Posts Tagged ‘bicycle’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Calling all Bike to Work Day Pros and Protégés

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!

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Making Strides: A DC EcoWomen Bicycle Journey

This post was written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Lina Khan, who overcame her fear of biking in roads in honor of National Bike to Work Day

Little By Little

The first time I biked on roads was in my last summer of college in Kirksville, Missouri.

Most students went home for the summer, including my sister. She let me borrow her bike. Since it was a college town in summer, there weren’t many cars on the road, so biking to my campus job or to my friends’ apartment was pretty fun. I could catch a breeze on a hot day – and cut my traveling time in half. After I scraped my bare toes on a brick wall, I just made sure to wear shoes.

But when the summer ended, so did biking. Earlier that year, I bought a bike of my own for $2 at a bike auction – but it was heavy and not easy to carry over stairs or curbs. I decided not to take it with me when I moved away in the fall.

It took me another 3 years before I bought another bike. By then I was living and working in Washington, DC and found Craigslist fairly useful. I finally found a bike with a 15” frame (just like my old one). And this bike was a hybrid – a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike – so it was lighter. I metro’d to Alexandria and paid $150 for it, even after bargaining.

I liked this bike because the pink and blue colors reminded me of a wild berry poptart.

After I brought it home (also on the metro), I promptly put it away in the shed. The first time I went for a real ride on it was a few weeks later. I felt more comfortable with the idea of using it on the streets of DC.

But then my boyfriend suggested we bike to an Indian restaurant for an anniversary dinner (I know, how totally young and creative) in Adams Morgan, about a 10-minute bike ride from home.

We biked through crowded streets and crossed busy intersections, but the autumn air felt nice, and I liked how bright my borrowed bike lights were. But then we rounded a tight winding section of road between parked and moving cars, and I was terrified of running into one or getting grazed.

My boyfriend (I’ll call him Calvin) sped up, and I couldn’t catch up at the speed I had settled on. I got frustrated and pulled over, he doubled back. I said I hated this, we got back on and continued until we finally made it to the restaurant.

For most of it I was thinking how much I’d rather metro or take a bus home—it meant less danger or vigilance. In the end, we walked home with our bikes. Calvin noted, after some self-reflection, that it took him months to work up to biking on busy roads with cars. Also it was nighttime. Also I’m a scared-y cat. I didn’t bike again for a long time.

Fast-forwarding another 2 ½ years to this week, my now husband Calvin offered to ride with me to work so I could write this blog. By I now have my own bike lights and have biked in my new neighborhood to get to the post office before it closed on a Saturday (so five minutes before lunch time because the post office didn’t really want to be open). By this time, I’ve also biked to another restaurant (Thai) and various other places taking trails and side roads, so theoretically I’m more familiar with the whole thing. But I still didn’t know how to use the gears—I kept forgetting. Also I still don’t like riding it.

Anyway, Tuesday morning my tires needed to be pumped (they weren’t as firm as overstuffed couch cushions) and I couldn’t use my bike pump because an old roommate’s boyfriend had run over it with his car. Luckily Calvin had one. So if you’re keeping a tally for bike parts, that’s bike lights, bike pump, and should also include sturdy bike lock, and if it’s a relatively nice bike, tire screws that can only be removed by a special wrench.** We biked from Hyattsville into DC, taking less busy roads that Calvin mapped ahead of time. He took my bike around for a bit and concluded that the short gear on right slowed the bike down, while the longer gear eased it up, and that it was the opposite on the left. When I was on it I tried it out, and started to say he was wrong until I realized I was using the left side.

After a few minutes of riding uphill, my legs got tired and I noticed a sign for Brookland metro station. I was also running late for work. Good thing I’d had breakfast and a full night’s sleep, otherwise I would have felt hopeless. But I still wanted to bike to Brookland instead.

We did.

Calvin noted that I needed to raise my seat up higher, so that my pedaling would cover more ground and I wouldn’t need to work my legs so much. I like being able to put my feet on the ground for emergency stopping, so this will take getting used to.

Since, to be honest, I’m happiest metroing into work, I will give it another try on a weekend, when trains and buses run less frequently. But I still remember how to use my gearshifts, and I breezed by quite a few cars on Tuesday without almost no fear (maybe just a little). So I’d say little by little I’ve made strides. Although it has taken me 5 years to get to where I am, I promise I won’t quit.

**I’m not sure my bike warranted one, but I was living in Takoma at that time and there were 2 bike shops on the same street that promised nice people and interesting equipment.

Did you participate in Bike to Work Month or Day? Tell us your story!

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Celebrate National Bike Month – The Case for Biking to Work

The following is a guest post by DC EcoWomen Board Member Alison Alford

May is the perfect month to ride a bike – it’s National Bike Month, and in Washington DC, Bike to Work Day is on Friday, May 17. The National Bike Challenge kicked off on May 1, with the goal of uniting 50,000 people to bike 10 million miles throughout America. Regardless of the reason, swapping out a trip in a car for a ride on a bike is always a great choice!

Why should we commute by bicycle? According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey“25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.”

The average vehicle emits nearly a pound of carbon dioxide (CO2) per every mile driven, and studies show that shorter car trips release more emissions than longer trips. By commuting to work by bicycle, or using a bike to complete errands, major sources of pollutants are kept out of the air.

Cycling also incorporates exercise in an otherwise sedentary commute, and provides the health benefits of adding a low-impact form of exercise into a daily routine.

More than half of 1 percent of American workers commute by bicycle. That may seem like a small number, but it is growing fast and the potential is huge. A survey completed by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in 2000 found that 41.3 million Americans use a bicycle for transportation, and every year more commuters are opting out of driving to work and opting into cycling. The United States’ 70 largest cities have seen the largest percentage of growth in bikers, with a 63 percent growth in new bike commuters from 2000 to 2010.

Not only does commuting by bicycle save money by not having to rely on gas-powered vehicles, it is also a zero emission form of transportation that is easily accessible to people of all fitness and socio-economic levels. Bicycles cost far less than a car or truck, and other than a good helmet and periodic maintenance, bikes do not incur additional expenses after the initial purchase price.

Many communities are becoming more bike friendly. For example, Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare program has over 1,800 bicycles available at 200 various stations around the D.C. metropolitan area. Many city buses and subway systems allow cyclists to bring their bike on-board, and organizations have the option to apply for bike commuting benefits for their employees. Associations and non-profits like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the League of American Bicyclists offer great on-bike courses to help cyclists become more confident while riding.

Regardless of your reason to bike, be sure to try it out this Friday, May 17 and join your fellow cyclists by celebrating Bike to Work Day!  It’s a fun way to get outside and try a new spin on your commute!