It’s almost Bike to Work Day! On May 8*, every casual cyclist’s favorite holiday turns 20. Thinking about getting your wheels outta the garage? Here’s a quick guide to a safe ride.
Planet Plan it
A little preparation, snooze-worthy as it may be, makes for a much smoother trip. Make sure there’s plenty of air in your tires — taking your bike in for a quick tune-up is never a bad idea. Do you have a good helmet, lights, U-lock, and horn (not one of those dainty jingly things)? A rear-view mirror can be a big help, too.
If you won’t be showering when you get to work, pack some baby wipes or a simple washcloth to freshen up. Depending on your office’s dress code and the weather, you may want to bring a change of clothes in a backpack. (Super-prepared types should also pack a spare innertube and tools for a flat.)
Then map your route using online tools like Google’s bike maps or Map My Ride, old-fashioned paper bike maps (!), or advice from the peeps at your local cycle shop. A test ride to work on a lazy Sunday is ideal, but even a simple practice spin around the block can reacquaint you with your cycle’s gears and brakes before you brave rush-hour traffic.
Give yourself a buffer
Allow yourself extra time to get to work, especially if you haven’t made a dry run before. Signal for turns as if drivers were blind. Actually, that’s a good rule of thumb: Assume people in cars can’t see you. As one Grist commenter says, “My philosophy was to ride with the attitude that every driver wanted to kill me, and it was my job to keep that from happening.” There is no shame in getting off and walking your bike for a couple blocks if conditions get hairy or there’s a huge hill. Give yourself a cushion of extra care, safety, and time whenever possible.
On the road
Keep your wits about you! Obey traffic signs and signals — intersections are especially dangerous. Be wary of parked cars so you don’t get doored, and glance behind you before changing lanes. And watch the road ahead for obstacles in the bike lane like construction equipment.
Here are some more urban cycling tips we made last year:
Lock that shit down
Once you get there, secure your bike! (In NYC, some 60,000 bikes are stolen annually, according to Sarah Goodyear.) Make sure your U-lock goes through your bike frame AND wheels, or you may come back to a unicycle. Chain or otherwise lock your seat down, too. And lock your bike to something immovable, not scaffolding, which could get removed anytime.
Enjoy the bennies
Bask in the benefits of your bike commute: a boon to your health, money saved on gas and parking, and of course the environmental pluses, like cleaner air and fewer carbon emissions. Did we mention bragging rights and plain ole satisfaction? YOU GO!
Update: San Francisco celebrates Bike to Work Day on May 8. Most of the country will celebrate on the 16th, but we won’t mind if you break out your wheels twice.