by Mindy Forsyth and Dawn Stevenson
May is National Bike Month, and May 20 is Bike to Work Day, an event designed to rally enthusiasm for and provide resources on biking. There are even pit stops stationed around the DC-metro area with snacks and giveaways!
At Evans, our office encourages employees to bike to work with perks such as access to a gym and shower on-site and safe, covered bike-storage areas. In honor of National Bike Month, here are some tips on getting started as a first-time bike commuter, whether you want to ride to work, run errands around town or both:
Plan Your Commute
- You’ll need a bike that fits you comfortably. Be sure to try it out before purchasing; there are limited adjustments you can make, so no bike fits everyone. Road or hybrid bikes are more comfortable on pavement, though they are generally more expensive. Capital Bike Share bicycles are perfect for every size with their adjustable saddle heights!
- Buy a helmet—it’s essential for safety. Be sure it fits your head snugly and adjust the chin strap.
- Buy a U-lock. You’ll want to invest in a good, sturdy lock because, unfortunately, theft happens in the DC area. This is particularly important if you’ll be leaving your bike out on the street rather than in a secure garage.
- Map out your route carefully. Google Maps now has a routing option for bike-friendly routes, though it’s not foolproof. Ideally, do a test ride on the route you choose when traffic is light if you don’t know all the roads, to be sure there are bike lanes or at least shoulders.
- Plan out how you’ll carry what you need for the work day. You can buy a rack and paniers (bags that attach to the sides of the rack) or wear a backpack. Try to keep weight balanced and don’t overload your packs as this could throw off your balance. If you only need work clothes and lunch, this small backpack is very comfortable.
- Plan where you’ll stow your bike—ideally in a garage with some security or at least a covered area in case of rain. If there is no shower at your office or you’re only going a short distance, there are many shower wipes like this that will freshen you up quickly.
- Stick to bike trails or roads with bike lanes where possible. Even where there are signs to “share the road”, be aware that not all drivers expect to see cyclists or are respectful of keeping a safe distance.
- Know and follow the rules of the road: stop at stoplights and stop signs, ride with traffic, don’t ride on sidewalks except the rare cases where it’s allowed. NOTE: DC, MD and VA each have slightly different laws.
- Be careful in the winter. Most bike trails aren’t maintained (though this is changing), so they can be icy even weeks after a snowstorm. Plows often don’t clear shoulders of roads where cyclists are safest, so avoid busy or poorly cleared roads and be extra attentive when sharing the road.
- Buy a good light if you will ever be riding in darkness or dusk, even if you’re on lighted trails or roads. It should cost $50 or more to be bright enough for good visibility.
- Bring a water bottle on your bike commutes and rides to ensure that you’re properly hydrated.
- Ride on the right side of the road and trails. When passing a pedestrian or another cyclist, give them an audible signal (such as “on your left”) to alert them you are passing on their left side.
Have fun and be safe!