You might have excuses for not riding your bike to work--and if you do, Bicycling Magazine has answers for all of them. Today is National Bike To Work Day. To celebrate, here are some great tips to help you make the leap to healthy, low-carbon commuting.
Two simple principles greatly improve your safety: ride predictably and ride visibly. On wide roads, ride just to the right of the traffic lane; on narrow roads, stay just inside the traffic lane so vehicles must partly cross the middle line to pass. (This removes the temptation to try to squeeze by you.) For turns, work your way into the proper lane 150 feet early; if you can't get there 40 to 50 feet before the turn, go straight and double back. Stay several feet away from curbs--passing autos push debris to the curb, creating a littered path.
Studies by groups such as New York City's Transportation Alternatives have shown that trips of less than 3 miles are often quicker by bike, and urban trips of 5 to 7 miles usually take about the same time. Plus, you can use your ride to work as an extra cardio workout. The average American drives 29 miles per day. If you substitute one day’s worth of driving with riding per week, in a year you’ll burn enough calories to lose 19 pounds. You’ll also reduce auto emissions by 1,248 pounds of CO2, and save more than $800 on gas and maintenance.
If your office has showers, drive once or twice a week, carrying a few days' worth of clothes you can store there. Or, you could shower at your gym if it’s near your office. If neither of those is an option, wear a sweat-wicking jersey and bike shorts on your ride in. After arriving, wait 10 to 20 minutes for your body to stop sweating, then wipe off with baby wipes If you showered that morning, you should be suitably fresh.
To lock your bike safely out on the street, use two different types of locks, such as a U-lock plus a chain-and-padlock. (That forces thieves to carry several tools--which means they'll look for easier prey than your bike.)
Can't commit to 15 miles or more each way? Cut the mileage in half: The first day, drive to work with your bike, then ride home that night. Ride to work the next morning, then drive home. Repeat euphorically.
Drive your kids to school and ride the rest of the way to work. Or, organize a car pool in your neighborhood. Or best of all, ride with your kids to school--they'll be the envy of their class. If you carry them in a trailer or a trail-a-bike you can often arrange to leave it at the school until you return.
Tell them it'll improve productivity and reduce absenteeism: 80 percent of people who switch from driving to bike commuting improve the function and health of their heart, lungs and blood vessels in 8 weeks, according to the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.