cycling commute A\J AlternativesJournal.ca

Many studies have linked cycling to improved physical and mental health – it’s no wonder that cyclists are the happiest commuters. Biking to work can help minimize your carbon footprint, reduce stress, provide a form of low impact cardio and save you money. If you’ve thought about commuting by bike, Bike Month is a great opportunity to give it a try.

“For me it's all about getting comfortable with riding before you start commuting. The best way to get comfortable is to ride with a group that is about your riding level,” explains author of Women on Wheels: A handbook and how-to for city cyclists, April Streeter. Websites like Meet Up can be used to find a cycling group in your city.

Before your first commute, map your route. Look for a course that is free of too many hills, with cycling infrastructure or minimal vehicle traffic at a lower speed limit. Then do a test ride. Streeter recommends using online route planners like Ride the City (available for Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria).

It’s also beneficial to learn some basic bike maintenance, especially how to fix a flat tire. If you live far from work, an electric bike might be a good investment, or you can bus or drive a portion of the way, then pick up with your bike. It’s also helpful to be part of a car share or have bus tickets on hand, in the event of inclement conditions or feeling under the weather. Many city buses have bike racks so you can easily switch between modes of transportation.

How to dress for your commute is a matter of preference and experimentation. Some prefer to dress in cycling gear and change at work, while others wear bike-friendly work attire – either way, dress in layers. Leave yourself enough time to cool down and freshen up before starting the day to make commuting by bike even more comfortable.

If your bike isn’t already equipped with fenders, consider investing in some, as they will protect you from water and mud splashes. Panniers can also help keep your work stuff clean and dry. “Always carry rain pants in your pannier or basket and put them on at the first drop, not when you are already damp or soaked. A visor on your helmet is also great,” suggests Streeter.

To promote cycling in the workplace, “[Do] a short survey of employees first to see how many people would actually like to bike and what facilities they think would be needed,” says Streeter. She suggests “creating one day per month in the summer when riding to work is promoted or rewarded, especially if people can meet up and ride part of the route in together. Free donuts help. In Portland, there's been a tradition for a number of years to provide Breakfast on the Bridge for walking and biking commuters. It's lovely.”

Follow Bike Kitchener’s blog as 16 participants undertake the Bike2Work Challenge and share their experiences of cycling in Kitchener.

Enter to win a copy of Velo 2nd Gear: Bicycle Culture and Style and other great bike books by sharing your favourite place to bike in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter throughout Bike Month (May 27 – June 30). Visit our cycling page for more bike-related content, including How to Maintain Your Ride and How to Be Polite while cycling in the city.

Julie is an urban planning graduate student at the University of Waterloo, focusing on sustainable transportation.

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