11 May It’s National Bike to Work Week!
Looking at 2011 data, it appears that more than 777,000 people chose to ride their bike to work as their primary means of transportation according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The data suggest that the percent of those pedaling to their job has remained relatively stable at about one half of one percent. May is National Bike Month and Monday through Friday, May 11th – 15th is National Bike to Work Week. So what’s to know about making a bike ride to work more than just a gesture?
For the past 59 years, National Bike Month has been recognized in the United States to help increase awareness and adoption of cycling.
Let’s talk about what you need to know about biking to work. First check out Google. They have done their best to map bike lanes and trails that are bicycle-friendly. Just go to Google.com/maps and click on “bicycling.”
The website sparkpeople.com offers a variety of tips to get in the swing as a bicycle commuter.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going around the block or across town, get and wear a safe helmet. In 2010, there were 515,000 bike-related injuries that required emergency room care and approximately 26,000 sustained traumatic brain injuries. That’s not meant to dissuade you from taking to the pavement, it’s just a way to underscore the importance of protecting your central processing unit.
Find a bike buddy, someone who already is a bicycle commuter. Not only will they have practical tips about making a daily commute, they’ll probably know the safest routes to travel. Having someone to lead the way will cut the learning curve dramatically.
Changing your commuter habits means building physical stamina and becoming road-wise. You may have biked ever since you were a kid but navigating your way to work at rush hour for five to ten miles is a different story than tooling around the neighborhood in a pack of eight year olds. Start with a few miles at a time and then do your commute on a weekend or after hours when there’s less traffic. You’ll be able to gauge actual travel time to ensure you arrive on time.
If you don’t like sketchy conditions, be a fair weather commuter. Under any circumstance, though, be prepared for weather when it comes. Some folks keep a change of clothes at the office or pack along a rain jacket or fleece to account for temperature swings or rain. Also, seasoned cyclists suggest wearing gloves to help reduce the vibration and to save your palms should you take a spill. Another accessory is a good pair of safety or biking glasses. Bugs, sand, rain and wind can make it difficult to see.
Lights, bells and whistles! America is a motoring society and cars are weighed by the ton versus cyclists who are weighed by the pound. Being visible and heard is essential for safety. Bright, reflective clothing helps identify you as a cyclist. If riding near pedestrians, a bell or whistle will let them know they are being overtaken by a cyclist. A flashing red light on the rear and a white light on the front also alerts traffic particularly at dusk or at night.
Don’t sweat about your sweat. Veteran cycling commuters suggest a couple of ways to avoid alienating your co-workers or clients with smelly sweat. Some simply say take it slow to minimize exertion and sweat. Others suggest packing some baby wipes and deodorant to freshen up once you arrive at work. For the hard-riding, you may want to find a shower at or near work and give yourself enough time to cool down to avoid being drenched with sweat all day. That may mean keeping a change of clothes at work or investing in a locker at a nearby fitness center.
Have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong. If you are unexpectedly called away from work, have a short list of people who can transport you in a pinch.
No matter what your motivation may be for taking a ride to work, this may be a good week to give it a try. By the way, don’t forget the lock in case someone has a desire to get in the habit – on your bike.