Guide to Bike Commuting 3: Getting Going


(Editor’s note: Also read Margaret’s first two posts in this series: Get the Right Gear and Wrinkles. Sweat and Showers.)

Now that you have all your belongings in order, all you have to do is figure out how to get there.

Plan your route. Before you bike for the first time, do a test run on a weekend. This will give you a chance to see how long it will take, find the best route, and get comfortable with the ride when there is less traffic. Check Google Maps or a local biking Web site (here in the Washington, DC area, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a good one) to find side streets or trails that you could take.

Stick with your route. Maybe it’s just me, but when riding with traffic I want to be prepared for every pothole, the length of every stoplight, and hidden driveways — and the only way to do that is to become familiar with your route. Safety first! And keep your head on a swivel — don’t assume anything.

Make it work! There are a lot of superficially “good” reasons not to try biking, but most of them can be overcome with a little creativity. And it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing activity. If your commute is really long, try driving or taking mass transit part of the way. Or bike just one way every day (carry your bike on your car Monday morning, ride home Monday afternoon, ride in Tuesday morning, drive your bike home Tuesday afternoon, etc.).

Focus on why you are doing it. I’m sure you know all the great reasons to give it a try, but I’ll say them again anyway: You’ll save money, you’ll get more exercise and you’ll arrive at work refreshed and invigorated. But of course the biggest reason of all is that you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint. Transportation is a huge contributor to U.S. carbon emissions, and every car trip we can avoid will help. Even if you can’t bike to work, consider investing in a bike for short weekend trips to the store or casual dinners out. It all adds up.

Bonus Tip: Just do it. Like most things in life, the first time is always the hardest. Once you work it into your routine, you’ll miss it if you don’t do it for a day or two.

(Image courtesy Margaret Southern/TNC.)

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. Don’t forget an extremely helpful accessory for commuting – a side mirror. Saved my life many times.

  2. This really integrates well in my life. I get my daily amount of exercise no matter what! Making my excercise a destination motivates me.
    Look out for your right pant leg if you choose to bike. The gear grease will get on your pants if you don’t roll them up or wrap your pant leg with a band.

    Layers are essential in winter!

  3. I live in Singapore where the weather is hot, sticky and humid 365 days in the year. As a student 40 years ago, I cycled everywhere, being too poor to afford bus fare. But as a working adult now, I find it impossible to cycle anywhere because of the weather and the huge increase in motor traffic. People living in temperate countries are fortunate that the weather in spring and autumn makes it invigorating to cycle!

  4. Great series. I could never consider biking in US when I worked for TNC. Bus was quite convenient and inexpensive than commuting to work by car. Now that I am in India, I first got fed up driving a car, then down to a motorcycle, now bicycle. Still don’t commute by that – need to figure out how to carry laptop without hurting my back; and waiting for monsoon rains to get over. But one thing is for certain – when I go for just joy rides, bicycle is far better than other forms of transport.

  5. I can’t wait to get back on my bike. Ever since I injured my wrist, I’ve been having to shell out extra to the NYC MTA to get places it would be faster to get to on my bike. It’s amazing how slow those buses go, added to the time you have to wait for them! Bikes and trains all the way. Yes, even in the near freezing heavy rain.

Add a Comment