Last week Linda talked about the excellent reasons to consider switching to bike commuting, and offered some tips for getting your bike ready to go. This week she takes us through how to make sure you've got everything you need when you get where you're going, and how to find a quality bike route.
Now that the bike is ready, you may be asking, “But Linda, how am I going to carry all of my stuff? And what “stuff” will I need?” I’m glad you asked! Think about the items you use daily while working or schooling. Laptop, books, and clothing can all be carried via a backpack or bags (panniers) on a rear bike rack. I suggest leaving what you can at work or school to avoid carrying the weight, especially if using a backpack. If possible, laptop and phone power cords can stay at work. Keeping a day or two supply of shirts, ties, socks and shoes at your destination will cut down on weight also. Does your destination have a shower? Wonderful! Shower and cleaning supplies at work help a great deal. No shower at work? Body wipes and talc powder are your friends! If you don’t have a personal locker, there are other options for storage at your destination. A File Pedestal is a fantastic way to keep all of your toiletries and extra clothing in neat order, along with any snacks you may want to have post ride.
Bike? Check. Bags at the ready? Check. Let’s talk about the route you are going to take. If you typically drive, some of the streets you drive on may not be the best selection to get you to work by bike. Many cities with a bicycle infrastructure will produce maps with bike lanes and bike boulevards highlighted. This would be a good place to start looking at when exploring your route to work. Ask coworkers who commute by bike what routes they take. You may be able to use a route of a coworker who lives close to you for the first few commutes until you get comfortable creating and exploring your own route. Check with your local bike advocacy group for suggestions from members. For women this is not just a place of knowledge but can also be a fantastic source of inspiration. Here in Portland we have the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now newly renamed The Street Trust) with a large contingent of women cyclists at the ready to help with new, or new to town, bike commuters.
Once you have found a route, ride it on a day you are not working. If you are a regular Monday through Friday employee, riding your route on Saturday or Sunday will give you a better idea of whether or not you will need to change the route. This will also give you an idea of timing and how long to give yourself the first time riding in. Give yourself plenty of time, don’t stress, and know that there is no shame in taking a bus or mass transit if need be. The night before your first bike commute in, place your bags or backpack by the door along with your helmet and a water bottle so you won’t forget anything. And don’t forget to take your house keys! You don’t want to be locked out after the ride home.
If you have never tried bike commuting, I encourage you to do so. When I asked some friends why they bike commute, I was told, “Cycling is a form of exercise that for me at least, leads to a feeling of well being.” And another friend stated that “despite, or maybe because of having to be constantly alert, I find biking to be an amazing stress release.” Bicycle commuting isn’t just a way to get back and forth to work or school. It is a healthy reminder to pay attention to your well being. When we feel healthy and happy, our productivity at work or school increases exponentially.
My last piece of advice is to smile while riding and wave to drivers. Maybe you will be able to convert them one day.