Pro Tips on Biking to Work
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
Written by Polina Butrina, Transportation Planner
I have never considered myself a biking person. I've always had the luxury of living in dense urban areas that provided enough transportation options for me not to always use cars or bikes. I grew up in a very small village where everyone walked everywhere or drove if the destination was further than a 20-25 minute walk. During my time in both undergrad and grad programs, I lived close to the University of Washington. Because of this I would take public transit or walk.
Seeing so many dockless bicycles around Seattle piqued my interest and I started to enjoy occasional one-way trips to the University and other places. However, I have never thought of getting a personal bicycle. After graduation, I started working at Transpo which is in northern Kirkland. Not wanting to give up on Seattle, I had to figure out how to commute from Seattle to Kirkland in a sustainable and efficient way. A bus is an excellent option, but it took too much time. I tried driving, but that was a very stressful and expensive way of getting to work. Meanwhile, I started asking around to my colleagues who live in Seattle about their commute. I found that some of them (the crazy ones) commuted by bicycle. That seemed like a great option that would get me to work and keep me fit (there are a lot of yummy treats at the office that no one can resist). Moreover, it was a Bike Everywhere month, perfect timing!
To prepare for my first bike to work day, I needed to:
Buy a Bicycle (Duh!)
Finding a great bicycle that will work for you is one of the hardest tasks of all.
First, I had to take a couple of body measurements and calculate the frame size. Then, I had to choose a bicycle type that fits my needs - commuting to work and occasional weekend bike trips. After some research on the web, I’ve decided to buy a used road bike from Craigslist. It seemed to be the right place to buy a great and affordable bike.
Critical note - you should always check if the bicycle you are buying wasn’t stolen by checking the serial number online.
Get a Lock and a Helmet
Safety first! If you don’t want to get your bike stolen, get a bike lock before you take your first ride and have to park your bike on the street.
Plan a Route
It is essential to plan a route you are planning to take beforehand. Google maps has a great feature that displays bicycle-friendly roads and trails. In my case, my colleagues who bike to work were a great source of knowledge and helped me plan a route to work.
Learn to Load the Bicycle on the Front Rack of a Bus
This is crucial if your route includes taking the bus. Since I was planning to take a bus to get to the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail from Seattle, I had to learn how to place my bike on the bus racks. I watched videos from King County Metro on how to do this, it is indeed easier than it looks. However sometime handlebars are hard to lift, so you should do a couple of pushups in the morning to prepare.
Bring a Change of Clothes for the Office
An extra set of jeans and an extra shirt is very helpful for the hot days when you feel like changing into something dry at the office. I also keep a pair of light shoes at work that I change to once I am at the office.
On my first biking day, I scheduled some extra time for myself to get more comfortable with the route. It was a great decision - I’ve used a route with a protected bicycle lane that disappeared after time, and I found myself at the narrow shoulder of the busy street. I had to turn back and find another route.
Overall, I found that bike commuting is not only a fun way of getting around, but it allows me to enjoy nature, get exercise, and learn about the need for the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Pedaling along the Cross Kirkland Corridor, I can have some quiet time before getting to work and get the time where I can relax and not think about anything after work.
A lack of adequate support facilities remains one of the greatest challenges to getting more people to bike to work (and bike to places in general). I am glad that Transpo Group is working on the projects that create more bicycle and pedestrian friendly spaces.