Think Bike to Work Day (which is May 20 this year) is just for hardcore cyclists logging 20 miles each way to corporate offices? Think again. One look around and you’ll see that’s just a small number of the folks (including maybe even you, without realizing it) who are already biking to work each and every day.
Today’s mobile-friendly world means you can find bike-to-workers everywhere. As I sit here writing this blog post at a local coffee shop, in fact, I see laptop after laptop open all around me. Expand the definition of work to include school (if you’re a student), volunteering, and the constant running around that comes with working as a full-time parent, and suddenly many people are biking to work in one way or another. Need more evidence? Take a look at the bike racks at places like Krog Street Market, Ponce City Market (pictured), and perhaps even your own favorite local coffee shop.
Considering that 40% of all trips made in the USA are less than two miles in distance (according to the League of American Bicyclists), biking to work, with my expanded definition of work, is the perfect match for those of us who don’t consider ourselves cyclists and perhaps don’t want to invest a lot of time, money, or thought into simply getting out there on the bike and riding where we need to go to do our jobs in life.
See below for simple tips to help you bike to work the easy way this May 20, and every other day.
Do you need a special bike and gear? No. You just need something that meets your needs. For instance, if your route has hills (and most in Atlanta do), gears help. If you need to carry stuff, a bike rack with panniers -- or even just a bungee-corded milk crate -- comes in handy. Many people just toss on a backpack. I use a small messenger -style one as my all-purpose purse now. I know from experience that it keeps critical work tools, like my camera and cell phone, dry in the rain.
Do you need special clothes? No. In fact, those of us who only ride a few miles at a time are the perfect candidates for wearing our regular clothes while riding (just watch that pant legs or skirts don’t get stuck in the chain). Layers help. Stuff a thin poncho in a pocket. You may also want to invest in a high-quality classic or two from a local store named The Spindle, easily accessible just a block off the Freedom Parkway PATH by Boulevard. Co-owner Sharif Hassan (pictured) sells bike-friendly professional clothes for both men and women featuring breathable fabrics with air vents, extra fabric and seam reinforcement exactly where you need them. I bought possibly the coolest skirt ever there a few years ago (see here, plus there’s a link to a photo of Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s executive director, Rebecca Serna, wearing the same skirt). Sharif may have one or two left. Usually, I simply wear bike shorts under skirts and dresses. If you don’t want to do that but you like wearing skirts, all you need is a penny and a rubber band (or ponytail holder). Here’s why.
Do you need to worry about every single thing that could go wrong? No (but if you’re the kind of person who does, see the article links in this Bike Commuter Guide from the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition -- I particularly liked The Slacker’s Guide to Bike Commuting). If your bike breaks down, you can walk, or pop onto mass transit (bikes are permitted on all MARTA buses and trains, and the Atlanta Streetcar). If it rains, toss on a simple rain poncho stuffed in one of your pockets or just enjoy cooling off in the rain, walk with an umbrella, or revert to mass transit again. If you have a car, you can also choose to drive when you feel that’s your best option. Biking to work doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing decision.
So what, exactly do you need? Get a helmet, a good set of lights for the front and back of your bike (which I use even during the day), a way to carry your stuff, and a dependable lock (and by the way, I try to “vote with my pedals” and support only businesses that have bike racks, and I encourage those that don’t to install them). I always carry a loaded MARTA card, a little money, and a full bottle of water. It doesn’t hurt to carry some extra bungee cords and a reusable shopping bag. You may decide to pick up some groceries or run other errands on the way (bike riders shop locally, and more often, than those who drive) and I’ve been known to bungee-cord a pizza across my back rack.
Hope to see you out there on Bike to Work Day this year. Just don’t take my favorite seat at the coffee shop, okay?