Bike commuting myths

September 3, 2014

(Photo Credit: Maciej Szczepaniak via Flickr)

Bike commuting myths

Maybe you’ve thought about riding a bike to work but it just doesn’t seem feasible. The distance seems too long, the traffic too dangerous, the weather too daunting. Well you might be making too much of the hurdles. Here are five notions about bike commuting that are often mistaken or overstated:

“It’s getting too dangerous to ride in traffic.”

Actually, in cities across the U.S. and around the world, bicycle accident rates are decreasing – rapidly in some cases – as the number of cyclists on the road increases. Part of what’s going on has to do with cities adding better warning signs, bike paths and other infrastructure. When roads become safer and more inviting for cyclists, more people opt to ride. But there’s also some evidence that motorists behave better – by driving slower, for instance – when they see more cyclists and pedestrians along the road. If you’re feeling insecure about safety, the League of American Bicyclists has a nifty page of advice and tips to build confidence.

“Our terrible weather won’t permit it.”

With the right gear, it’s amazing how tolerable – thrilling even – it can be to ride in “terrible” weather. A waterproof jacket-pants-booties ensemble can keep you dry in a downpour. When it’s freezing cold, your hard-working muscles will heat things up nicely if you’re cocooned in a down jacket, ski gloves and face-covering balaclava. Front and rear fenders, if they are fully sized, will do a great job blocking the gutter spray from your wheels.

snow commute

Winter storms don’t deter bike commuters in Portland.

“I can’t show up at work all sweaty.”

You don’t have to sweat buckets bicycling to work in hot weather. Try to leave earlier in the morning before the sun starts to really blaze. An hour might make a difference of ten degrees or more. And if you give yourself more time, you can pedal at a less perspiration-producing pace. In rainy weather, wear waterproof gear that’s breathable. If you are just too perspiration-prone to ride without sweating up what you’re wearing, you can always pack an outfit to change into at work.

“It will take too long to get to work.”

You might find that bike commuting takes less time than driving if you account for traffic delays and dealing with parking.  Some bike-only trails allow you to shortcut the distance.  On streets clogged with gridlocked car traffic, you can whiz past in the bike lane. For really long commutes, you might be able to combine riding and mass transit; most city buses have bicycle racks. Or you could ride part way, park your bike at a friend or coworker’s house, and carpool or jump on a bus from there.

The bike lane is clear.

(Credit: Noah (ax0n) via Flickr)

“I can’t afford a new bike.”

It’s still possible to buy a decent new bicycle for under $500. It costs even less to resurrect an old, neglected bike. You don’t need a $5,000 carbon fiber racing bike to get to and from work (you probably don’t need that much bike even if you’re into road racing unless you’re among the elite competitors.) Don’t forget that bike commuting will also cut some costs: gasoline, parking, auto maintenance, and that gym membership you no longer need to get daily exercise.

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