It’s National Bike to Work Day
Throughout the world, the bicycle has never really fallen from grace as a “legitimate” form of transit. Because of that, the transportation infrastructures of most countries, particularly in Europe, consider the automobile and the bicycle in relatively equal regards.
In the U.S., however, this has not been the case. So, in 1956, after decades of frustration and limited access to safe cycling, the League of American Bicyclists designated May as National Bike Month, which celebrates National Bike to Work Week, National Bike to Work Day, and National Bike to School Day. This year, Bike to Work Week is May 13-17 and Bike to Work Day is May 17 (today!).
These events each share the same intent: to promote the bicycle as a commuting option.
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.”– John Howard, 1985 bicycle land speed record setter
So what are the benefits of cycling?
Some people can’t imagine traveling outside the safety and comfort of their vehicles, especially with something as comparatively difficult and slow as a bicycle. But, take it from a man who’s used a bicycle as his primary (and often only) form of transit for his entire urban life — a bike can actually be a faster means of transit than a car.
In fact, when comparing various ways of commuting within a congested city, the bicycle may actually be the most efficient. The reason? For the most part, you can avoid traffic jams. Riding on the right side of the road allows you to zip past lines of frustrated drivers all the way to the stop sign or traffic light (which you are required by law to observe).
You’re also part pedestrian on a bicycle, which works to your benefit. No, that doesn’t mean you can ride on the sidewalk (it’s illegal in almost every U.S. city). But it does mean that you can dismount and use the crosswalks to make tricky left-hand turns or cross streets with pedestrian signals that aren’t on the same timing schedule as the road signals.
“It never gets easier, you just go faster.” – Greg LeMond, 3-time Tour de France winner
Riding to work might seem challenging at first, but, like anything else, it becomes more natural the more you do it. If you want to try riding to work during this National Bike Month, do the same information-gathering you would for any other new venture.
How to prepare for your ride
If your city doesn’t have a proper bicycle map (showing street grades, bike lanes, and other cycle-friendly information), you can take a drive to work using more residential streets than your typical route, which is likely along fast-moving streets. Once you find the perfect route, you’ve got one piece of the puzzle figured out already!
On the day of your ride, make sure you leave yourself extra time so you don’t feel rushed. The average leisurely, conservative speed of a bicycle is around 10 to 12 mph, so if you know how far you live from work, then you can estimate how much time you’ll need.
Remember to bring a change of clothing. Even if you don’t live in a hilly city like San Francisco or Pittsburgh, you’re going to be expending energy, and that means you could get sweaty. You can also avoid getting grease on your right pant leg by rolling it up for your ride. Once you get to your destination, it’s quick work to change clothes in a bathroom stall, so simply bring your work clothes folded in a backpack.
“The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” – Susan B. Anthony, Civil rights leader
Just as you should know how to change a tire on your car, you should also know how to change your bike’s inner tubes. The easiest way to learn this is to simply ask your local bike shop to show you. Most shops will take the time to help you learn this valuable piece of knowledge, and many others will offer beginner maintenance classes with even more information. (This is also a good opportunity to have them tune up your bike, especially if you haven’t ridden it since you had a paper route.)
“Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.” – H.G. Wells, Author
At Esurance, we’re committed to environmental responsibility and healthy living, and there are few activities more conducive to those things than cycling. We hope that you’ll give Bike to Work Day or Bike to Work Week a try. Just remember — be patient, be safe, be smart, and you’ll be just fine.