Top Ten Excuses for Not Commuting by Bicycle Bike to work is possible

Excuse #1: “I have to dress for work (and can’t stuff my good clothes in a bike bag).

Solution: Drive to work once a week, drop off several days worth of clean clothes at the office and take the dirty stuff home. You can schedule other side trips for Fridays. If your bike commute is a short one, simply wear your office clothes and appropriate biking shoes. Drivers may even be more careful if you’re dressed like a lawyer.” (Bicycling Made Easy. Rodale Press, 1992) See www.1world2wheels.org

Michiana testimonial: Jeff Nixa rides to work at Memorial Hospital five days a week, 12 months a year. “Biking is just part of a whole-life plan to stay happy, healthy, energized and live a simple lifestyle on the earth.” As far as dressing for work, no problem: even when he was practicing as an attorney and had to be in court in a suit and tie every morning, Jeff brought a clean shirt each day and kept his ties, suit and shoes in his locker. Planning ahead made it possible.

Excuse #2: “I’d get all sweaty. I can’t shower at work. My hair would look bad.”

Solution: You don’t actually need a shower at work to look and smell good all day during Bike to Work Week. Keep a washcloth, soap, hand towel and deodorant in your desk or locker. Arrive a few minutes early (use the time you saved not driving around the parking lot and walking in). Clean up in a washroom using the sink. Or, join the Health and Lifestyle Center: stop and shower there on your way to work, leave your bike duds in the locker, have a muffin and bike to work all fresh and ready to go.

And, perhaps there are more important values at stake than perfect hair? This from Carol Waters, mountain biker: “I’ve seen women who’ve gotten into biking who really come alive after just a few months. They’re radiant, they’ve lost weight, their shoulders are back, and they’re no longer taking any s--- from their husbands.” Visit www.bike-to-work.com, and www.1world2wheels.org

Excuse #3: It’s not safe for women to bike to work, or after dark.”

Female CyclistIt’s important for women commuters to be careful. But there’s a difference between prudent bicycle caution and irrational fear that keeps you belted into your Hummer every day during Bike to Work Week.

“First, being in or near your car is not protection from violence, whether car jackings, assaults in parking lots and garages” or accidents, says Marianne Dorn, a San Francisco bike commuter. You and your children are five times more likely to be killed or injured in a car, than on a bike, says the California Bicycle Coalition. Ms. Dorn’s successful approach as a female bicycle commuter:

  1. “Bike with a friend.” Meet up with a co-worker on the way for more fun and fitness than a lonely car commute.
  2. Bring your cell phone. Weatherproof cell phone cases are available that fit neatly in your bike’s water bottle cage.
  3. Powerful halogen bike lights with rechargeable batteries light up the night with 14 watts of power (think car headlight): rear blinkers are visible for 2000 feet.
  4. In a pinch, U-bolt and cable bike locks make interesting weapons when swung hard (a Chicago female bike messenger’s trick).

Visit www.runmuki.com/commute/commuting14.html for more safety tips for women.

Excuse #4: “I need my car for work (and my kids soccer and…and…).”

Have a car-related job? Perhaps you can schedule car-tasks for certain days. A bike commute the other one or two days a week still adds up to a worthwhile amount of fitness. Each time a driver makes a trip by bicycle, society as a whole reaps the benefits.

Energy-wise, our American lifestyles are becoming unsustainable and burden our fellow creatures. But a human on a bicycle is the most energy-efficient creature or vehicle on the planet, consuming only 0.15 calorie per gram per kilometer. A 10-mile trip in the average car uses 18,600 calories (half a gallon of foreign oil/gas). The same commute by bike uses only 350 calories (a bowl of rice). A hundred bicycles can be manufactured for the energy/resources it takes to build one medium-sized car.

Bill Nye (“the Science Guy”) doesn’t mince words: “Bicycling has to be a big part of the future. There’s something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in a gym.”

Excuse #5: “Its not safe to bicycle on the busy rush-hour streets I drive.”

The great thing about bike-commuting is, you don’t have to take the busy streets! Liberate yourself from the bumper-to-bumper car-commuter blues. With a little planning, you can explore the matrix of nearby quiet streets or trails you never see just a block or two off the usual 4-lane speedway. Did you know South Bend has a growing number of paved, striped and scenic bike paths that lead you right downtown? Plan a route that takes you by the coffee shop, or library or health club to make it fun. You may travel a few extra miles, but more miles is more fitness. A Sunday afternoon with a friend or family is a perfect time to make a leisurely reconnaissance ride for a good route. For a free Regional Bicycle Trail Map for St. Joseph County call MACOG, (574) 674-8894 or visit a local bike shop. See also www.bike-to-work.com to print a free bicycle commuter handbook, or www.1world2wheels.org for a bike commuter video. You can ride all year

Excuse #6: “It’s too cold out to ride my bike” (or too hot, too wet, too sandy, etc.).

It’s okay to be a fair-weather biker: you’ll still build fitness, save calories and gas money. But don’t let fear of a rain shower or even ice scare you away from riding at all. Jeff Nixa, who rides year round, knows that the coldest part of a winter ride is just the first few blocks. “After that, your body heats up and you get toasty warm inside the proper layered clothing just like when snow shoveling or cross-country skiing.” But icy streets? “If you notice, most of the time winter streets are dry, not icy.” Jeff, age 47, puts studded bike tires on his mountain bike for the winter months. “Its fun.”

Excuse #7: “I can’t afford a fancy bike. My old bike doesn’t work.”

You don’t need a special bike to commute. Even an old road/racing bike can be fitted with a light rack and a pack big enough to hold a change of clothes. Wearing a small backpack or fanny pack is another option. Sure, it’s great to have a special all-weather bike with fenders, lights, a front rack, panniers, sturdy wheels, and fancy touring tires. But if your commuting will be done only in daylight and rarely in the rain, an inexpensive, used “beater” bike is better than a shiny new one, assuming you maintain it properly. You won’t feel obligated to wash it every time it gets dirty, and each scratch won’t make you sick. It also won’t catch they eye of a potential bicycle thief. “ (Bicycle Commuting Made Easy, Rodale Press 1992.)

Bikes locked to a rackExcuse #8. “There’s no Secure Place to Park My Bike”

Most buildings have an enclosed storage closet or out-of-the-way corner somewhere to stash and/or lock your bike. Even a bathroom or utility closet will do if you can’t actually leave the bike in your office. If you can’t secure your bike behind a locked door or put it where you can see it, fasten it to any immovable object with a stout U-lock. Like any theft, bicycle thefts are usually crimes of opportunity (e.g. bikes left unlocked at all), rather than planned events with lock-picking tools, bolt cutters, etc.

Excuse #9: “I have to commute too far to ride my bicycle to work.”

Solution: Pete Penseyres, former winner of the Race Across America (RAAM), commuted 30 miles each way to work. Pete Colan, owner of Spin Zone bike shop commuted by bike daily from Granger to Bosch Corp. on the west side of South Bend. Combine biking and mass transit to get to workFor many like him, biking to work was just part of training for personal goals: losing weight, increasing energy, strengthening the immune system and staying healthy.

But if you’re too far from work, consider cycling only part of the way. Drive with in biking range, “park and pedal” the rest of the way. If leaving your car isn’t convenient, you may be able to take the bus or train to where your bike is stashed. At some point, people who are serous about lasting health will begin to make real lifestyle changes around such obstacles. In other words, Live too far to bike to work? Then move closer to work! Jeff Nixa now finds that most of his regular destinations are within biking distance: work, school, grocery, church, parks, library, health club. Bike commuting challenges you to think more reasonably about your habits of life, not just transportation, and the crazy distances we cover each day with gas engines.

Excuse #10: “My co-workers (or family or friends) will think I’m weird if I bike to work.”

If choosing a healthy, sustainable life and benefiting your fellow citizens who remain in cars all day is weird, be proud of it. Many of your co-workers, friends or family have never met people who are willing to travel by bike rather than car. It has never occurred to them to not use a car to travel any distance farther than two blocks.

Warning: if you bicycle regularly, you will start having “abnormal” experiences: like becoming less moody, and more happy, losing excess weight, sleeping better and meeting new and interesting people. As running guru Dr. George Sheehan once said, “Exercise may not add years to your life, but it will certainly add life to your years.” And it will add life to our planet, including those who may be shaking their heads at you from inside the gas-hungry vehicles.

Jeff Nixa 4/08