Becoming a Bike Commuter

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Bicycling can be a fun, dependable and virtually free mode of transportation. Bicycling also burns about 500 calories an hour, so you can commute and stay fit at the same time.

Once you discover the freedom, convenience and fitness benefits of biking to work, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start riding sooner. If your work place is too far to bike, consider riding to transit stations or Park & Ride lots. Enjoy the ride!

Getting Ready
Before starting out, take time to consider the following:

* What route will you take?
Use a map to plan a route that avoids freeways and steep hills. Explore the area for alternate routes. If your commute involves a bridge, don’t despair – every Bay Area bridge provides access (either by path or shuttle) for bikes. Click here to find local bike paths.
* What are your worksite’s facilities?
Does your employer offer bike racks and/or lockers? If not, you could try storing your bike in your office or a nearby building. Many employers want to help employees use alternatives to driving alone, so ask your employer if lockers can be installed or if provisions can be made for bicycles inside your building.
* Check your equipment.
Essential items include a sturdy bike that fits you properly, a helmet, biking gloves and a strong u-shaped lock. Depending on the length of your ride, how often you plan to bike, the terrain and the weather, you may need additional equipment. If you already have a bike, be sure it’s tuned-up and equipped with reflectors. If you don’t have a bike, or want recommendations about the best types of equipment, ask friends and co-workers who ride to work. Talk to fellow bicyclists and check with your local bike shop. They can show you all the newest models and equipment. You’ll need a good, comfortable helmet (with “ANSI” or “SNELL” safety certification) and a strong lock. Consider a rear-view mirror, biking gloves, repair kit, a mounted water bottle, bicycling shoes, and wet weather gear if you plan to ride in the rain. A headlight is required by law if you ride at night. Tail lights are inexpensive and are great for making sure motorists can see you from behind. Check out the ‘Selecting a Bike’ section for more information about different types of bikes, gear and bike maintenance.
* Find a Bike Buddy.
Friends who ride to work can give you tips on routes, safety and parking. If they live near you, ask if you can ride with them for the first few days while you get used to your route and traffic patterns. If you don’t know anyone who bikes to work you can find a Bike Buddy through the Regional Rideshare Program’s free Ridematching Service. Bike Buddies are people who currently commute by bike. They are happy to answer questions about biking to work (or biking in general) and may be able to ride along with you your first time.
* Ride the route on your day off.
Carry the same amount of clothes and other items as you would on a work day. Is the route too steep? Is there ample lighting for riding in the evening? Explore alternatives. Imagine traffic conditions during regular commute hours, and remember that your route will look different after dark.
* Know in advance where you’ll park.
Get clearance to use lockers and parking areas. If you park outside, you may want a cable lock to use with your u-lock. Ask co-workers to be aware of your bike and to interrupt any suspicious behavior. If you are biking to a transit station click here for a listing of bike racks and lockers.
* Know the rules of the road.
You are recognized as a legal driver of a vehicle. Therefore, drive your bicycle as you would any vehicle. Obey all traffic laws. Click here for a brief run down on safe bike riding. For more in depth information, both the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California State Automobile Association can provide you with bicycling rules and guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions

* Is riding a bike in traffic during commute hours dangerous?
For maximum safety, take your rightful place in traffic and obey all traffic laws. With advance planning, you can find a route that avoids heavy traffic and other potential hazards. Consider taking a safety course, such as those offered by the many bike coalitions in the Bay Area. Click here to learn more about bike classes being offered in your area.

* Will biking lengthen my commute?
It depends. Some commutes will take longer by bicycle, while others, particularly short distance commutes, will be much quicker and more reliable because you won’t have to sit in traffic or wait for a delayed train. If your ride is roughly five miles or less, it will only take about 25 minutes. Consider that the time you spend on your bicycle is probably more relaxing and rewarding than other commute alternatives. Also, your commute by bike doubles as a workout so that’s one less trip to the gym you have to make.
* How expensive is biking?
You may need to make an initial investment, but even if you buy a new bike and equipment, it should pay off in lower commute costs in no time. It’s best to purchase a bike from a bicycle dealer who will fit the bike to you and provide follow-up adjustments and repair. Many dealers carry used bikes. While some bikes can cost thousands of dollars, you can get a good, reliable bike for just a few hundred dollars, especially if you’re only using it for short distances. And if you’re taking your bike outside or parking it at a transit station, you’re probably better off with a less expensive bike that won’t be a potential target for bike thieves. To find a bike that will fit your needs click here.
* Will my clothes get wrinkled on the way to work?
On a short, relatively flat ride, you will likely arrive in good shape. For longer rides, you’ll find that racks, bike bags and special panniers are great for carrying a change of clothes to work wrinkle-free. You can also leave a small stock of work clothes at the office or use another commute option when you have special meetings that require dress attire.


  1. Joseph

    Where might I find a buckle/closure that tightens and loosens with one hand? I have a good bag with a poorly adapted strap and want to make some changes.

  2. Sarandi

    Hopefully you get this response or have figured out your strap situation by now. If not, and you’re just looking for an idea, go to any place that sells chrome bags. Check out their buckles/straps which are designed to be easily adjusted, one-handed while riding.

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