Thursday, May 17, 2012

What it’s like to bike to work

Tomorrow, May 18th, is National Bike To Work Day. If you’re considering it, make sure your work has a shower. If not, be prepared to buy a lot of those scented tree air fresheners.

Biking to work can be a rewarding experience, provided you allow yourself enough time to enjoy it and anticipate any pitfalls along the way.

Before I put foot to pedal, I plan out my route online. I look for the most direct route, but one that minimizes the amount of time I’ll spend on major roads with rush hour traffic. I also benefit from a commute that puts the sun at my back going and leaving work. Why is that important? Because cars won’t be looking into the sun and will, therefore, be able to see me. 

Once I have my route, I make sure I have all of the right equipment. Having a bike, helmet, innertube, lifts and a pump isn’t enough. You also want to have a bright fluorescent shirt and mounted (ideally blinking) lights in case you end up riding at night. The more visible you are to cars, the better.

Only after you have a route and the proper equipment can you begin your ride. If you’ve charted your route properly, you should have a decent estimate of the amount of miles you’ll have to cover. If you have a lot of flat surfaces, you can figure between 14-20 mph. If there a lot of hills, half it. So if your commute is a mixture of half hills (8 mph) and flat (17 mph), you should leave about an hour to complete the roughly 12.5 miles.

But wait, there’s more. The biggest advice I can give you is to use common sense. While I’m sure that you have every right to ride on the road right next to all of the cars and trucks, it’s not always your best move. When I see the lane I’m in become a turn lane, I will sometimes hit the sidewalk. Is it the legal thing to do? Probably not. Is it the smartest? Most definitely.

The last thing you want to do is provoke any sort of road rage. People in cars are frustrated enough by their commutes. They don’t need a cyclist clogging up a whole lane in the middle of rush hour as a temptation to hit the gas a little bit harder. Yes, sometimes it’s unavoidable, but other times, if you just wait for a wave of cars to pass, you’ll have an easier time of it.

Look easy to spot. Look around. And look out for danger. You might just make it safely into work after all.