Even if you're generally allergic to marketing campaigns, Bike to Work Day -- happening tomorrow (Thursday) in San Francisco and beyond -- seems like one of those can't-lose deals. Bicycling in itself isn't that difficult, but if you're going to join the commute, here are some things to expect and ways to get prepared.
Bike to Work Day was initially part of American Bike Month, established in the 1950s by the League of American Bicyclists (hey, not all K-Street lobbyists are evil!). In our far-flung corner of the nation, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is leading the charge. The group says it expects "hundreds of thousands" of people in the Bay Area to observe tomorrow's event, including Mayor Ed Lee and 10 of the 11 supervisors. It has its own Bike to Work Day information page, including group rides, "energizer stations" throughout the city, and bicycle mechanics who'll be out to help. On offer at the energizer stations in the morning and evening will be goodies, schwag-bags, and encouragement, because bikes are just that terrific. Here's a link to an interactive map showing where the stations are.
A press conference is scheduled for the steps of City Hall at 8:30 a.m., according to coalition spokeswoman Kristin Smith, where the first Bicycle Friendly Business Awards will be announced, citing companies that encourage employees to bike to work.
There's also the Bike from Work Party and Fashion Show at Public Works, and lots of reasons to celebrate. Since 2010, the city has put in 23 more miles of bike lanes. And in the past five years, the city has seen a 71 percent increase in the number of bike trips. On last year's big day, bicyclists comprised 75 percent of morning traffic on Market Street.
A lot of you who don't ride to work every day (or ever) will dust off that jalopy in the basement and realize how easy riding is. And for those of you at the other end of the spectrum -- if every day for you is Bike to Work Day (or maybe Bike to Sit and Drink Coffee While Looking for More Work Day) -- you'll be cheered by the hotness of your skills (and maybe find a wealthy suitor).
So if you haven't already, do a few things today or tonight to make sure tomorrow really is the best possible experience.
1. Dust off that helmet.
Then make sure it fits as it should. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has guide for fitting a helmet properly. While you're at it, be sure to wear clothing that will be comfortable enough for the distance you plan to ride.
2. Check tire inflation.
Check the pressure level and be sure it matches the suggested level on the side of the tire. You might find your inner tube is not inflatable at all. If so, flats are cheap to fix, and it's easy to learn. Visit your nearest bike shop or look online for help on both counts.
3. Check your brakes.
Test them to be sure they do what brakes are meant to do.
4. Practice shifting.
People riding geared bikes who don't shift at the right time wind up resembling either the bee in "Flight of the Bumblebee" or a turkey slowly thawing in the sun. Nay, shifting should feel easy like Thursday morning.
5. Plan your route in advance.
This is most important. As I mentioned in Tuesday's column, San Francisco presents a number of intimidating possibilities to which (non-motorized) two-wheelers can and should limit their exposure: massive hills, sprawling intersections, neighborhoods and thoroughfares where congestion trumps good behavior. This S.F.-specific route-mapping tool offers ideas for newcomers and aficionados alike, and it lists options that Google Maps seems to overlook. Take the Wiggle or Market Street if your route really demands it, but otherwise, experiment with other routes to find the best way for you.
Below is a video from Bike to Work Day in 2010 on Market Street, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.
Tomorrow's weather forecast calls for sunny skies with a high temperature in the upper 70s, so get out there and enjoy it, while also helping address this climate-change thing everyone's talking about.