A few days ago, while getting off my bike after my commute to work, a fellow coworker commented on how cold the ride in must ha
ve been. “It was a bit chilly but so is scraping the ice off my car windows,” I said in return. “At least then you’re out of the cold” came back the reply as the front door to the building shut behind him. I looked at the bike rack and sure enough, it was empty. “Why did I ride my bike today” I asked almost aloud. Here’s why - I ride my bike into work because it is so much less stressful than driving. Granted, I don’t have far to commute but who does if they live and work in Fort Collins?
There are a lot of reasons why people open the garage door in the morning and throw their leg over their bike for the morning commute…….There are far less reasons why people don’t. Yet that coin flip always seems to land in the cars favor. Hopefully, I can even the odds a bit here by dispelling a few myths or perceptions about commuting by bike.
1. Safety or the perception of same. Without a doubt, safety has got to be the number one reason keeping people from commuting by bike. Did you know the number of fatalities or accidents per million is much higher in vehicles than on bicycles? Of bicycle fatalities, the highest percentage is held by children and young adults and generally those who don’t follow the rules of the road; not by those commuting. Here’s my advice: before commuting to work for the first time, experiment with different routes on the weekend or evenings. The fastest route by car may not be the fastest by bicycle. If the route you take makes you nervous, try a different one. Avoid riding on sidewalks as they are more prone to accidents than riding on the roadway (strange but true!).
2. “I don’t have a bike.“ I won’t use the word ‘excuse’ because if you don’t have a bike it is pretty hard to commute by bicycle. However, I bought the bike I commute on for $25.00 at a garage sale and the following weekend, took it on a not so casual 40 mile group ride and it did just fine. Any budget can afford a bicycle, heck there is even a bike co-op in downtown Fort Collins where the time you donate working at the co-op can get put towards the purchase of a bicycle!
3. “What about hygiene?” What about it? Nobody ever says commuting has to be a race. There are usually plenty of places to park your bike up close to the building, so relax and enjoy the ride. Most local commutes are less than 5 miles and riding at a comfortable pace shouldn’t keep people from visiting your cube. Don’t over dress is the key, let the cool air do it’s job. You can also use a rack instead of a backpack for personal items to keep from overheating.
4. “I have to dress up while at work.” If my wife can pack a complete wardrobe in a lunchbox for a two day vacation and still have room to outfit a salon, I think it can be done for work. Besides, when people know you ride your bike to work they’ll cut you a little slack on the style of the day. If not, bring the items you need the day before and have them ready for your bicycle commute and change in the rest room.
Last but not least….
5. Good ole’ Father Time. I think you’d be very surprised at how little time you actually save by driving to work after you’ve ridden for a while and have a routine down. Most people watch an hour or two of TV each day. Recording your favorite shows on tivo and cutting out the commercials, could easily save you the time needed to ride to work. Start early so you don’t have to beat the clock. I know it’s easier said than done but use the time to think about the day’s events. For those who have a longer commute, try just riding one way at first. Drive in to work with your bike and ride home in the evening and then back to work in the morning to get your car.
Sure there are other reasons for not commuting by bike but with a bit of research and preparation, most of them can get turned into reasons not to drive. Remember Father Time and his watch never stop and every day you drive is a day you could be doing something good for yourself as well.
Finally, this week’s tip is more of a suggestion rather than a tip. Next time you drive to work, keep track of the time it takes to get from door to door at a relaxed pace without speeding. Now do the same while riding your bike on the weekend or when you have plenty of time. Take that difference in time and figure ways to change your routine to allow you to ride to work and gain that time back somewhere else or just enjoy it.
Have fun out there and don’t forget your helmet!