Why Bike to Work Day Matters

I used to grumble about Bike to Work Day. “People don’t need a special day to ride their bikes. Every day you work could be bike to work day,” I would self-righteously think. “Bike to Work Day? You mean, Friday?”

My feelings about bike commuting were somewhat in the realm of  “Back in my day, I  walked to school in five-feet high snow drifts wearing sandals, and I liked it!” Silliness.

I’ve always been a recreational rider, but I didn’t get there on my own. My parents believed it important for us to learn to ride and to always have functional bicycles. They encouraged us to ride or walk when possible, and instilled the value of active transportation in us from an early age.

Bike to Work Day - Ted and Ed

When I moved to the city, I brought that mentality with me. I committed to living close to work so that an active commute – either walking or riding – would be the easiest way for me to travel to work.

But this is not the case for many residents. Not everyone lives close to their work, and not everyone rides regularly, recreationally or otherwise.

Bike to Work Day – this past Friday in Washington, D.C. – is an opportune time to experiment with a different kind of commute. The support is there for riders via the pit stops offered throughout the city and beyond.

Cyclists, new and experienced, fill the roads and multi-use paths even more than they would on a regular workday and veteran riders and drivers have a heightened sense of the riders in their orbit – I think, anyway.

Bike to Work Day-Brian and Michael

Many daily bike commuters see Bike to Work Day as a day that celebrates what we do every day. That’s what it’s become for me. This year I teleworked on Bike to Work Day, but still went out in the morning to soak in the day’s energy. I know BikeDC commuters who ride to multiple pit stops, eat treats, pick up swag, and chat with other riders they know. A commuter buddy called it Bike Thanksgiving.

But for others, Bike to Work Day is an invitation to try a different path. For the first time since I moved here, two friends tried bike commuting to work for the first time on Bike to Work Day. One of them is an experienced cyclist who rode 40 miles one-way. The other is a beginning rider who lives about 7 miles from the office.

Bike to Work Day, BicycleSPACE Pit Stop
Bike to Work Day, BicycleSPACE Pit Stop

The experience each had was distinct, but both used Bike to Work Day as a springboard to a new way of commuting. They pumped up their tires, mapped their ride, and tested themselves to see if they could do it, knowing that community support was in place for them.

One of my friends commented on all the cars double parking, something you might not think about as a pedestrian or while in a car. He also said he was initially intimidated, and uncertain whether he could actually do the ride to and from work.

My friend with more cycling experience expressed satisfaction that he executed a 40-mile route from his suburban home into the heart of the city.

Bike to Work Day

Bike advocates would add that Bike to Work Day matters in other ways, too. Organizations track the number of people who sign up for Bike to Work Day, and advocacy and urban planning groups use it as an indicator of the number of cyclists riding to work in our area.

That is important, but this year, I focused on the small-scale change that results from an individual using Bike to Work Day to experiment with active transportation by bike.

Bike commuting can change your life, all for the better. It’s healthy and immersive, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s exciting to see how opportunities like Bike to Work Day help unveil the benefits of bike commuting, one person at a time.

7 thoughts on “Why Bike to Work Day Matters

  1. Bike Thanksgiving! I love it. I visited six rest stops. At the fifth (Freedom Plaza) a fellow #HumpDayCoffeeClub commuter told me that another VA commuter was hitting 10 stops! Too many to stop and enjoy the atmosphere, enter a drawing to win something (alas, not this year), chat with old friends, and make new ones. Had a fascinating conversation with a woman I saw at two stops (Georgetown and National Geographic) — she had a wonderful child carrier (with child) across the top tube, a pannier whose brandname I didn’t recognize (Kiko), and a package of diapers slung under the handlebars (a first for both her and me).

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  2. This is a great, a thoughtful post, and Bike 2 Work is a wonderful idea. I love seeing cyclists on the road, whether they’re kids delivering papers on their BMX machines, mums with toddlers (like Leslie saw), other commuters or MAMILs. They all make me feel safer and more confident in my cycling.

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  3. I don’t know if this is national, but here in (the other) Washington it is now called “Bike Everywhere”. I like that a lot as it include us retirees, school kids, errand runners and coffee/tea drinkers, and everyone else who bikes somewhere.

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  4. I had a great BTWD, and joined 30 others on a Tour de Breakfast, riding 40 miles and stopping at 6 stations along the way. I’ll take any excuse to ride, but free food is the best one.

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  5. Great event, the data collection reminds me that Strava use their big data, heat maps etc to help push for safer routes, cycle path/lane planning etc. Although only a certain group are on Strava it can give an indication of usage and growth in cycling.

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  6. BTWD is awesome! Especially when it is covered by the media, and gives more attention to biking as a means of transportation. I wish there was also a bike day of the month.

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  7. I too wondered how to treat World Carfree Day when most days for me are car-free… so I like the idea of celebrating our commutes by bike on this particular day… I will keep that in mind for the next event. Thank you for sharing.

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