I recently came across a great post on commuting to work on your bicycle called “Zen Your Commute”. I’ve ridden my bike to work in the past, and I’m getting inspired to start again. Using your bike to commute to school, the clinic or the hospital is a great way to add a little exercise to your day and has other benefits, too.
Reasons to think about riding your bike to work.
1. You’ll stay (or become) thinner
2. No gas money
3. No issues with parking
4. You’ll be more fit
5. Good social time if you can ride with a friend
6. It’s great “clearing your head” time that helps with the transition between work and personal life
Getting the right bike
Ok, when was the last time you got a new bike?
When you were 10?
Do you remember how exciting it was?
It still is – there is something amazing about treating yourself to a new bike! (Or asking for one for your birthday or a special holiday).
There are a wide variety of bicycles – and all of them can be used for commuting to work. There are bikes designed specifically for commuting, but most people find that a hybrid bike is the most practical choice. The key is to go to a good store, talk to knowledgeable salespeople and friends who ride – and try a variety of bikes.
Most of us can’t wear bike clothes to work, and don’t want to wear work clothes on our bike. (If you wear scrubs all the time, it might work…). One strategy is to take a week’s worth of clothes to the hospital/clinic/office on the weekend. A second strategy is to use a packing “system” (also great for your suitcase) to arrive at work with wrinkle free clothes. Eagle Creek’s “Pack-It Folders” are probably the best known example of these systems, but you can shop around for others. If you want to spend the money, there are bike suit carriers for business clothes that you can buy.
Another issue is how to clean up when you get to work. Unlike business commuters, we have the advantage of call rooms. You’ll nearly always be able to find a shower you can use in the hospital. (If you are a medical student, you can ask the upper levels to help with this).
Carrying your stuff.
We all have “stuff” to take to work… which can be a challenge on a bicycle. Everyone has seen bike messenger bags… but they probably aren’t the right choice for this purpose. They don’t have much room and the high center of gravity isn’t ideal for safety. Ditto for back packs. Plus, when it’s warm, you end up with a back soaked in sweat if you carry your stuff in a messenger bag or backpack.
The best way to carry stuff on your bike is a pannier or carrier basket on the back of your bike. You’ll need to have a rear rack in either case. Panniers are usually a pair of soft, waterproof bags that clip onto the rack. An alternative is rigid wire carrier baskets.
Don’t lose your bike! One of the things you need to carry is a good bike lock.
Safety is key when you are commuting on a bike. At a minimum, you need
- A good helmet
- A bright headlight
- Flashing red lights (plural)
- A reflective vest
Another key concept is picking the right route. It’s not necessarily – in fact it’s not usually – the shortest route. You may be better going through a neighborhood or a little out of your way to find the safest route. Google maps has now added bike routes. If you live far from school/work, think about driving part way (or using public transportation) and then riding the rest of the way. You can also bicycle to a park and ride location and then take the bus/train. Most cities have bike clubs, bike shops or city sponsored information about cycling routes. A quick internet search and/or conversation with others who commute to work on a bike will lead to a lot of information!
Even if you pick the right route, you may encounter dangers from stupid (or just mean) drivers. Knowing how to protect yourself from the most common dangers is important.