Commuting by bicycle to work is very inexpensive, provides great exercise, relieves stress and is environmental friendly. There is now specific equipment available to make your trip comfortable and enjoyable (even when the weather is not cooperating).
The percentage of Canadians who rode their bike to work in 2011 and 2006 shows no difference, that number remains unchanged at 1.3 per cent. That works out to 201,785 cyclists out of more than 15 million commuters. Another 880,800 commuters or 5.7 per cent reported walking to work each day.
Although not called bike commuting at the time my first time using my bike to get to work was when I was a teenager and had a summer job in a nearby town. Took me about one hour to get to the job and I still remember climbing the big hill with my simple one speed bike just before reaching my destination.
Today this form of transportation is more popular than ever as trains and buses with racks can assist you along part of the journey and new cycling lanes are constructed. Are you up for the ride, then read on.
Planning the Route
Your first consideration when cycling to work is to plan your route. Depending on the distance you may also require to use commuter trains or buses for part of the route. Today many city buses are equipped with racks making this an easy task.
While Google maps and Map Quest can help generally they do not always show all the bicycle lanes. Google maps does provide routes for cyclists but using a few test routes I found that from a traffic standpoint I would never use the roads that they recommended.
To get started use a local map indicating bike lanes and paths and join those up with quiet connecting routes. Try to keep left turns to a minimum anywhere there is a lot of traffic. In fact you want to avoid all high traffic areas unless there is a bike lane. Keep in mind any ascents along the way, particularly on the way into work, as you don’t want to be covered in sweat when you arrive.
Find out where others are riding as if there are numerous cyclists on the same road drivers tend to be more aware. The bike lane on the street by where I live is full of riders in the morning and at night with many detouring a few blocks to take advantage of this stream of cyclists as there is safety in numbers. Sometimes a street may be under construction and you may need to reroute for a short time.
For example when I head into downtown Toronto because of the hills, turns and traffic it is better take one route in the morning and a different route on the return in the afternoon, although both have plenty of cyclists.
Bike Commuting Clothing
Your choice of cycling clothing will depend on the policies of your workplace. Most people will carry a change of clothes in a backpack or pannier as you can get dirty or sweat while on the ride to the office.
Rain jacket – I personally use a Gore Tex jacket which keeps me nice and dry in easy weather. Although more expensive than a basic cycling jacket I have had it for years and it is still in great shape for overall it is a good investment.
Helmet – in some regions it is a legal requirement that you wear one, but for safety reasons it is essential anyway. A friend of mine also has a helmet mirror attached to see what is coming up behind. Many also attach a flashing rear light to the back too.
Shirts and jerseys – there are several styles there look like everyday wear displayed below. Or you may wish to wear a cycling jersey and change when you get to work.
Pants – wear capri, shorts or a skirt for women and change when you arrive at your destination. However many people riding short distance use regular pants and and reflective band to keep them from getting caught.
Gloves – the bumps and rigors of riding can cause sore palms so do wear half finger gloves.
If going for a short distance there is also some very attractive urban cycling clothing available today.
Your Bicycle for Commuting
If you have a secure place to store your bicycle at work you can use a better model but many use a beater bike (cheaper bike) particularly if locking to a post on the street. Also many are now using bicycle sharing programs.
Bike to Work Safely
While bike commuting is very safe you may be travelling along roads so there are a few things to watch out for along the way
Sewer grates – in many cities the bars are far enough apart to cause an issue, take care. You should always be carefully when riding across anything metal when wet as it can be slippy.
Construction and rough roads – not only can you have bumpy ride you can hit something and causes you to fall.
Other cyclists – not all the other cyclists may be riding safely, particularly if they are passing you.
Cars with open doors – people do not always watch out when opening car doors.
Cars and trucks blocking bike lanes – as can be seen in the photo where a mail truck is partially blocking the cycle lane. City buses can frequently get in the way.
Cars or other cyclists not signalling turns – ride defensively.
Pedestrians – walking into the bike lanes, particularly with headsets on. If on a path I usually give a courtesy ring of my bell to alert them of my presence.
Railway or streetcar tracks – I hit a set of streetcar tracks the wrong way which sent me flying and landing on my shoulder with my head hitting the pavement. As I was wearing a helmet my head was fine but my arm was cut and bleeding. Lesson is to be carefully crossing tracks.
With the right bike commuting clothing, bicycle and other gear this can be an enjoyable experience while providing exercise at an very low cost.