Hello friend, welcome here!
Did you know May is National Bike Month?? If you didn’t, that’s ok – up until this year, I didn’t either. In celebration of Bike Month, I want to share some things I have learned from a year of commuting by bike. These are mostly based of of questions I am frequently asked by friends, colleagues, and strangers – as well as some of my favorite aspects of biking.
1 ) Your city is WAY cooler than you think it is.
Like, way cooler. Commuting by bike allows you to see parts of your city you may not have seen before or had the ability to appreciate. A lot of times, the route you take to get somewhere by bike is different than the one you would take by car. Depending on where you live there are bike trails and cut throughs galore for you to explore (and I promise, that is where you will find the coolest street art, wild flowers, and city scapes to be seen). Biking has fostered a deep love for my city.
2) Commuting by car is a relatively solo act.
The first thing that struck me about commuting by bike wasn’t even about biking, it was about driving. I saw droves of people commuting alone in their cars, listening to music, drinking their coffee, appearing to be zoned out, or worse on their phone. I had never really given much thought to the amount of people commuting by car alone. It seemed so normal. I used to love getting in my car in the morning and doing the same thing all the drivers I observed were. But, when you commute by bike and have other cyclists and pedestrians giving you head nods, waves, and “Good mornings!” it is hard not to think of driving as lonely.
3) On that note, the bike community is strong.
There is an instant connection you have with other cyclists. The very first day I biked to work, I met a professor from the Business School. He rode ahead of me and showed me the best path to take to campus. He has since become someone I look forward to running into on my commute. He has given me some solid life advice. You eventually start to know people and their bikes, so when you are riding past places, you know who is there and may even change your evening plans to join them. Cyclists support cyclists and it is a truly beautiful thing.
4) Traffic is serious, but not nearly as scary as you think it is.
When people learn I commute by bike, they always ask about navigating traffic. What I always say is it is serious, but not nearly as scary as they imagine. At first, riding on the road was a little scary, but I also knew it was statistically safer than riding on the sidewalk. So, I meticulously planned my commutes to utilize what bike infrastructure and side roads I could. I also took time to educate myself on bike safety as well as local and state bicycle laws – that helped me learn my rights as a cyclist and helped give me confidence in traffic. Now that I have been riding for a year, I pretty much have a map of my city in my head specifically for cycling. I do jump on the sidewalk from time to time, but do so with extra care.
5) Always wear a helmet.
Always. Wearing a helmet is probably the most important aspect of bike safety. Things happen. You may hit a rock or run over glass or slide on a slick surface and find yourself making an unanticipated landing. A properly fitting helmet will help prevent serious injuries. People always seem to push back with, “Wearing a helmet isn’t cool.” but there are a variety of helmet styles, designs, and colors out there – so invest in one that speaks to your soul that you will feel good about wearing.
6) Keep up with regular bike maintenance.
Keeping up with regular bike maintenance important for bike safety and the longevity of your bike. The last thing you want is a mechanical failure in traffic. Even if you think your bike is in good shape, it never hurts to take it to a local bike shop to have them tune it up and look it over. Just like with cars, keeping your bike up on its regular maintenance now will prevent big issues later – which will save you money (and your bike) in the long run. Your bike will love you as you love it.
7) Cyclists know the weather and Google Maps better than anyone. Guaranteed.
Before I started to commute by bike, I would glance at the weather and head out the door. It didn’t really impact when I would leave or what I would wear. Now, I practically study the weather multiple times a day. Will it rain? When? How much? Should I wear gloves? How many layers of clothing will I need to stay warm? The answer to any of those questions could impact everything from when I leave, to what I am wearing, to the route I will take to get where I am going. And on that note, I consult Google Maps before going anywhere new. I check the elevation and traffic before making a route to get there. I know this city’s street names better than people who have lived here for over ten years (which is pretty cool if you ask me)!
8) Riding in the rain isn’t that bad.
Especially in Florida. Sometimes the rain is refreshing… and the smell of the rain on the concrete – is there anything better? I will say there is a point at which rain is no longer fun, but for the most part on your average commute, rain is fine. Wind on the other hand is the w o r s t. It seems like no matter which way you are going, the wind is always working against you or pushing you into traffic. So, as you are driving, give cyclists even *more* space on windy days for your safety and theirs.
9) Commuting by bike saves you time and money.
So, this one is a little obvious. I commute anywhere from 20-50 miles per week by bike. Over time, that is a lot of gas money being saved. I typically cannot remember when the last time I had to get gas was. Also, commuting by bike saves me money on my auto insurance! My insurance gives me a hefty discount because I am on the road less as a driver – definitely ask your insurance about this if you are looking to save even more money. And then there is time, I can usually get places faster by bike than car. I can take more direct, less trafficked routes to get where I am going. For example, it takes me about 12 minutes to get home from work by bike versus 33 minutes in my car – to travel 1.7 miles. Yes, 1.7 miles.
10) Biking is SO much fun.
I never expected to fall in love with biking through commuting. I started commuting by bike as a means of sustainable transportation. I never imagined the positive effect it would have on my life from my mental and physical health to the friendships I have developed. I love biking to my favorite local coffee shop, sitting outside with my bike on the fence beside me, and enjoying the world around me (like I am doing right now as I am writing this).
If you have ever wanted to give commuting by bike a try, I highly encourage you to do so! It will probably change your life in the best way. If you have any questions about commuting by bike, leave them in the comments below and I will answer them (and maybe turn them into a future post)! I will also drop some helpful links below – especially if you are in the Tallahassee area!
Love, love, love ❤ Cyndel
League of American Bicyclists: https://bikeleague.org/bikemonth
Bike Tallahassee: http://biketallahassee.com
Bike. Eat. Shop. Tallahassee: http://bike-eat-shop-tallahassee.com/Home_Page.php
Joyride Bicycle Collective: https://www.facebook.com/joyridebicyclecollective/ (They host local rides in Tallahassee for everyone from the experienced cyclist to first timers on the road) If you are not in Tallahassee, look for local cycling groups to you, and if you can’t find one, start one!