If you’re considering bike commuting, but haven’t yet made the leap, here are some basics to help get you unbuckled and behind the handlebars.
You haven’t yet begun bike commuting, but you’ve considered it. What’s putting the brakes on your brilliant plans? A handful of good excuses that have made cycling to work a mere pipe dream. But, whatever your reason for continuing to take the car, there’s likely a simple means to make bike commuting an efficient, reliable, and sustainable way to get to work. Here are eight common (however, lame) excuses—and how to overcome them with chutzpah. Prepare to dust off your helmet.
Excuse: You live far away from work.
You don’t have to bike from your doorstep to your desk. If your commute is longer than 5-10 miles, consider taking public transit for a leg of the journey. Or, if your commute is uphill to work, then downhill on the way home, take transit for the first half of your journey, bring your bike, and coast home. Where available, you can leave your bike in a secure location at public transit stations. Check out what options are out there in your area.
Excuse: Cycling is too slow.
On average, a commuter cyclist travels 10mph. With conditioning, you’ll get faster—and likely whiz by rush hour traffic. Trips fewer than three miles are actually quicker if you’re traveling by bike. In a dense, urban area, this is true for trips up to seven miles.
Excuse: I’m a sweat-drenched, stinky beast by the time I get to work.
No showers at your workplace? No worries. On your ride to work, don’t wear cotton. Go slow. Don’t speed-race the S.U.V. that almost ran you over. If you’re so compelled, you can pedal furiously on your ride home. Bring toiletries to wash up, a change of work clothes, and some Old Spice. You can also keep these goodies at work, so you don’t have to hassle with toting them to-and-from.
Excuse: Cycling isn’t Safe
Bike commuting to work is actually less dangerous than driving your car. Sure, you’re not enclosed in a hulking mass of metal, but, if you’re smart about signaling turns, riding on the right side of the road, and obeying traffic laws like the rest of us, odds are good you’ll do just fine. Also check out this guide by Bicycle Safe on smart stuff you can do to avoid being hit by a car. Wearing a helmet, bright clothing, and bright, blinking lights will also increase your odds of survival. You may feel slightly dorky at first, especially if you’re Spandex-clad. But, in time, your killer quads and trim waistline will help you to accept your newfound hotness, even if you’re dressed like a dork.
Excuse: I’m too out-of-shape.
You’re too fat, too slow, too old, and too out-of-shape to bike commute, you say? Pshaw. Anyone can ride a bike and no one is forcing you to ride fast or become, by some miracle, the next Lance Armstrong. After just a few weeks of practice, however, you’ll likely be zipping past buses and cars, leaving rush hour traffic behind in your tailwinds. If you’re really starting out at square one, time, patience, and diligence will see you through. It will get easier, if you can hang in and feel the burn for just a short while. Like anything else, it will become a happy habit, and easier once it’s part of your routine.
If you feel the need to get in shape, what better way to bust your own chops than by bike commuting? You’re accomplishing something you need to do, anyway (getting to work; getting around) and, meanwhile, working on your good health. It’s not just about getting your girlish (or, boyish) figure back; cycling kicks up your heart rate, burns fat calories, stabilizes blood pressure, and will likely render in you a new respect for your body and its amazing feats.
Excuse: There’s no bike parking
Understandably, you don’t want to park your pimped-out cruiser just anywhere. If there isn’t a designated bike parking area or rack at your workplace, inquire about a storage area where you might be able to stash your bike. You could even keep your bike in a closet, or in your office. If that’s not possible, why not chain it to something that’s secure, like a fence post or railing; somewhere it won’t get hassled? For a comprehensive round-up of the best bike locks, check out Bicycle Source. Kryptonite locks have a reputation for being indestructible, but they’re also really heavy. I’ve switched to “street cuffs,” which are easy to tote and seriously heavy duty. The only draw-back, so far as I’ve experienced, is that it doesn’t wrap through the wheels as a chain lock would. You’ve also got to find a secure post or piece of metal that’s thin enough for the cuff to wrap around. As for flimsy padlocks and combination locks, forget ‘em. It’s worth coughing up an extra couple of bucks to protect your bike from the n’er-do-wells who want to mess with it.
Excuse: It’s cold/raining/the weather sucks.
Like you, I’m much more eager to bike commute if it’s a warm, sun-bright day with no wind. I abhor the cold and confess I’m not typically keen on riding in the rain (especially if it’s frickin’ freezing). There are ways around this, however; you can avoid or diminish unpleasant conditions by checking the weather forecast (duh); figuring out from which direction the wind is (and will be) blowing, and plan you route accordingly; install fenders on your bike (so rain doesn’t splash up onto your pants from the street); and skip a ride if the weather is abominable and you know you can’t ride comfortably. No one is expecting you to turn from a car commuter into a Herculean athlete and outdoorsman/woman overnight. For that matter, bike commuting most of the time is an improvement over the 77 percent of Americans who always take their cars. So, be proud—and give yourself a break! For more hot tips on commuting in the cold, read Biking Through Winter.
Excuse: I have to do stuff after work.
Pick up some panniers or bolt racks to the back/front of your bike for toting groceries, dry cleaning, and your Friday beers. If you’re the unfortunate victim of sprawl and must travel clear across town to get to your destination, see if you can’t take public transit at least part of the way there. Most buses have bike racks, and subway-riders (at least, in Boston and NYC, I know) will scarcely bat a beautiful eyelash if you hop aboard with your bike.
Don’t let your seatbelt hold you back another day. Break free and get on yer bike!
Photo via flickr by BikePortland.org.
Source: Community Transit.
- Cycling Increases S.F. Pollution?
- The Anti-Cycling Administration?
- Groningen, Netherlands: Cycling Capital of the West
- Safer Cycling Video: Take the Lane
- Get on Your Bike and Ride - Commuting Tips