Here’s what it actually takes to #BikeToWork

There are lots of great reasons to bike to work. Health, including fresh air, exercise, and heightened mental awareness are just a few of the obvious benefits of the self-powered commute. As Twitter celebrates Bike to Work Day today, a few of the difficulties many people face in actually planning to bike to work every day should be considered.

Riding a bike to work is not something anybody in a professional environment can do on a whim. If you are going to pedal in to work without a real plan, you’re gonna have a bad time. Sweat, wind, dirt, and many other factors complicate this process, and even if you live close to your place of work, there’s a lot to consider.

If you make the decision that you want to ride to work, here is a list of things you should think about before even hitting the road:

  1. Do you have a bike? If yes, is it tuned up? You need to check tire pressure, gear lubrication, brakes, lights, your bell, and any other accoutrements you might need or want.
  2. There’s a lot of bike gear. What about your helmet, bike shorts, layers in case it’s cold in the morning, proper shoes that can get a little beat up, sunglasses for glare and dust protection, gloves (for warmth and bumpy rides), water bottles, and anything else you can think of.
  3. Can you wear your work attire on the bike? If you work in a business with a uniform or dress code, will you be able to ride without getting your work clothes dirty? If not, you’ll need to bring a change of clothes, and preferably not have them get wrinkled.
  4. Does your place of business have bike parking nearby? Is it safe? Do you have a proper lock or bike storage facility?
  5. How long is the ride, and does your place of work have showers or facilities where it would be easy to clean up for work if you’re sweaty on the other end? Can you leave toiletries, a towel, or any clothing at work, in a place where it will stay safe and clean?
  6. Is the weather cooperating with you today? If it’s raining, that’s a whole other consideration, and if you live in a place with unpredictable weather, a flash rainfall while biking can really ruin your morning.

The place you work can be very supportive of biking to work, but it still won’t be easy to just roll out of bed in the morning without lots of planning. If you drive or take the bus to work, you can probably just get ready at home, and the odds of forgetting an essential piece of clothing or accessory are small. When you bike to work, if you forget a shirt, it’s a big problem. There are ways to reduce these risks if you’re forgetful, but it’s still something to think about.

Now that you’ve thought through your plan and everything is ready to go, you have to actually get on your bike and go. When was the last time you rode your bike? Was it last season? Do you remember how to do it? What about hand signals for turning, are you even comfortable taking your hand(s) off the handlebars?

For many amateur cyclists, biking on the street is a daunting proposition, especially during rush hour. While bike friendly cities can do a lot to support their ridership, the odds are good that you’ll have to interact with a car at some point on your commute. If you’ve biked through a city, you’re well aware of problem areas, especially on older roads. Most drivers aren’t too familiar with the one meter strip on the side of most roadways, but it’s not exactly conducive to a smooth ride on many city streets.

#BikeToWorkDay is a really great initiative, and it goes a long way towards highlighting the reasons getting to work by bicycle is fun and exciting. However, it’s one thing for politicians and people who bike to work one day a year to get through that experience, it’s another thing altogether to consider making it a part of your lifestyle.

Consider pulling your bike out of the garage more often if you can, and please try to show some empathy for commuting cyclists as you pass them in your cars today (and every other day). They are just trying to get home safe, like you.

Shades of Gray

To many folks out there, the world is black and white. Humans, and our descendants, have evolved and survived for millions of years, in part because we can react quickly and make snap judgments that keep us alive.

Today, though, we live in a different kind of environment, one with a lot fewer life-or-death situations. In the modern world, there’s more than enough room for a bit of nuance, but that doesn’t mean our instincts don’t kick in and cause problems from time to time.

One of the easiest situations to think about in these terms is getting scared. The fight or flight reaction is one that is fundamental to all humans, and the accompanying rush of adrenaline comes straight from a time when every day was a fight to stay alive.

Another interesting example of these black and white situations is an allergic reaction. If you have ever suffered through any kind of severe allergy, you know how frustrating it can be to deal with itchy skin, a sore throat, sniffling and red eyes. These reactions are the way your body deals with foreign substances, but in the case of pollen, cat hair, or peanuts, this reaction is incredibly overblown, and can actually cause harm or death.

If our bodies were properly able to understand nuance and context, a scary movie wouldn’t send a rush of adrenaline through our veins, and an allergic reaction wouldn’t cause its potentially deadly symptoms. These reactions saved our ancestors for generations, and they stay in our genes even though the majority of humans don’t live under constant threats.

Take humans’ instinctive reactions as described above, and apply them to a society and world where there is room for interpretation, and time to make judgments. Suddenly, we’re dealing with sexism and racism and discrimination based on categories that make no sense.

For example, transgender people face harassment and judgment every day, in countries around the world. Why? Because large parts of the world believe that either you’re male, or female. Our instincts, which have kept us alive for millions of years, were honed by making quick decisions and placing people and things into groups. Anything that doesn’t fit that categorization has been automatically wrong.

And in most cases, animals (humans included) are male, or female. However, in this instance, the edge cases are pretty important, and not *that* uncommon. This is especially important considering a doctor has a few seconds to determine the biological sex of a child upon delivery, even though that decision will almost certainly impact the child for the rest of their life.

Scientific studies have shown that the standard XX and XY chromosome sets are far from the only genetic combinations humans can have. Not only that, but many genes controlling secondary sexual characteristics, like hair growth and other physical attributes, have little or nothing to do with the sex chromosomes.

And all of this discussion doesn’t even get into the fact that sex and gender have no strong basis in science, especially when it comes to gender roles, personalities, or hobby choices. We set societal expectations based on race and gender as we live our collective lives, these things are not set for us.


The goal of this blog is to explore the gray areas that lie between black and white (and no, there will be no 50 Shades puns).

Leave your preconceived notions and assumptions at the door, they are only relevant once they have been tested and re-tested. It remains a challenge to navigate the modern world without stepping on any toes, but empathy is perhaps the most powerful tool we have. Don’t forget about it.