My coworkers put me up to the challenge of riding my bike to work for a week. Yes - a pedal bike, not a fancy motorcycle. After a split second of internal debating, I had to take them up on the challenge! And to make it even bigger, I even upped the ante by agreeing to blog about my experience.
Biking to work is a great idea, it can save money (wear and tear on your car, gas, tolls) and it provides great exercise, but preparation and safe biking are of the utmost importance.
If you decide to pull a Lance on your way to work, here’s a quick mental checklist that helped me:
- Know your bike and make sure equipment is in good working order.
- Know your route and the level of traffic during rush hour.
- Wear your helmet. (Seriously, wear your helmet)
- Obey the traffic laws, wear visible clothing and other protective gear necessary.
- Watch out for inattentive drivers and road hazards. Remember, i2=D (Idiots and Inattention result in Danger)
- Plan ahead. Do you have somewhere to shower and change clothes? Will you bring your work clothes with you on your bike, deliver them by car in advance, or wear them when you bike?
- Check the weather the night before (learned this one the hard way).
Day 1: Is that rain or is it just me?
Although the weather report indicated scattered showers for the first day of my bike commute, in VA, that can mean nothing. So when the clock radio woke me at 5:15 a.m. to Queen singing “We will, we will rock you” I knew it was time to hit the road. A quick check outside showed wet roads and a light drizzle – OK, not tooooo big of a deal. Maybe I’ll get a little damp and have a wet streak up my back. Not the end of the world.
My plan was to start riding when there was enough light to be safe. After some chores and getting my biking clothes on, I was ready to go. It was light enough and all my prep was ready, so at 6:00 I stepped outside and realized it really was raining – steady this time, the rain splashing in the puddles. Time to backtrack to Option B: Postpone the first day’s ride until tomorrow and face potential wimp jokes at work. Call me a sissy, but in this case, discretion really is the better part of valor.
Day 2: Okay, for real this time.
All packed (I took today’s clothes to work yesterday) and ready to go at 6:15 a.m. Cloudy day, 56 degrees, no rain, but the road was still wet from yesterday’s downpour. I decided, today I’m doing it! Great ride in – crossing the 2nd Street bridge to downtown Richmond I enjoyed seeing the early morning sun shining off the river where the ducks were fanning their wings. Made it in the time I had expected, grabbed a shower, and was still early to work! All in all, it was a pretty uneventful ride into work.
Time for the ride home - I left a little after 6 p.m. Opted for taking the Manchester bridge back rather than 2nd Street bridge which appeared to have much more traffic. Caught up to another cyclist who was nicely equipped for bike commuting. She rides 2 times per week, 3 miles each way. She had on a fancy reflective jacket, nylon pants, a rack on the back and two side bags each with flashing red lights. She was quite visible. I rode with her, including riding on a stretch of sidewalk to avoid a narrow section of road, before she turned towards her home.
I’d call my first day of biking to work a success. It took a bit longer to get to and from work, there were no aggressive drivers, and I didn’t have to burn any gas or pay any tolls.
Day 3: Riding in with Vin Diesel
A nice 55 degrees at 6:10 a.m. and sunshine when I left – this time sporting a light nylon backpack which carried my work clothes (minus shoes and belt which I had left at work last night) and a light snack. The backpack was OK, just a minor distraction when I looked back to see what cars were coming up behind, as it would shift a tad.
During my ride in, I caught up with another cyclist who was also commuting into the city. This guy was a total contrast to the lady I rode home with yesterday. He had black shorts, black shirt and black backpack - not very visible. He had been commuting for about a month, 9 miles each way (I wonder if he was put up to a challenge too?). We had totally different approaches to safety and traffic lights. Basically, he doesn’t stop at lights or stop signs unless there is traffic coming through the intersection.
I did learn a back road from him that had less traffic, so I will use that plus my traffic rules to be safer. I continued this new route as I rode with my new buddy. This resulted in me taking a rather steep hill towards the office and ending up at a major intersection. When I turned left at this intersection, I inadvertently turned into the 4 lanes of opposing traffic, not the 4 lanes going the direction I wanted! Fortunately, traffic was stopped at the next light and I was able to dismount and walk along the divider before they headed towards me. Lesson: Know your route and pay attention at intersections.
After the first week. I'm still getting the hang of commuting to work, figuring out who is on the road, the best routes to take, knowing when not to ride, and making sure even if other commuters don’t obey the traffic laws, I do.
Next week I’ll be sure to post about the rest of my adventures...meeting more people, figuring out the best routes to take, and an overall opinion on the challenge.