In Canada, we haven’t embraced bicycle-friendly culture to the same degree that our friends in Europe have, but we’re making progress. If you work in an office in a large city there’s a good chance that you know someone who bikes to work. Major Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal have slowly been adding more bike lanes and other laws to protect bikers. If you’ve ever been curious about biking to work and live close enough to your workplace, here are some things you need to know about making the switch.
get your gear ready
Though biking is known as an economical alternative to a traditional car commute, be aware startup costs are higher than you think. Good bikes aren’t cheap and on top of that, they require some maintenance to keep in working order. Then tack on accessories like a solid lock, bike-appropriate clothing, and a bike-safe backpack or rack, and you can quickly spend hundreds of dollars. Still, there’s no question you’ll be saving money in the long run, as transit passes and gas are a lot more pricey. Just be aware that switching to a bike commute will mean laying out a significant amount of cash up front.
always plan ahead
Biking to work isn’t something you just do on a whim. You need to know how you’re getting to your destination, have your bike prepped, know where you’ll be storing your bike while you’re at work, and have a plan to bring everything you need for work and the ride (most riders recommend having a kit with things like ID and a repair kit that you’ll need daily). Biking to work has a lot of positives – it’s great for both you and the environment, but it takes some planning. Be prepared to put in a little extra time getting yourself and your bike ready in the morning. You may also need to stash supplies like extra clothes, deodorant and towels at work, so be aware.
know the rules of the road
In most cities biking is forbidden on sidewalks. You’re expected to follow the same flow of traffic as cars and use a bike lane if one is available. It’s on you to know these rules, as well as the proper right-of-way and hand signals to indicate turns and other actions. Being prepared with this knowledge before you start pedaling is important. Try a practice run outside of rush hour if you’re unsure.
pick a safe route
Not all routes are created equal, especially when it comes to biking. Many Canadian cities have made vast improvements to make biking safer and more accessible for commuters, particularly in their downtown cores. However, there are some streets that are better than others. Know where your city’s bike lanes are, and which streets tend to have parked cars or other obstacles before you leave. The more you can rely on bike lanes, the better. Even if the route is a little longer, a bike lane might save you some time.
know where you’ll store your bike
Most offices won’t allow you to bring your bike inside. So know ahead of time where you can store your bike. Most major cities have bike racks at regular intervals. Some offices also have bike storage spaces. Know where you plan to stash your bike while you’re working. It’s best to avoid chaining your bike to random objects, like fences, trees or signs. In some cases, this can even be illegal and result in your bike being removed.
looking for a new challenge at work? see what jobs are out there.
check the weather
Biking, like any other outdoor activity, requires planning ahead. There’s no reason you can’t bike to work in the rain, if you want to. But you will need to be prepared with extra rain gear to combat the sloshy weather. Also be aware of days when the heat or smog is off the charts and maybe take it a little easier. A slower commute will usually be a less sweaty one. On cooler days you may be able to avoid a full change of clothes, but for those hot days, be prepared, so you don’t become known as the office stink bomb.
use a helmet
In most Canadian cities it’s only mandatory to wear a helmet if you’re under 18. But for the sake of your safety, you’re probably better off wearing one. In a collision with a car, it might just save your life. If your main concern is helmet hair, ask yourself is stylish hair worth possibly risking your life? You’re an adult, whether or not you wear a helmet is ultimately your choice, but it’s highly recommended.
have clean clothes available
If you’re one of the lucky few who can bike to work without smelling like a gym or developing some unfortunate sweat stains, you may be able to get away without changing your clothes every day. However, you should absolutely be prepared just in case. Have a change of clothes and deodorant stored at work, or bring them with you each day if you need them more frequently. Some workplaces may also have a shower or area for bike commuters to clean up. Use them if they’re available.
set your own pace
Though bike commuters are often known for being ride or die (no pun intended) for their lifestyle, you can choose your own path. If you want to bike to work one day a week and use transit the rest of the time, that’s great. If you’re typically an everyday bike commuter, but the weather is miserable, or winter months are too cold, feel free to let yourself off the hook. Set your own boundaries, and don’t let anyone else tell you what you should do. Every time you opt for a bike commute, it’s a positive for your health and the environment.
Have you ever biked to work? Do you have any advice for bike commuters just picking up the mantle? We’d love to hear your thoughts on LinkedIn!