Every day tens of thousands of Californians experience the benefits of commuting by bicycle: regular healthy exercise, and savings on fuel and parking, while helping reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. Plus they get to ride a bike to work!
Here are some basics for getting started:
Set a goal you can live with. Consider how riding your bike will fit in with your job duties and work schedule, the distance between home and work, and your current level of fitness. It’s perfectly OK if you decide to ride your bike for only part of the week or to use public transit for part of your commute-you’re still making an important difference!
Plan your route. The route you bike to work probably won’t be the same route you drive-and you don’t want to figure this out on your first day of riding to work. Consider using some combination of parallel side streets with less traffic, streets with bike lanes, and dedicated bike paths-check for maps online or contact your local bike advocacy organization for route advice. Drive the route to identify any tricky intersections or other potential hazards, then ride it on a weekend to see how long it’ll take you (if you’re like most bicyclists, you’ll travel about 8-10 MPH). If you’ll be using public transit for part of your commute, familiarize yourself with the bus or train schedule and the rules for traveling with a bike. The Bikes on Transit Database is a good place to start.
Talk to your employer. Find out where you can park your bike at work and make sure the location is safe and secure-bringing your bike indoors is best. If you must lock it elsewhere, get a good U-lock (like Kryptonite brand). Also ask about whether you can receive the employee bike commuter benefit authorized by federal law. If your employer doesn’t offer it, request it. See below for more information about the benefit.
Check your bike. Make any needed repairs, inflate the tires to the proper pressure, clean and oil the chain, check the brakes, tighten wheel attachments (quick-release mechanisms), and adjust the height of the seat and handlebars. If you need help with any of these adjustments or you haven’t ridden your bike in a while, get it tuned up at your favorite bike shop.
Gear up! Choose comfortable riding clothes (bright or reflective is best), rain-gear, and a rubber band, clothespin or ankle strap to keep your pants cuffs away the chain. Consider carrying a set of work clothes as well as a toiletries kit and towel (or leaving them at work), so you can clean up and change once you arrive. Be sure you have the required front and rear lights and reflectors. A helmet and riding gloves can help prevent or reduce injuries in case of a fall.
Know and follow the rules of the road. State law gives bicyclists the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. When riding, do so only where you can ride legally, obey all traffic signs and signals, and ride safely and predictably at all times. Scan ahead of you for such hazards as potholes, sewer grates and opening car doors, especially along bike lanes.
- Join the National Bike Challenge and log your miles and compete for prizes.
- Bike to Work Guide from Bike Pittsburgh (PA)
- Bikes on Transit Database: Extensive database about bringing bikes on buses, trains, ferries and airplanes throughout North America.
- Bicycling Commuting Tips from former CBC Executive Director Paul Dorn.
- The Basics of Commuting by Bicycle from Trek Bicycle’s 1 World 2 Wheels program.
- Commute by Bike: Tips, news, reviews and safety for bike commuters.
- Commute Orlando: One of the best online resources for information about how to commute by bicycle safely and confidently. Although designed for Florida cyclists, nearly all the information also applies in California.