Our goal is to make D.C. the bicycling capital of the country. Thanks to a steady increase of ridership, miles of bike lanes, cycle tracks, and dedicated paths, commuting by bicycle is getting easier nearly every day. Before we go further, we should warn you: bicycle commuting is addictive!
Take the lane
It’s tempting to ride on the sidewalk, or to squeeze the far right side of the road, but those are in fact the most dangerous places to ride.
Not only is riding on the sidewalk illegal downtown, and not only is it dangerous for pedestrians, it’s dangerous for you too: cars pulling out of driveways don’t expect bicycles to be coming past on the sidewalk.
Broken glass, gravel, opening car doors: this is a small sample of the kind of hazards you’ll see at the far edge of the road, so why would you want to ride there? By riding down the center of the lane, not only do you make yourself more visible to motorists, and discourage them from trying to squeeze by you, but you also make a statement: bicyclists belong on the road too.
Signal your intentions when you are turning. Don’t swerve all over the road suddenly if you don’t need to. Stop at red lights. This is what is expected of road users, which you are, right? By being predictable, you make it easy for motorists to stay clear of you. Besides, it’s the courteous thing to do.
Plan your route
The most direct route may not be the safest, or fastest way to get to work. Try taking quieter neighborhood streets: many of them now have bike lanes. Google maps is a great tool to help you plan your route. You can turn on the bicycling overlay, which shows not only the bike lanes, but also quieter roads suggested for riding. If you create directions using Google maps in your browser, it will even show you the elevation changes, so you can plan the flattest (or hilliest, if you’re in to that) commute possible. Try clicking and dragging the blue line once you’ve got directions and it will adjust the route automatically if you want to go by a certain point. Of course, the BicycleSPACE staff is a great resource as well: feel free to ask us about the best routes in town! Stop in for a free copy of DDOT's Bike Map.
What you need:
You can commute to work on any bike, but we believe the simpler and more reliable, the better. Purpose-built commuting bikes like the Jamis Commuter series feature racks and fenders already built in, as well as a more upright riding position for better visibility.
While bicycle commuting is quite safe, accidents unfortunately do happen, and wearing a helmet could save your life. All of our helmets are CPSC certified, so as we like to say, the best helmet is the one you wear. Get one that fits you properly and protects your forehead, and make sure you think it looks cool. It’s worth the extra dollars to get one you like, otherwise you won’t wear it.
A way to carry your stuff
While a backpack or messenger bag will do, you can avoid the sweaty and sore back by letting the bike do the work for you with a rack and panniers (the bags you can hang on a bike rack). We’re especially fond of the Tubus racks, they’re lightweight and last a lifetime. Ask our mechanics if your bike can accept a rack. We’ve found Ortlieb bags to be the best in the business: not only are they super durable and waterproof, but all the small parts are replaceable, and they have the best attachment system we’ve ever seen.
You may decide only to commute in the long summer days, but you never know when you might have to stay late, past sunset, at work. If you think you might be riding after dark, do yourself a favor and get a white front and red rear light. If you look at staff bikes, you’d see just about every one of them sports a Light and Motion Urban combo. We like them because they’re bright as an honor roll student, waterproof, USB rechargeable, and give you 360 degrees of visibility.
For a really low maintenance option, ask us about dynamo lighting options: using a dynamo front hub, these bad boys use the rotation of your wheel to power your lights without a need for batteries—it’s nearly magical the first time you see it in action.