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Why Bike to Work?

By Miriam Foster, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

For employees who have a fairly short commute and a bike, the question is why aren’t you biking to work?

Many commuters believe there are insurmountable logistical issues that might prevent them from getting started.  Fortunately, many of these concerns are common misconceptions about commuting by bike.    Over the past decade, there have been vast improvements to the cycling infrastructure across Virginia to make bicycling easier and safer.

Most people think that biking to work is only for those that have very short commutes.  However, even those with longer commutes can bike in conjunction with taking a bus or Metro.  Moreover, biking to work may make you happier.  According to a study conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, people that bike or walk to work are much more satisfied with their commute than those that use any other transportation mode.

You don’t have to bike every day.  It may be too hot, raining, or snowing or maybe you just don’t feel like it.  But even biking a few times a month can improve your mood and your physical health.

If you haven’t tried biking to work, Bike to Work Week (May 13-17) is a great time to give it a try.  Biketoworkva.org has lots of resources, tips, and information on bike events.  Here are a few tips for biking to work.

Bike to Work 101: Tips for Two-Wheel Commuting:

  • Yes, you can ride on the sidewalk – but be aware that you must yield the right of way to pedestrians and use an audible signal, like a bell, when you’re ready to pass.  When you’re biking on the roads, either use the dedicated bike paths or take the lane, which means riding in the middle of the road with traffic.  You can also use bike trails.  Visit the State Bicycle Map to learn more about trails located near you. 
  • Wear a helmet.  While there is no statewide law mandating helmet use when biking, wearing one reduces the risk of severe brain injury in half.  Worried about helmet hair?  Try using dry shampoo to get a just-washed look when arriving to work.
  • Learn hand signaling before biking on the road.  It’s important to let drivers know when you’re stopping or turning.  Go to Sharing the Road in Virginia for a cyclist hand signals guide. 
  • Bike to a bus stop.  If your commute is too far or too complicated, try biking to a bus stop, and taking the bus.  Many buses have bike racks so you can secure you bike and ride the bus. Check with the transit provider near you to find out if they have bike racks available and to learn their specific bike rules.   
  • Keep cool by riding an electric bicycle or ebike.  These bikes have an electric motor that provides a rider assist when pedaling.  Most ebikes can go up to 15 mph and require far less effort to use.
  • Find a bike buddy.  Riding with a friend or coworker can make the trip more enjoyable.  Ask people in your office or use one of the resources on biketoworkva.org to find a bike buddy.
  • Don’t have a bike.  Try a bike share service like Capital Bikeshare.
  • Get equipped to enjoy yourself during your commute.  Choose a bike you’ll enjoy riding.  Make sure it’s the right size and style, and that the seat is comfortable for you.  You might want to install a bike basket to hold your bag, lunch, and other belongings, too.  The staff at your local bike shop can help.
  • During Virginia’s Bike to Work Week, May 13-17, try biking to work and change your normal commuting routine.  It’s healthy, economical and it’s more fun than sitting in traffic.  Learn more about biking to work at biketoworkva.org.  Your commute might start just becoming your favorite part of the day. 

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