I used to live down the road from work. I would walk to work most days as long as I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be after. I would even walk during the snowstorms. Sure there were plenty of times where I’d almost get hit when people didn’t want to stop before a crosswalk when the sun wasn’t up yet. But the way I see it, I was in a crosswalk at a stop sign wearing a bright colored (fluorescent) jacket, many times also with a flashlight, so they wouldn’t have had much of a case if I had gotten hit.
Now that I live further from work, walking is not an option. What used to be a 20 minute walk is now a 20 minute drive. Also, because of the way the roads are set up in the valley, I would need to be on a highway for a portion of it. However, I have toyed around with the idea of riding my bicycle to work.
What To Wear
Although the normal rule of wearing a helmet does still apply when biking to work, there are some things which aren’t quite the same as just casually biking for recreation. For instance, a reflective vest or other reflective clothing should be worn. This is especially helpful early in the morning or at night, but can still be useful when the sun is up. It’s always best to make sure you give other people a chance to see you so there is a lower chance of accidents.
You also don’t want to wear your work clothes when biking. You may get away with wearing them underneath something else but there’s a good chance you’ll be sweaty and possibly stinky all day if you don’t change. There is also a good chance you will get dirty while riding. You don’t want to have a dirty suit on all day. And you certainly don’t want to walk around all day with a brown stain on your bottom where your back wheel was spraying mud for 2 hours.
One more important thing is to dress in layers as the weather gets colder. It might seem nice when you first leave the house being cozy and warm, but it will get uncomfortable as your body tries to get rid of heat, only to have it reflected back.
One of the most important things to take into consideration when riding a bike, especially early morning before the sun is up, is the number of road hazards. The one you’ll run into –or hopefully avoid– the most would be rocks. They come in all sizes and all sizes can be dangerous. The big ones can bump you off course and possibly damage your bike. The smaller ones can reduce traction and cause you to slide, especially down a hill.
Another big thing is water. When it’s raining or snowing the visibility can be reduced for you as well as other drivers or pedestrians. Maybe someone will not see a stop sign in time, or not notice the small figure going down the road near them (I hope you’ve got your reflective clothing). Then when water is on the ground it can be dangerous. You never know how deep a puddle is, and even a small amount of water can cause you to slide if you aren’t careful. And it’s even more difficult when it’s frozen. Ice is difficult to see at night and can be covered up by snow. And the most dangerous form is slush. It can be difficult to drive a car, with 4 points touching the ground, on slush and it’s only amplified on a bicycle. This would be a big problem for me, as the city where I work doesn’t plow their roads. They just salt them and hope nobody needs to go anywhere. There is usually slush for a few days after all the other towns in the area are completely cleared of snow.
But it isn’t limited only to natural things. There can be glass or sharp metal on the ground waiting to puncture a tire. There can also be garbage on the ground to slide on.
Unfortunately, whether you are biking or not, there are people who think the world exists for them and them alone. When there is a bike lane they don’t care how close they get their car to it when they see a biker. That is if they even care to look for one. And if there isn’t a bike lane they don’t care if in most places –at least where I live– that means the biker can use the actual car lanes.
There are also people who will walk out in front of you without looking. For some reason there are a large number of people who hate crosswalks. And a large number of those people also seem to hate looking to see if they’re going to get run over if they don’t use a crosswalk.
That being said, don’t be the problem. If you are expecting other people to share the road with you, and use correct crosswalk etiquette, then you should return the favor. If you know you are holding up traffic where there is no bike lane, take a moment to let them pass. They’re being kind enough to not hit you, so it isn’t too much to ask that you don’t take up their time. And if you get to a stop sign or other traffic signal, make sure you pay attention to it. Blowing through a stop sign is a good way to hit a pedestrian, get hit by a car, or just get a ticket. The rules of the road apply to bikes as well.
Some Other Things To Consider
You may want to have some lights on your bike. I’d suggest having one on the front to help you see any potential hazards coming up, and a red one on the back to help anyone behind you see that you are there. There are also lots of other things you can find online to help make you see things and help others know you are there and where you are going.
You’re going to sweat, probably quite a bit. Make sure you do what you can to prepare yourself for it. Have enough water to rehydrate during your ride for both to and from work. Maybe you’ll want to have a towel to wipe off your face so you don’t get sweat in your eyes. You also don’t want to take the chance of sweat on your face cooling you down too much in the winter.
You’ll need somewhere to keep extra water. Many bikes have a water bottle holder but if you are going for a couple hours to get to work you may need more. You could use a backpack, but that would also increase how much you sweat, as heat won’t be able to escape your back as easily. You can find baskets and bags and other things online which can attach to a bike easily and carry some other your extra cargo.
You’ll also want to put a change of clothes in here. Not just your work clothes, but also some extra socks and maybe a long sleeve shirt in case the temperature drops. Also, make sure you have some kind of travel sized bike repair kit handy. Just make sure to not get carried away. Everything you add to the bag needs to go with you and will add weight.
Why I Don’t Do It (Yet)
I haven’t ridden a bike in years so I don’t know how my endurance is. I’m sure if I could go slow and take a break halfway I would have no problem with it. But unfortunately I need to get to work by a certain time, and then home afterwards. If I were to keep a good steady pace it would take me about 2 hours one way. That really isn’t too bad in terms of travel time. Or at least it wouldn’t be if that was the only thing I did each day. Most days I have something else I need to do, whether it’s a meeting, a rehearsal, or just something I need to take care of at home like walking the dogs.
As it is now we usually get back with the dogs shortly before sunset. If I were to bike to work I would get home about an hour and a half later than normal, maybe later if I don’t get the perfect travel time. That would put me getting home from walking the dogs around the time I would normally go to bed. Or I could walk the dogs immediately after getting home but then I would have all my other things and eat dinner later. Either way, on nights when I don’t have a meeting, I’d be going to bed later than usual.
Then I’d be getting up earlier every day. The dogs would be going outside earlier and because I’d be leaving earlier they’d be fed earlier. At some point I’m sure that would have an effect on them, having to be inside with an adjusted food schedule. I already need to take them outside as seen as I get home. I’d hate for them to be uncomfortable all day or have an accident.
Disclaimer: Although I have done a significant amount of research before preparing this post, I am not an expert on this subject. My intent is to help people who may be interested find some more information. If you decide you would like to try this yourself, please do some additional research and use common sense.