By Jen Murphy (scientist at Lonza and enthusiast about everything bicycling!)
May is Bike to Work Month! Riding your bike to work is a great way to add some fresh air and exercise to your morning routine. It is a lot more fun than going to the gym, and can even help you save wear and tear on your vehicle. Keep that gas money in your pocket, and use it for a good cup of coffee instead!
Live too far away?
Hybrid commutes are a great option, letting you drive your car part way and cycle in the rest. Look for park & rides and public parking lots that are a comfortable distance from your workplace. Another variation on the hybrid commute would be to drive your car in to work, ride your bike home that night, and ride into work the next morning. This option makes it easy to carry in the gear you need for the day, along with riding clothes for the commute home and work clothes for the following morning. In the event the weather turns bad or you get caught working late, you have the safety net of being able to drive home and try again the next day.
Plan your route!
Pre-ride your route on a weekend or start with a hybrid commute home to ensure you understand timing. There are many bike paths that can get you over the highway and / or the bay. For example, check out these road routes to see how you can get from Market Square in Portsmouth to the Pease Tradeport using the bike path over the highway, and from Dover and points north across the bay using the General Sullivan bridge. For those commuting to the Pease Tradeport from the south, the new Grafton Drive multi-use path gives you a traffic free connection onto the Tradeport from Portsmouth Ave, avoiding the traffic light at Rt. 33!
Stock your desk!
Leave a bag at work packed with a change of clothes, pair of shoes, hairbrush, hairdryer, and shower supplies (including flip-flops and a towel) if necessary. Baby wipes are a quick way to freshen up if you don’t have a shower, or if your commute isn’t too long. Stocking your desk or locker with these supplies ensures that you are ready to go any time the weather looks nice. Make sure to leave a bike lock at work, unless you have a secure storage location. Leave food at your desk and/or in the work refrigerator for breakfast and lunch. A $20 bill stashed under the keyboard or in your desk isn’t a bad idea either, just in case you need to buy a snack or a mid-day caffeine fix.
Prep the night before!
The night before your commute, pack and prep anything you need to take with you. This will eliminate a great deal of stress and ensure you get out the door on time. Baskets and panniers are great ways to carry your gear. Backpacks, sling bags, and messenger bags are other good options. Look for bags that have a cross strap to keep them in place while you’re riding.
Charge your lights, and fill your water bottles. Pump up your tires. Even lay out shoes, socks & helmet. Have a badge/ID or locker key? Road ID? Make sure those are on the counter, ready to grab! Place your phone and anything you don’t want to get wet inside a ziplock baggie in case you get caught in the rain.
Increase your visibility to motorists by using both front and rear lights. Most seat packs and messenger bags have a place to attach a blinky light. Try to find a light with a bright, random strobing pattern. As fall approaches, realize you may need a brighter headlight for your commute home. Further enhance your visibility by wearing bright colors and reflective gear.
Ride predictably, use hand signals and take the lane for your safety when necessary. Try to make eye contact with drivers before you make a move. Consider a mirror mounted to your handlebars or helmet.
Ensure you have a spare tube or patch kit, tire levers and an air source (i.e. frame pump or CO2) with you at all times. Even if you cannot fix a flat, having the proper spares and tools ensures that a fellow cyclist can help you get back on the road. You will find that many local cyclists are friendly and more than willing to help out someone in need!
Click here for May is National Bike Month activities and click here for the Commute Smart B2B Commuter Challenge June 13-24 which includes biking to work!