Do you value your safety and personal well-being? No? Well then, have I got a holiday for you:
Today’s National Bike to Work Day!
Situated smack in the middle of National Bike to Work Month, today’s holiday is meant to raise awareness about the soaring numbers of bike commuters choosing to forgo the carpool or subway for their own two wheels — and living to tell the tale.
According to the League of American Bicyclists — which is consequently a super cool band name — 40 percent of all car trips in the U.S. are less than two miles long, meaning trading your classic combustion engine for a human-powered bike is a reasonable alternative. It’s emission-free, cheap and healthy, and swapping your car for a cycle ride from time to time can be a little way to make a big difference to both your fitness and the environment.
With all this in mind, I decided earlier this month to put my fears behind me and try my very first bike-to-work commute. And, believe you me, I learned some things in the process. If you’re thinking about joining the ranks of office-bound cyclists today, here are some helpful tips from someone who learned a few things the hard way:
- Do a trial run. I didn’t get a lot of things about bike commuting right, but I DID have the foresight to practice on a Saturday to make sure the bike lanes connected where I thought they did. Turns out though Saturday mornings in Manhattan offer much emptier roads than weekday rush hour, so the trial run wasn’t a true stand-in, but at least I got a feel for it on a day I wasn’t racing in to punch the clock.
- Wear bike-friendly clothing. The day you choose to bike to work is not a morning to test out your new pencil skirt. If you have a long commute and somewhere to shower/change, I’d recommend workout clothes. My commute was less than two miles, so I wore regular work pants and a t-shirt I could swap out for a more business-casual shirt in the newsroom bathroom. I probably should have packed wet-wipes, too, but I’m a gross colleague.
- Choose a cycle-friendly bag. If you lug around as much stuff as I do (i.e. lunch, back-up shoes, seven pounds of stray Bernese Mountain Dog hair that somehow sticks to everything I own), you’ll want to swap our your normal purse for a cross-body bag or backpack that’s easy to wield on a cycle.
- Roll up a pant leg. I don’t quite understand the science of this, but seems all the cool kids do it.
- Wear a helmet. Even if your route has bike lanes, cars are going to be going out of their way to kill you, at least in my experience. Watch for both right turns into your lane and absent-minded drivers flinging open their doors into your path. Practice ringing your bike bell while simultaneously yelling “hey a$$hole, I’m biking here!”
- Check the weather. I chose what I though was a beautiful morning to bike-commute to work for the first time. Turns out, I should have given this little cloud cover a little more thought.
It started pouring when I was halfway in, and I arrived at work semi-drenched — but at least I had a dry shirt in my bag. And I’m fortunate enough to have a secure indoor spot to store my bike, so I chose to leave it at work overnight and ride it home the next day when the storm had passed. So technically I biked only to work that day, not from it, but that’s what I call baby steps.
Speaking of baby steps, look who got brave enough to enter our (very scary!) back porch this past weekend … before leaping into my lap in terror at the sound of the wind blowing.