Monday May 28 marks the start of National Bike to Work Week. For more than 50 years, bicycle advocacy groups have encouraged people to try bicycle commuting for a healthier and more environmentally friendly alternative to driving. This Monday, group commutes will congregate at Nathan Phillips Square, where at 8 am, you can get a complimentary t-shirt and breakfast. Although you likely won’t have the time to freeload on pancakes, you can still experience the thrill of the road on two wheels. In this article I will answer any problems you might have before making your first adventure to school.
I have a bike from when I was like 11. Even if it fits, it is not in a safe condition to ride.
If you have a bike that fits, get it looked at (fathers, bike shops, and the author of this article are good to go to). If you don’t have one, use your parents’, borrow a friend’s or if you are really keen, buy one. You can find a used one on online classifieds for a fair price (but make sure you get a knowledgeable person to look at it). If you plan to ride after this event do NOT buy one from department stores. They are attractive and cheap but you get what you pay for, nothing more. Take my word for it.
I live far and bicycles are slow. Biking to school will take me forever!
Both of these statements might be true, but you must remember this is a one-time event and is meant to be a challenge to non-regular bicycle commuters. Go to bed earlier and give yourself some extra time. My route is just shy of 15 kilometers and by building up my fitness, I have been able to bring my commute time from one hour down to half an hour. This is faster than by bus, and on some days, even faster than by car!
Bicycle riders are obliged to ride on the road and wear helmets. I don’t own a helmet and I’m scared to ride on the road.
Thankfully, these laws are rather flexible. Helmet-less riders on the sidewalk are a common sight, but I have NEVER seen or heard of a cyclist getting a ticket for it. In addition, police officers will be aware of the event and will be more than sympathetic for first time commuters.
What are the rules of the road for cyclists?
By law, cyclists are equal to motorists and must not ride on the sidewalk. If you decide to take this challenge, stick to the right side of the road, and everything else is the same as cars: signal for turns, stop at red lights and go at greens. If you ride on the sidewalk (although I don’t endorse it), be very cautious of pedestrians. If you approach one from behind, let them know of your presence with a bell or a friendly excuse me.
How and where do I lock up my bike?
There are two bike racks by the main entrance of the school and when those become full, students often lock their bikes to the fences between the parking lot and the portables. Unless you ride the latest Tour de France model, you should not worry about your bike’s security. According to the vice principals, there have been no bicycle thefts for many years. Personally, I don’t stress over the security of my bike even though I never lock my wheels to the rack. They can be easily stolen but they never have. Garneau isn’t as sketchy as you think.
But I will be hot and sweaty!
Bring a shirt to change into and do not dress too heavily for the ride. Do not wear cotton against your skin; it absorbs moisture, promising an uncomfortable second half of the ride and a potential cold. Instead, opt for something that wicks, like polyester. If it’s colder, your goal is to block wind while creating your own heat. Wear a light windblocker and jeans if it’s under 15ºC. Above that, you should create enough heat to ride comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt. Whatever you wear, make sure motorists can notice you. Reflectors, blinkers, and screaming yellow jackets are great at accomplishing this.
Although there are many factors (and excuses) preventing students from biking to school, it is truly a fantastic experience that you should strive to have. Bicycle commuting is a healthy, fun and environmentally friendly alternative to the way you get to school every day. So pick a day next week, wake up a bit earlier, pull out that old bike from the garage and challenge yourself to try something new! You have nothing to lose.
If you need any assistance in regards to biking to school, comment below or contact me personally at [email protected]. I will be more than happy to help you realize the joy of cycling.