Stay Safe on Bike-to-Work Day

Photo: Walls
10 ways to make your ride safe, fast and fun.

Be rid of commuter woes and start your day “en plein air.” Whiz past the line of cars stuck in traffic and get to work feeling energized after biking your way to your desk. The benefits are known and numerous—it’s good for you to get some exercise early on in the day; beginning your morning with motion helps you avoid being sleepy and languishing at your desk, helps you be hungry when you should be, plus it makes your commute more interesting. Who doesn’t love an extra opportunity to do some window-shopping and people watching? The cost savings and contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions are just icing on the cake. And if you need power assistance, there have been lots of developments in electric bicycles: check out these e-bikes revolutionizing our streets.

So beat the jam and start riding with these tips adapted from the International Bicycle Fund, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the bicycle and promoting sustainable transport and international understanding.

  1. Get the right bike. Select a bike you are comfortable riding and make sure it’s in good working order. Search for a good bike shop with skilled and friendly mechanics that know their stuff and are ready, willing and able to explain the maintenance your bike needs to keep it performing well.
  2. Protect your head. Don’t ever risk riding without a helmet. Even with good training on how to ride defensively, accidents occasionally happen and studies show that helmets can reduce the severity of the injury. Try one of these from Louis Garneau.
  3. Plan ahead. Create a balance of safety and convenience in your route. You may also want some optional routes that suit your mood–go through the park on the sunny day; when rain clouds loom, take the main street express. Local bike clubs are a good resource for local bicycle maps of your city that can help you find little used streets and bike lanes.
  4. Know your stuff. Test your route on a day off when you are not under pressure; not only to learn your journey but also to test your equipment and learn about how long the ride takes.
  5. Be seen and heard. Select light and brightly coloured cycling clothes; you can't make yourself too visible. Also choose the loudest bell so there’s no mistake to drivers you are coming.
  6. Plan your work attire. Store a wardrobe at the office or carry clothes rolled in a towel to reduce wrinkling. Some people deliver a week's worth of clothing to their office once a week.
  7. Longer rides favour panniers. Investing in a bike pannier system (a simple metal bike rack attached over your back wheel and a sleek looking carrier) can make your bike do the heavy lifting for you—you never know when you’ll need help lugging home those groceries or when you’ll get the chance to borrow the heavy laptop from work.
  8. Learn how to lock. Many folks haven’t had a good lesson in locking up their prized possession. It may come as a surprise that there’s a right and a wrong way to lock up, so learn how your lock’s effectiveness can be maximized. Use a cable to link together your wheels and leave as little room as possible for a crowbar to get between your bike and the post.
  9. Light it up. You’ll need lights for winter or night riding; there are a variety on the market, choose the one that matches your situation and don't forget to stick an array of reflectors to your panniers and pedals.
  10. Gore-Tex. Should foul weather fall on you make sure you’re prepared. Cycling-specific gear is best but your first time getting caught in a storm will tell you quickly that you need a waterproof outfit with good ventilation to stay relatively dry on your course.

"For the bike commuter, the commute is the best part of the day. For the car commuter, the commute is often the worst part of the day." —International Bicycling Fund

For more advice on bike shops, bicycle clubs and sustainable transportation options near you, look in the transportation section of the Green Living Guides!