On August 6, you may notice more cyclists on the roads than normal — it’s National Cycle to Work Day! Commuting via bicycle has myriad benefits for you and the environment. You get exercise on the way to the office and on the way home, plus lots of fresh air and sunshine to help you feel energized all day long. Opting to bike to work also puts one less car on the road, reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. If you’ve ever considered trading your steering wheel for handlebars, here are tips to make your commute fun, safe and easy.
Map Your Route
Chapel Hill is full of bike paths, greenways and bicycle-friendly roads. Check out this map to plan how you’ll get from your home to your office.
Even more bike lanes and paths are in the works. Glen Lennox is implementing its Copenhagenize strategy to make the community extremely friendly to both cyclists and pedestrians. This plan includes protected lanes and enhanced safety features at major intersections.
Triangle area agencies are also working on an ambitious plan to create a 17-mile shared-use path that would connect Chapel Hill to Durham, Research Triangle Park, Morrisville, Cary and Raleigh along the I-40 and NC54 corridor. You can learn more about the project and participate in a survey at trianglebikeway.com.
Get the Right Gear
Visit a local bike retailer to get gear that will make commuting easier and safer. The Bicycle Chain, Trek Bikes and Back Alley Bikes carry a full array of accessories, helmets, clothing, shoes and tires/tubes to outfit your bike.
If you need to transport a laptop, lunch, change of clothes, etc., with you, adding a pack, rack or basket will allow you to securely stow your items. A trunk bag fits over the rear wheel and its zippered compartments can keep items dry in case of a pop-up rainstorm or puddles.
Having a comfortable seat is ideal if you’re riding regularly. Consider swapping out the seat that came with your bike for a more ergonomic or better-fitting saddle. You’ll also want to be sure to add water bottle holders so you can stay hydrated.
In case you get a flat, you should always carry a spare tube and a kit for changing it so you aren’t late for work. Don’t know how to change a bike tire? Check out this step-by-step tutorial from REI.
Having bright or neon clothes and a helmet will help make you more visible to automobiles, so always opt for these colors over darker ones. For evening commutes, install a flashing light on both the front and back of your bike to assist with visibility and be sure your reflectors are not obscured by other accessories, like packs.
If the route to your office has too many hills for your liking, you may want to consider an electronic bike. E-bikes allow you to go further and faster with pedal-assist technology that can reach speeds of up to 28 miles per hour. The batteries have a range of up to 120 miles, so you can easily get back and forth from work on a single charge and without breaking a sweat.
Know the Rules of the Road
The same traffic laws that apply to operating a vehicle also apply to cyclists. All traffic signals and signs should be obeyed, especially stop and yield signs. Ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic, but avoid sidewalks which are solely for pedestrians. If there are pedestrians in your path, you must yield to them.
Hand signals are a great way to communicate with other cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians so they can anticipate your moves. To prepare for a turn, hold your arm out straight for a few seconds in the direction you will be turning. When riding among other cyclists, it is courteous to use signals for stopping, slowing down, giving way, and alerting riders to road hazards such as broken glass or potholes.
Before heading out, it’s a good idea to have a local bike technician check your bike. During a tune up, he or she will assess your bike’s gears, derailleurs, drive chain, tires, and brakes to identify any parts that need to be replaced or repairs that need to be made. With a bike that’s ready to hit the road and all the right gear, you may find yourself commuting via bike year-round!