyclist education classes to help you prepare. Their seminars and skills clinics will help you sharpen your skills and build the confidence you need.