Ride your bike to work! No excuses!
CDOT adding additional striping in the bike lanes on 18th Street, near the river bridge. Check it out on your way to work!
Bike to Work Week is coming up soon: June 9 to 15! Get your office rolling with Active Transportation Alliance's Bike Commuter Challenge!
Your train is packed. Your bus is stuck in traffic. You arrive at the office, already worn out from your commute, and chug a tall cup of coffee to get going again. A great start to another work day.
Or, you could ride your bike to work and arrive awake and refreshed, ready to tackle another day. What's that? You've never tried riding your bike to work? Oh, I see. You have a whole list of excuses. Well, let's get those out of the way.
My bike is old and inadequate.
You don't need a fancy, shiny bike. I commute every day on the same bike I've had since I was 15. Just drag that old one out of the basement, blow the dust off, and put some air in the tires. And make sure the brakes work.
If your bike needs any maintenance to return it to working order, just take it to your neighborhood bike shop, and it'll probably cost less than a tank of gas (or a monthly CTA pass) to get it in tip-top shape.
I'm not an experienced cyclist.
You don't have to be Lance Armstrong to make it to work in the morning. You don't even have to go fast! I often do my five mile commute at a leisurely 10 to 15 m.p.h., and it takes just under 30 minutes, which is the same time it takes me to walk to the CTA station and ride the train.
I can't come to work all sweaty!
If you're sweating a lot, ride slower. If you still sweat too much, roll your work clothes up and toss them in a backpack, and ride to work in gym clothes. When you get to work, just towel dry, put some deodorant on, and get dressed.
If you're lucky enough to have a shower at the office (or a nearby gym), take advantage of that and ride harder. You can replace that hour or more you spend inside at the gym every day with a vigorous ride to and from work.
I don't have anywhere to park my bike.
Many office buildings offer indoor, secure bike parking. Ask around and you may be pleasantly surprised. Failing that, your office might just let you bring your bike inside. It makes a great desk/cubicle accessory! Don't be afraid to lock your bike to a rack outside, either. Just remove or secure any gadgets (including your front wheel, lights, etc.) that have quick releases.
Assuming you ride safely, I don't believe that riding your bike around Chicago is significantly more dangerous than being a pedestrian or transit rider. You've probably seen some bikers do pretty crazy things, like blowing through red lights and weaving through stopped cars. You don't have to do any of that! You don't have to be a daredevil to be cool; you're automatically a baller because you're riding your bike to work.
A new bike lane on Roscoe Street.
Here are my tips for being safe on a bike:
- Wear a helmet. Seriously. Non-negotiable. I encourage you to mock people who don't wear helmets, because they're not cool.
- Be visible. Get bright, blinky lights (front and back) and use them day or night. (You'd be surprised how visible most modern bike lights are, even in the day, especially when it's cloudy or you're in the urban canyon of the Loop.) Or, get a bright, reflective vest for daytime use. When riding at night, though, you absolutely must have lights.
- Don't be afraid to take the lane. When riding on a street with no bike lane, it can be safer to take a whole lane for yourself than squeezing to one side, which makes you less visible, encourages drivers to squeeze around you, and puts you in danger of being doored by a parked car. Some drivers will get indignant and honk at you, but rest assured, you're a vehicle, too, and it's your legal right. Let them honk. Give them a friendly wave! Try to avoid the one-fingered salute. A friendly ring from your bell is more effective than shouting obscenities (although sometimes I do that, too).
- Signal turns by sticking your left or right arm out. If you're going to stop suddenly for a non-obvious reason (i.e., it's not an intersection or stop sign), try and stick an arm out to signal that too.
- Know your route. The first time you ride your bike on a new route can be sort of nerve-wracking, but you'll quickily become familiar with the streets, signals, and any potential trouble spots. Use Google Bike Maps and the City of Chicago's bike map to help plan your route. As an aside, you'll find some major thoroughfares simply aren't good for cycling, such as Michigan Avenue, Wacker Drive, and Western Avenue. Luckily, there are almost always adjacent streets that are calmer and great for cycling.
What if the weather turns bad?
Should the weather take a turn for the worse during your ride, or later in the day before you can ride home, remember that you can toss your bike on the front of any CTA bus at any time. As long as it's not rush hour, you can also take your bike on CTA trains. (Metra, too! But not the South Shore, yet.) This is also handy if you happen to go to happy hour after work and become incapacitated.
I live way too far from work, or I don't live in the city.
Combine your bike ride with a train or bus ride. A bike can be a great replacement for a car to connect you to transit to go that first or last mile.
I don't want to be the only weirdo in my office who bikes to work!
Now that you're happily riding your bike to work on a regular basis, get some co-workers to join you! A great way to get people motivated is to participate in Active Transportation Alliance's Bike Commuter Challenge during Bike to Work Week, June 9 to 15, 2012. Sign up now as a team leader for your workplace (you'll get a toolkit with resources and schwag), and start sending those all-staff emails around now!
I still have more excuses or unanswered questions.
Active Trans has an extensive list of tips and tricks for biking to work, as well as more information about bringing your bike on transit. Don't be lame! You've gotta try it at least once (or twice) before you can discount riding your bike to work as a serious option.
I did it once and now I can't stop. I think I'm addicted. I have biking fever.
The only cure is more cowbell. Or, riding to work every day. You can even do it when it's raining, or cold, as long as the streets aren't too slick. Just bundle up! I rode to work nearly every day this past winter.