Commuting by bike is a bitch!
Once you're out there it's cool, but mustering up the energy to do it everyday ain't easy. There is a ton of planning that you have to do before biking to work for the first time.
Once I decided (or learned) that I would be biking to work - at least some of the time - I started to think about all that I would need in order to make the process as simple as possible. I'll recount the steps I followed in the event that you find yourself wanting or needing to commute by bike. This first part in the series will be about assessing the workplace facilities and policies regarding bicycles.
I'm fortunate, in that my company has a small fitness area and locker room in the basement. Now I haven't actually been in either in years so I went downstairs to check out the situation. I was impressed. The room was clean with two showers and a sink area and around 30 lockers.
Great. Showering at work is an option. One problem, however, is the fact that there is a big sign over the lockers stating that nothing must be left in them overnight. WTF?
So I marched on over to the facilities manager to ask about this and other bike related policies.
Me: "I'm going to start biking to work. I'd like to leave my shower supplies in a locker, but the sign says that nothing can be left overnight?"
Facilities Manager (FM): "Oh yeah, we don't have a locker for everyone so it wouldn't be fair if we let people have them overnight."
Me: "But nobody is using them...they are all completely empty."
FM: "Well you can go to HR and ask them to change the policy. The lockers are really a corporate benefit. We just clean and maintain them."
Me: "Ok," now changing the subject, "where can I store my bike?"
FM: "In the back. Behind the building. there is a rack back there."
Me: "But, I'll be riding in all types of weather...rain...snow...I'd like to keep my bike inside if possible. Can I lock it to the stair case railing, or in a storage closet of some sort?"
FM: "No. Possible fire hazard."
Me: "Well how about I bring it into my office?" (I have a private office).
FM: "No. If it is resting on the floor it will be considered a fire hazard."
Don't you just love when people trot out the old "fire hazard" excuse. I wonder what she would do if I mounted a rack to the wall and hung the bike up off the ground? After-all, I'm allowed to hang photographs, why not a bike?
I decided that I would not fight any further and that I would need to work within the "rules." This would mean that I would now need to buy a lock and cover for my bike that would be parked outside.
Since I would not be allowed to leave things in the locker, I would need to bring shower supplies back and forth to the office each day. So now I would need a bag that would help me carry:
- shower supplies
- work clothes (at my company that usually means khakis and a dress shirt - no jeans)
- spare inner tube
My commute would only be five miles so I wondered if I could get away without having to take a shower when I arrived. The first time I rode to work I showered before I left and brought my shower supplies in case I was a stinky mess when I arrived. I probably sweat about as much as when I am running through an airport trying to catch a connecting flight. Enough to be sticky, but not dripping. The worst part was the helmet hair. I used a wet comb to smooth things out, but it never felt right all day. I decided that the experiment was marginally successful, but that it would be best to shower after arriving.
Now what do you do if you do not have a locker room or shower in your workplace?
Two thoughts come to mind. First, you could join a nearby gym on a part time basis to use their facilities. Alternatively, there may be other companies in the area that do have shower facilities and locker room. You may be able to talk with your HR department about contacting another company and work out an arrangement for you to use their facilities.
If you have no option to shower when you arrive then all hope is not lost. Simply slow down and take a leisurely pace into the office. This of course becomes more difficult the farther you have to commute. In addition, if you are commuting through the winter it will be difficult to keep warm without raising the heart rate.
As you can see, there is much to think about when deciding to commute to work by bike. There are a whole host of logistical issues that I will enumerate in subsequent posts. Meanwhile, if you bike to work, let us know if you have encountered these issues and any creative solutions you have.