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Your step-by-step Guide to becoming a Bike to Work Day Pro

Written by Nelle Pierson, Outreach Programs Coordinator of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Our region’s Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 16th, and this year you have the opportunity to become a Bike to Work Day Pro!

When I started biking in DC three years ago my biggest barrier to biking was a general concern about personal safety. I’d strap on my helmet, enter a bike lane, and instantly feel like I entered a hostile concrete jungle; a confusing world devoid of a social contract, lined with dastardly dangerous pot holes, swarming with 2,000 lb. speeding steel predators. No rules. No regard. I, the prey.

It’s certainly worth mentioning the region is taking steps to make bicycling a safer more normal form of transportation. We have a regional bikeshare program, a growing network of bike lanes, trails, and protected cycletracks. And road users are beginning to expect and accept bikes just about everywhere.

To this day I still have my scares. But I’m convinced all road-users do no matter what form of transportation they’re using. In order to feel as comfortable and confident as possible I took all the possible proactive measures; like learn the local bike laws, take bike classes, join group rides, and seek out friends with good bike behaviors to model.

Even though biking around the city has infinite benefits, it can be intense. But here’s the thing, you can do a lot on your own to be safer on a bike by knowing the rules of the road and how to ride on the road.

So before you strap on your helmet for Bike to Work Day, here’s our step-by-step guide for becoming a Bike To Work Day Pro:

1. Sign up for Bike to Work Day.

If you sign up soon, you will receive a free T-shirt!

2. Get a bike,  or get your bike in working order.

If you don’t have a bike, go to your local bike shop and find a bike that works for what you need in your price range. Black Women Bike DC has a great bike-buying guide. If you already own a bike, similarly go to your local bike shop and make sure it’s all tuned up for the season.

3. Plan your route.

Find bike-friendly routes that include side streets, bike infrastructure, lovelysights and sounds and tree canopies. If you’re new to planning routes ask a friend who bikes for their input, post your question in the Women & Bicycles Facebook group, consult a bike map, or use the bike feature on google maps.

4. Pack your bag.

I keep it pretty basic. I’ll toss my rain jacket, lock, and the normal stuff (cell phone, wallet, keys) in my backpack. If I know I’m going to get sweaty or have plans after work, I’ll pack my change of clothes and shoes, bring some wet wipes for a quick cleanup, and bring my make-up bag.

5. Know how to ride safely,  comfortably,  and confidently.

You can check out a WABA bike class to become your own expert. In the meantime here are the basics: follow the rules of the road (Click here to learn about your local bike laws). Make sure other road users see you by biking in the right place on the road, and by using bike lights and reflective clothing. Make sure people know what you’re doing by riding predictably, and by communicating your turns with hand signals and eye contact.

Less than 24% of bicyclists in the D.C. region are women. So we work through the many barriers to biking like: selecting a bike and gear recommendations, safety concerns, logistics and routines, hygiene, and riding with children.

If you’ve never bike commuted before, Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s (WABA) Women & Bicycles Program offers great resources, including access to all the important tips and tricks of the bike trade. If you already bike around town, you can still join the community of women committed to skill-sharing and mentorship. They host monthly rides, workshops, and weekly meetups to build a close-knit network and inspire more women to bike.

Some other important must-knows: ride with the flow of traffic – never against it, avoid the door zone – that three foot area beside a line of parked cars, always yield to pedestrians, and most importantly HAVE FUN. Because if you aren’t having fun on your ride, you’re doing it wrong.

Happy riding!

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