Bike to Work Day 2012

Do you live 5 miles or less from work? Google Map a bike route by clicking on the bike icon and see that your short commute is likely quite doable. Or for those who live further than 5 miles, be bold and ride your bike anyway. You can do it! Just plan ahead, ride the route before hand, and ride safely.

The fact of the matter is, folks, Bike to Work Day isn’t necessarily an event. Why should it just be one day out of the year? Riding your bike to work is a personal choice and you may do it whenever you wish.

So whatever date is the official Bike to Work Day juncture, it doesn’t matter! That’s the brilliant thing about it!

Safe and happy commutes to you!

For those who are novices seeking some advice on biking to work:

If you are a cycling novice, please consider taking some initial steps before you decide to bike to work. The advice is long-winded, but I just want to be sure to cover some safety bases. Please note: This advice is not endorsed by anyone. It is YOUR responsibility to ride and drive safe, to follow the rules of the road, and to use common sense. Ride at your own risk.

Firstly, Get to know the general area between your home and work. What I did was I just went onto Google Maps and found possible roads I could ride on with my bike to work. I then drove on those roads to and from work, finally deciding which ones I could get away with on my bike. I went back on Google Maps a few times and drew out my own personal bike route. The route consists of both high traffic roads and low traffic neighborhood roads, bike lanes, big shoulders, and a short area where there is neither a shoulder nor bike lane with relatively heavy traffic. You must take all types of roads and speed limits into account.

Secondly, ride your bike regularly to and from the corner store, a friend’s house, the park, etc. Take long joy rides in neighborhoods but also make sure you’re getting a feel for what it’s like to ride on roads with real traffic. If the traffic is too heavy, too fast, or too scary, you don’t have to force yourself to ride it. Start out by riding on roads that make you comfortable, slowly building up to the more challenging roads. That way, when you’re ready to take what I call a “serious ride”, such as commuting to and from work, you’ll not feel so intimidated. When a bike rider feels intimidated, they may not be in the right mindset to handle situations gracefully enough. And remember, don’t ride your bike on roads with fast, heavy traffic if there’s no large shoulder or no bike lane.

Third, after you’ve ridden your bike quite a bit in and out of traffic on joy rides, and after you’ve driven on that route to work with your car a few times, making sure you’re driving that route during the times you’ll be riding your bike, you’ll then be ready to ride that route with your bike, but only during non-peak days and hours. Meaning, take that route with your bike on a lazy Sunday to get a feel for it. See how long it will take you to ride it so that you’ll make it to work on time. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time in the event you’re somehow stuck in heavy traffic during rush hour.

Finally, after getting a good feel for bike riding on the street in general, and getting a good feel for the best route to work on a bike, you’ll ideally be more confident a rider to be able to handle a serious bike ride to work.

Some additional tips to help you feel more safe:

You could wear a helmet. Now, the bike helmet option is actually a topic of great disagreement between different types of cyclists. Honestly, sometimes I wear a helmet and admittedly sometimes I don’t. It really depends on my gut feelings about the time of day or how serious my ride is. When commuting to work, I wear a helmet. It just makes me feel safer and it also actually is safer. So as long as helmet-wearing makes a person feel safer and is not deterring people from riding a bike because it makes them think that bike riding is too dangerous, then it’s okay. I’ll say this, bike riding is about as dangerous as any other form of street transportation, but that’s my opinion. This is not the opinion of the JBC in general. We are all made up of different cycling types and have various degrees of advice. Some folks may feel turned off to bike riding when they see people wearing helmets. Don’t allow yourself to buy into that school of thought. The JBC neither endorses nor openly objects to helmet-wearing because there are very good points to both sides of the coin. It’s up to you and what makes you feel good, okay. But if you want to just play it safe, wear a helmet.

You could also go to a book store and browse through some bike safety books. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the info out there. A lot of it is useful and some of it is not. Some of it is quite overkill and can turn people off to riding. Just use common sense: Don’t listen to music while riding. Always keep a sharp eye out for cars. Don’t make impulsive decisions unless you’re trying to get out of a sticky situation. Don’t do something you’re not comfortable with. You’ll experience a bit of discomfort and that’s normal. But if your gut is screaming at you not to do something, your discomfort level is too high in which case you should back off from the situation.

Ultimately, what’s important is that you’ve decided to ride your bike to work. You’ve made a wise decision by assessing your home-to-work situation and have found that it’s doable on a bike. If you do it each day, you’re going to save loads of money on gas and you’re going to be more physically fit. It’s a wonderful idea! Just make sure you feel confident enough to take on your “serious rides” by first practicing with joy rides. You’ll find the practicing will not be a laborious, boring chore, but actually pretty delightful. You’ll discover other things that you can do, other places you can go on your bike while you’re practicing for the serious rides. You’ll get sun on your skin, fresh air in your lungs, you’ll be getting exercise that’s fun and relatively easy on the body – not cooped up in a boring gym or taking a toll on your joints with jogging.

Just take it slow at first and with time, you’ll discover on your own what works best for you. Some very friendly bike shops that I recommend for those who are novices is Zen Cog in Riverside and LakeShore Bicycles on the Westside. Most all of the workers there are very informative, patient with newbies, and can give you some additional advice and maybe even fit you to your bike so that it feels just right. Maybe buy some good lights while you’re at it, a good lock, amongst other things.

Take care and ride safe!

Please note: This advice is not endorsed by anyone. It is YOUR responsibility to ride and drive safe, to follow the rules of the road, and to use common sense. Ride at your own risk.