So, I feel that I’ve been remiss in posting about urban planning nerdiness. Though I’m going to geek out a tiny bit right now, I do hope this post will be something everyone can understand if not relate to. I’m talking about biking! You all know how to ride a bike, right? If not, you’re not alone. I’d be happy to teach ya :-). Of course, it’s probably easier to contact your local bike shop, your local REI, or consult websites like this one.
Most of you have probably already heard about (or participated in) your city’s Bike-to-Work Day (May 9 for Bay Area folks). We just capped off Bike-to-Work Week. Even the Huffington Post got in on the commute cycling action with a helpful set of tips to get you going. But did you know that May is National Bike Month? That’s right, all month long, your local and regional planning agencies, health and sustainability wonks, and, of course, biking advocates are likely to extol the benefits of cycling. Cycling for fun, cycling for exercise, and yes, cycling for your commute.
I’ve always been a fan of commuting to suit the needs of the day, walking, transit, driving, etc. Cycling tends to be my go-to choice. Weather and road conditions willing, it’s the most versatile way for me to get around. Even when I lived in snowy Boston, I was a cyclist. It’s typically faster than driving (far less traffic and little need to search for parking). It’s more direct than the bus or train, and often faster for shorter, congested trips. It’s also cheaper than most forms of travel. So every year on Bike to Work Day and during Bike to Work Week I hop on my trusty bike, just like any other day or week.
That was when I had a 9 to 5+ job. Nowadays, I’m a self-employed entrepreneur and consultant working largely from home. People asked me, will you really bike that much this time? I wasn’t sure. But, well… I logged about 20 miles spread over 3 days, and that’s just related to working! Pretty good for someone who technically commutes to the room next door.
I made product deliveries. I picked up materials. I traveled to my workshop. I met with clients. And that doesn’t include running errands for myself or biking 3+ miles each way to my volunteer gig.
To be fair, I’m lucky. There are loads of bike lanes in Oakland and San Francisco (though I’m not ashamed to ask for more!). I have local customers and friends who are willing to meet up for deliveries. I’m even blessed with a good local supplier that I love to support. And I’m able to arrange my schedule so that I can bike to transit for those longer trips across the Bay. Then there are those days when I just roll out of bed to work from my home office or the local cafe.
Even still, it was nice to feel a part of Bike to Work Day and Bike to Work Week though I couldn’t participate in the Challenge as I had in previous years. SF puts on an active Bike to Work Day, filled with energizer stations along common routes, employer toolkits, and commuter convoys to make people feel more comfortable with biking on busy streets. The East Bay Bicycle Coalition also does it’s part to pull out all the stops. There are probably still events in your hometown. Seattle’s Cascade Club runs the Commute Challenge all month long, and fitness co Endomondo runs their National Bike Challenge through September!
There are lots of resources that can help you bike, should you choose to do so. The goal of these activities is to encourage people to just give it a try. There’s safety (and comfort) in numbers. You can find out about Bike to Work day in your community, but if you’ve missed it, don’t worry. All month long, people just like you will be considering biking for all or part of a commute trip. There are loads of resources to help you sort it out; just plug “bike to work” + >your city< into Google or Bing or visit the League of American Bicyclists. Then grab your bike and helmet and you’re on your way. You’ll be a bit healthier from the commute. And the environment will be that much healthier too.
So did you bike to work this week? This month? How did it work out for you?