It’s very easy to come up with excuses to justify why you could never possibly ride to work. However, for almost every excuse, there’s at least one resolution.
“I don’t have a good bike.”
A “good bike” is really quite subjective. A co-worker of mine started commuting on an old steel frame bike with barely functioning brakes (we fixed those) and only a couple of working gears. If the bike moves, is comfortable and safe, it should do the job. If you then find you’re bitten by the commuting bug, you’ve got a great excuse to upgrade or get a second bike. (And then a third, a fourth…. 🙂
“I’ve got too much stuff to carry.”
I usually carry a full change of clothes, my laptop, breakfast, lunch, first aid kit, showering stuff, a towel, bike lock, tools and other misc bits and pieces. All this fits into a fairly small backpack. Many people do cross-country / cross-continent tours carrying their own gear. Hauling a few things to work isn’t really that bad.
“My clothes will get all wrinkled.”
If, like me, you can’t store a change of clothes at your office, then rolling clothes, rather than folding them, helps keep them wrinkle-free. When I first started commuting, I considered a whole new “commuting wardrobe” of clothes that were guaranteed to be wrinkle-free. After seeing how much that would have cost, I decided I could live with a few wrinkles. I do work in a corporate environment, so can’t do the jeans and t-shirt thing. If you’re concerned about clothes getting wet, pack them in a waterproof stuff sack or a garbage bag.
“There’s nowhere to lock / store my bike.”
Check surrounding buildings for designated lockup areas. Check your office for possible space (under a stair well, in the basement, in a maintenance room, etc, etc.) Often, the maintenance staff are a good resource for suggesting possible safe storage spots. If there are other commuters / potential commuters, consider recommending to your boss or building managers that an area be designated for bike storage. Bikes really don’t take up much room. A single parking spot in a parkade can easily fit ten bikes. If your building charges for parking, odds are that charging a minimal yearly fee for bike parking would more than cover the cost of loosing that one car parking spot.
If you’re looking for help in convincing your employer to support a commuting program — whether it’s just letting you ride to work or getting them to build bicycle storage facilties — check out the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin commuter site. It’s packed full of fantastic commuting info, including ideas, stats, resources and more, all around generating employer support for a commuting program. The City of Calgary also has an excellent Draft Bicycle Parking handbook (.pdf) that talks about different types of bicycle storage solutions.
“It would take way too long.”
My 20 km ride (one way) takes me roughly 35 – 45 minutes by bike. I could probably take a faster, more direct route, but I prefer the quiet and scenic pathways to the main roads. By bus / train, a fast (no mechanical problems — a rarity) trip takes about 60+ minutes. If I drive, I can be sitting stewing behind the wheel for 60 – 120 minutes. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get to work by bike.
Obviously, distance is a factor. If you do live too far away, consider driving part of the distance and biking the rest. Rent a driveway from a co-worker who lives closer that you do. Talk to a Walmart (or any big chain) to see if you can park in their lot — be courteous and don’t take a spot right by the store’s doors. Also try and give them some of your business for their generousity.
You could also drive in with your bike on your car, park and ride home after work. The next day, ride into work and drive home with your bike.
Another option is to talk to your local government offices about designating “park and ride” spots throughout the city. The City of Calgary has implemented a number of these “Park ‘N’ Bike” sites.
“There’s no shower where I work.”
Check health clubs or gyms nearby — they may have a “shower only” membership option. You could also check other buildings or offices nearby.
Or, (and you might not want to brag about this to your co-workers) you may not really need to shower…
Baby wipes make a great replacement for a shower and are easily transportable. While a shower is certainly nice, a quick wipe down of the “stinky zones” will ensure you don’t offend co-workers’ noses. You can also use a pre-moistened face cloth in a zip-lock bag if you don’t like the feel of baby wipes.
“The weather sucks.”
There’s a saying here in Calgary… “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” You never know what the weather’s going to be like here. I’ve ridden in blistering heat and freezing hail in the same day. I’ve been drenched by rain and frozen by snow in the same day. Yes, the weather sucked, and sometimes I wimped out. Our winters (and sometimes springs) can give us a few feet of snow and temperatures of -35C not including the windchill. The weather can be horrible… but not every day. If you prepare for it, cycling in the snow is actually very refreshing. And, as my wife is so fond of telling me, “You’re not made of sugar — you won’t melt…”