I have a complicated relationship with biking to work. On one hand, I enjoy it, especially on late spring days like this past Friday. On the other hand, it’s 20 miles one way and takes me about two hours, almost twice as long as it does to walk to the Metro and take the train. As a result, the only time I’ve consistently biked to work is when I was training for the Climate Ride. Nonetheless, I’m a strong supporter of both the concept and the official day that encourages people to do it more often. That’s why I woke up even earlier than I do for my job and schlepped myself to the closest Bike to Work Day pit stop to volunteer last Friday.
While I’ve participated eagerly in the past – despite some logistical issues – I wasn’t participating this year for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, I had the day off and wasn’t going into work just for the sake of biking there. Secondly, I’m far enough along in my pregnancy that biking 20 miles anywhere is completely out of the question, much less at the speed I need to get to work in a reasonable amount of time. Walking home from the Metro often winds me these days.
So instead of participating, I decided to spread the word. I volunteered at one of four pit stops in my town, in a great location right next to several major places of employment. I brought along postcards and flyers for the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee and told people about how we advise the city and the activities we offer. I’ve tabled with so many different activist groups that I’ve got my elevator speech down pat. I also lent my expertise to a few people who were wondering about the best ways to get various places to and from Rockville by bike. While I’m an expert on getting from my neighborhood into D.C., the question of how to get from Gaithersburg to Rockville stumped me. I’ve tried it myself and it’s unpleasant at best.
In addition to information, Bike to Work Day offers participants all sorts of physical perks. Our local grocery store offered both bananas and chocolate muffins – while I should have stuck with the banana, the chocolate called me. Registrants get a nice bag full of goodies, including a water bottle and t-shirt. I even won a prize – a really nice set of lights! Perhaps it was karma for volunteering. I already have a set of lights, so Chris will be able to have a set as well. Either way, we’ll both benefit, as it’s nice to be able to ride in the late afternoon/early evening and not worry about getting stuck in the dusk.
The only disappointing thing was that I expected more participants at our stop. The weather was in the mid-70s and sunny, perfect for riding. Rockville was competing with Frederick, our neighbor to the north, for the most registrants, so I was afraid this would bode poorly for our little contest. However, Rockville had four stops in total – one of them new – so I suspect that even if each stop individually had fewer, we had a substantial increase in riders. We’re still tallying the results, so I’m not sure which one of us won the contest.
Regionally, Bike to Work Day was a huge success, setting a record number of participants. Across the D.C. area, more than 14,000 registered! This infographic from the Washington Area Bicycle Association is a great summary of the event:
Overall, a great event that I was glad to help with even if I couldn’t be an active participant.
Did you or have you participated in Bike to Work Day? What was your experience?
I “biked to work” with Catonsville’s first time ever pit stop. The attendance was encouragingly good, helped I am sure by the terrific weather. I rode with a small but spirited convoy of 3 who did a local 8 mile loop, set up for those who work from home. I used to live in Montgomery Village/ Gaithersburg and you’re right. It is disappointingly difficult to find a decent bike route to Rockville. I always wished for a bikable route to the Shady Grove metro station. Hello, any local officials out there. Creating such a route would have multiple benefits for the area.
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