December 21, 2014

Work Travel: Bike to Work for Cash Savings and Health Benefits

Developing a plan to bike to work certainly sounds simple enough in the beginning. And the fuel-saving potential is tempting indeed, particularly in this economy. Then there are the health benefits, which are significant. So why donít more people try it?

Well, the reasons vary but typically include logistical hurdles such as carrying a change of clothes without wrinkling them, dealing with hygiene issues at work after a particularly hot and sweaty ride, working around weather snafus and storage for things like groceries you might need to pick up on the way home. This article deals with several of the bike to work obstacles that many people encounter when attempting this form of commuting.

The Clothing Conundrum:

Handling the stress of clothing changes is part of the bike to work scene, unfortunately. For urban commutes in cities such as NYC or even Bolzano, Italy squeeze socks and underclothing into your cycleís panniers when you bike to work, and have your dress shirts and suits rotated in and out via a local cleaner. If you work somewhere more casual, then you can perhaps get by with wrinkle-resistant khakis or dressy jeans and a thin sweater set that can roll into your bicycleís storage add-ons. Other bike to work tips include wearing darker slacks to hide unexpected encounters with dirt and grime and tucking your pant cuffs into your socks until you get to work, since getting them caught in the chains is a concern.

Security:

Obviously, the decision to bike to work brings with it a few security concerns. Provided your place of employment provides sturdy parking racks, you can likely get by with an appropriate bike lock. However, if they can provide inside storage, even better. This is more likely in urban centers where sidewalk space is limited. Youíll also need storage space for your panniers and other gear you bring along with you to work, as well as a place to hang your work clothing. If your boss is willing to dish out for staff lockers, then itís in your best interest to take her up on her offer. Those working in Belgium have access to a city bike system that allows you to pick up and drop off bicycles at various stations via a paid monthly access card, eliminating the financial outlay for a bicycle altogether.

Storage:

When you bike to work, it isnít like going out for an entertaining ride on a weekend afternoon. There are things youíll need to take with you such as tech gear, or perhaps a full grocery bag on the way home. A front basket or side panniers can each provide support in this area. If you need to drop off a young one at child or doggie daycare, then tow-behind bicycle trailers are available for purchase as well.

Weather:

Riding in the rain isnít necessarily fun, but if you find yourself needing to peddle through a sturdy mist, having a poncho or other water resistant gear will come in handy. As with reduced light at the end of the day, this is also a good time to consider bright colors and reflective surfaces on your bike and cycling wardrobe.

Supplies:

Water isnít the only critical supply youíll need to worry about as you begin to bike to work. Tire tubes, patch kits and related items will be necessary to have on hand in the event a flat tire mars your commute. A cell phone for emergencies is also a good idea. (See also: Budget Traveler Bikes to Africa)

Safety:

There are a number of bicycle safety concerns to consider if you are planning to bike to work. Certainly a helmet should be on your short list, but proper fit of the machine is also a consideration. Other important issues involve regular safety inspections of your cycle, and reflector tapes if you simply must ride home as dark approaches. If possible though, try to arrange your schedule so that your ride home occurs before sunset.

Support:

If your employer already demonstrates support for the bike to work crowd, thatís fantastic. If they donít, but have exhibited interest in workplace health initiatives, then perhaps you need to step up as the program coordinator or liaison in order to facilitate a few perks. A secure place to park bicycles is a good step, along with a shower facility and work lockers. Informational resources on the companyís web site, detailing bike routes and other related information is also a reasonable employee request.

For more bike to work information, including tax benefits, guidelines for beginners and more, a web site has been funded by the United States Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. Happy trails!

Photo Credit: This image was photographed by the Trek Hound team, and is available through a creative commons agreement with our sister site, Pictures of Travel Places.