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17 May 2019

The Do’s and Don’ts of celebrating BTWD

It’s that time of year again.

The day celebrated by people across America who rejoice in the recognition of bicycling to work!

Ok; rejoice might be too exuberant of a word. But today is officially Bike to Work Day (BTWD) and that makes me happy.

According to a 2010 survey 40% of trips within the US are 2 miles or less, so using a bike is a healthy (and enjoyable) alternative to car travel.

Are you tempted to celebrate BTWD?

To entice people to set out by bicycle many major cities offer freebies such as t-shirts or the chance to win a new bicycle should you decide to commute by bike. (I highly recommend spending one day not crammed in a crowded subway or slowly moving through traffic in your car totally isolated from the outside world.)

Today’s article also isn’t to try to convince you to quit your full-time job and bicycle across America, although I would totally cheer you on if you did that adventure. And if you want inspiration you can read about the time I did that here.

Now I know there are some concerns with biking, especially for safety but, hopefully, this article can be your inspiration to try.

When I lived in Brooklyn, NY I spent my first two years commuting by the subway. At some point I repurposed an old mountain bicycle my parents had bought when I was younger, realizing I could save some money and get exercise at the same time. And so began my daily adventures of commuting from Brooklyn into Manhattan, with the occasional stop at parks to enjoy the ‘outdoors’.

park view with a bicycle
A beautiful day to chill for 15 minutes after a full day of work.

Nowadays, I work from home. But I do teach 3 times a week in a local school in La Rioja, Spain. Where I used to have about an hour commute in NYC and a quick stop at my gym for a shower and change, I now have an 8-minute commute two days a week and a 1 hour commute the other one day. In general, it is shorter than it was in NY.

However between my regular rides for enjoyment and my rides for commuting I have compiled a list of do’s and don’ts, should you decide to embark on this adventure.

Do:

  • Wear a helmet. While it might not be mandatory where you live (check your state laws) studies show 85-88% of critical brain and head injuries can be prevented through the use of a helmet.
  • Invest in lights, both front, and rear. While it is tempting to say you will only need them in the winter I can’t count how many times I would meet up with friends or colleagues after work to enjoy a drink or dinner and end up peddling home past dark.
  • Invest in a method to carry your gear. Whether it’s panniers (bags that strap to the frame) or a knapsack it’s important to be able to bring everything you need for work with you.
  • Plan to be sweaty if your commute will take more than 30 minutes. Whether that means you leave extra time and try to go at a more sedate pace, or pack a spare pair of clothes and then pretend you’re in a race with the taxis, it’s worth a little preparation so you don’t arrive at work smelly and out of breath.
  • Invest in fenders for your bicycle. Again you might not think you will need them, but puddles from the previous night or surprise thunderstorms are no fun if you end up showing up to work with extra freckles, ie mud/road splatter, on your face. *yuck face*
  • If your bike will sit outside a good seat cover means if it rains while you’re at your desk you can come out, take it off and still have a dry saddle
  • It is also important, no matter where you live, to invest in a good bike lock or two (or if you’re in NYC perhaps three!)
bicycle securely locked to a sign
Security is no joke in NYC. I usually have three locks, one for the saddle, one for the rear wheel and frame and one that locks both wheels.
  • If you need to leave your bike locked up outside, as I have and still do, you might want a plastic baggie to cover your seat. Should it rain while you’re inside you can take it off when you begin your return ride home at night and won’t suffer from a wet butt.
  • Be open to making friends, you never know, you might end up on a large group night with new friends (and potentially glow sticks)
nighttime group bicycle ride
  • And most importantly: jump in with both feet and try. You might hate it, or you might love it. But either way, you won’t know until you’ve tried.

Don’t:

  • Worry about biking every day. If you decide to jump in and do it regularly, some days you just don’t feel it. These are the perfect days to use your traditional method of transportation to get to work.
2 bikes on a train
Some trains have specific bike sections if you decide to only bike to work but not home.

If you do decide to take your bicycle to work with you this year, be sure to tweet us a photo!

Elyssa Respaut

Elyssa works as an occasional writer when not otherwise managing projects.