Have you ever thought about switching from four wheels to two and biking to work? Spoiler, you don’t have to be a hardcore cyclist to do it. You don’t even have to have a special bike! There are a myriad of excuses out there not to do it, but in our opinion, the benefits of commuting via bike far outweigh the negatives.
Here are 9 common myths about biking to work and why you should go for it!
1. It’s dangerous.
Let’s address the biggest factor that prevents many of us from traveling by bike: safety. Sure, cycling involves some risk. But so does driving, and walking, and pretty much every activity that follows waking up and eating a healthy breakfast—assuming you didn’t choke on your oatmeal or trip down the front stairs on your way out.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013 there were 743 cyclists killed and an estimated 48,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, which account for two percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities and injuries in the US. That might sound high considering just one percent of US commuters travel by bike—until you see the pedestrian statistics. In the same year there were 4,735 pedestrians killed, which amounted to 14 percent of the total motor vehicle crashes. But unlike driving—which accounts for the vast majority of injuries and fatalities—most of us believe biking and walking counteract their risk by being better for our bodies, brains, wallets, environments, and senses of well-being.
The good news is that bike commuting is on the rise, and as it increases, so does safety and infrastructure. In the US, bike commuting has grown 62 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2014 while the overall injury rate has increased less than a percentage. Protected bike lanes and bike paths are making safe commutes easier in cities and suburbs—and increased awareness of cyclists is making riding safer in rural areas.
Of course there’s a lot you can do yourself to make riding safer, including following the rules of the road, riding predictably, wearing a helmet, putting lights on your bike, and swagging out in hi-vis everything. But you might also consider the “safety in numbers” principle and convince a few coworkers to form a bike train with you. Not only will you raise your collective visibility and feel better about riding in the streets, but you’ll also have a lot more fun.
2. You need a special bike.
Most of us didn’t start riding to work on that perfect vintage city bike with the rear rack and fenders and custom leather panniers. Most of us started commuting on a department store bike, or a Craigslist special, or in my case, my sister’s old mountain bike with more spiders and cobwebs than miles on it. Any bike can be a commuter bike if you commute on it. In face, you don’t even need a bike at all—there’s no reason not to borrow a bike to see if you like commuting, or if you’re lucky enough to live in a participating city, use a bike share.
3. You can’t do it in normal clothes.
Spandex is optional—when it comes to commuting, you probably already have all the clothes you’ll need in your closet. Plenty of traditional jeans are sturdy enough for everyday biking, but if you’re having trouble finding a pair with enough stretch for pedaling, you might want to try dedicated cycling pants. Levi’s commuter jeans, Betabrand Bike to Work pants, and Giro Mobility trousers have just the right amount of coverage and give to handle your commute—and they don’t look out of place in the office.
4. It’s all or nothing.
Bike commuting doesn’t have to mean riding every day, or even riding the whole way in. You can shorten a really long commute by mixing in public transit (plenty of buses and trains let you bring your bike along or offer bike parking), or even driving some part of the commute with your bike and riding the second leg in. Start small and plan to ride one to two days a week. Chances are, you’ll get the bug and want to ride more often and farther once you start reaping the anti-stress benefits of being on your bike.
5. It’s faster to drive.
If you live in a city, there’s a huge chance it’s faster to ride your bike than drive. That’s because during peak rush hour, most cities have a traffic-slowing corridor that limits automobile traffic to about 10 mph. Check out this data to see if your city has one of the most congested corridors—and start riding your bike ASAP if it does. You won’t get stuck in so much traffic, you won’t have to circle for parking, and you won’t have to slam your fist against your steering wheel in frustration when you find yourself stopped at every light. If your ride to work is long enough that it actually is faster to drive, at least enjoy the fact that you’re saving gym time combining exercise with your commute.