Did You Know?
A 150-pound person biking at a casual 12 to 14 mph pace burns over 270 calories in 30 minutes.
Bike Yourself to Work and Wellness
May is National Bike to Work Month, and May 19 is Bike to Work Day. The goal of these designations is to raise awareness and provide education about bike commuting. Many businesses host free breakfasts and other events for bike commuters. Check out The League of American Bicyclists website to learn about nearby events.
Biking to work has many benefits: it saves money on gas, car maintenance and parking fees; it’s good for the environment; it helps you stay fit; it can save time by avoiding traffic jams and reducing the need to go to the gym; and it can decrease stress by helping you unwind after work. Bike commuting isn’t just for seasoned athletes—anyone can do it. And it appears people are catching on; bike commuting has grown by 62 percent from 2000 to 2013.
10 Steps for Getting Started
- Start with a realistic distance. If your office is 15 miles away, you can drive the first 10 miles, perhaps to a carpooling parking lot, then bike the rest of the way.
- Commit to biking to work one or two times a week. Just because you’ve decided to bike to work doesn’t mean you have to do it every day. And it’s OK to be a fair-weather fan. If you only bike to work when the weather is nice, that’s better than nothing.
- Wear clothes you already have. There’s no need to dress like you’re in the Tour de France. However, if your commute is longer than 20 or 30 minutes, you may want to consider padded bike shorts or a padded seat.
- Do a practice run before you actually commute to work, preferably on a weekend or day off. Ride at a relaxed pace to get an idea of how much time to allow yourself.
- Find a route without a lot of traffic or that has designated bike lanes. Here are some great resources for selecting the best route:
- Make sure your bike is a good fit for a comfortable and efficient ride. If your seat is too low, it can cause knee pain and make you work harder than necessary while pedaling.
- Be prepared. Check the weather and get everything packed up the night before. Check your bike every weekend; examine the ABCs: air pressure (in the tires), brakes and chain.
- Carry a cellphone in case of emergency.
- Bring a bike lock if you have to store your bike outside. A U-lock is a good option.
- If you’re inactive, check with your doctor before bike commuting.
Biking Safety Tips
- Follow the same traffic laws as drivers. Stop at four-way stops and red lights.
- Be predictable and use signals to let drivers know what you’re doing.
- Bike on the correct side of the road, with the flow of traffic.
- Keep an eye out for people opening doors from parked cars.
- If weather conditions are unsafe, don’t ride.
- Don’t assume drivers see you, and be mindful that glare can blind motorists.
- Don’t ride with headphones.
Don’t Sweat the Commute
Perhaps the most common barrier to bike commuting is that people don’t want to show up to work sweaty. Don’t let this stop you. With a little preparation you can feel energized from your ride and fresh for the day.
First, avoid biking in your work clothes. Rather, pack them in panniers (baskets or bags that can be attached to a bike for storage), or drive to the office on Monday and bring your work clothes for the rest of the week. While commuting, wear comfortable, wicking layers. Take it easy, to reduce sweating, and allow enough time to cool down once you arrive at the office. If possible, shift your workday so that you’re commuting earlier when it’s cooler. Another option is to take public transportation to work and bike home.
Freshen up once you get to work, and keep your supplies at the office so you’re not hauling them back and forth. Kit essentials include a sports towel, moist wipes, deodorant and a comb. You can leave work shoes at the office and, if you wear makeup, skip it in the morning and apply it after arriving at work.
Ideas for Bike to Work Participation at Your Company
- Host a Bike to Work event at your workplace, or highlight events taking place around town. The League provides resources to help you plan an event, including a step-by-step guide to create a successful Bike Month event. If you plan an event, let The League know and they’ll add it to their national listing (this is a great marketing opportunity). Holding an event can impact employees; according to The League, many participants who take their first bike ride to work on Bike to Work day become regular bike commuters.
- Offer a Lunch ‘n’ Learn about safe cycling.
- Provide route mapping assistance by letting employees know which roads are bike-friendly (i.e., have bike lanes and/or light traffic).
- Incentivize employees to participate in Bike to Work Day, or create a month-long challenge during which employees who pedal to work earn prizes.
- Subscribe to the newsletter on the Bike to Work website at bikeleague.org. You can find free promotional materials (e.g., web banners, posters and social media resources) on the site as well.
Bike commuting is a health-promoting, eco-friendly mode of transportation. Encourage employees to give it a shot. With so many resources available for planning your own event or promoting a local one, it’s a simple activity you can incorporate into your wellness program that can have a profound effect on your workforce.