Smile Politely

Five days until C-U Bike To Work Day

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed several non-bike commuters who are going to give C-U Bike to Work Day a shot on May 4.

C-U Bike to Work Day is coming up next Tuesday, so be sure to register if you haven’t already.

The last Bike Commuting 101 class is tonight (Thursday) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Durst Cycle and Fitness, located at 1112 W. University Ave. in Urbana. If you feel uncomfortable with the laws, or anything else about commuting by bike, that will be a great place to get your questions answered.

Here’s some updated information from the City of Champaign’s Lorrie Pearson:

  • 415 have registered so far (that was Wednesday at noon; now they’re up to 480-something)
  • over 18% have never biked to work before
  • The Campus, Champaign, and Urbana Bike Stations will feature: a staff member from Champaign Cycle with a “commuter” bike and gear to answer questions. He/she will also provide a basic diagnostic check of your bike and tell you if there are any adjustments or repairs that might be needed, and will have a pump available if your tires are running low. The Bike Project will have someone at the Urbana Bike Station as well.
  • The Campus, Champaign, and Urbana Bike stations will also have bike registration available so you can register your bike with the University or the appropriate city. Should your bike be stolen and recovered, registration could help match you back up with your bike.
  • All Bike Stations will distribute a t-shirt to the first 500 that registered, provide coffee and breakfast snacks, and give you the opportunity to win door prizes, such as:
  1. free registration to Bike the Drive on May 30, where a portion of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago is closed to vehicular traffic and allows bicycles, courtesy of Prairie Cycle Club;
  2. free annual membership to Second Wind Running Club, courtesy of Second Wind;
  3. free classes at Amara Yoga in Urbana, courtesy of Amara.

Pearson also engaged in a Q&A about the event:

Smile Politely: What is your role in the planning for C-U Bike to Work Day?

Lorrie Pearson: As someone that started bicycling to work only after giving it a try at a Bike to Work Day in another community, I am excited about helping to organize our community’s first C-U Bike to Work Day. I have drawn on those experiences in other communities to help create a celebration to encourage and reward those that bike to work for the first time. I am on a dedicated team organizing the event, with team members from Champaign County Bikes, Mishauno Woggon at the City of Champaign, Rebecca Bird at the City of Urbana, and Morgan Johnston at the University of Illinois. MTD and the Village of Savoy have also been important partners for the event.

Smile Politely: What are the most common hang-ups or concerns that keep people from biking to work? How do you try to overcome them with C-U Bike to Work Day?

Lorrie Pearson: There are a number of reasons someone may be hesitant to bike to work. C-U Bike to Work Day is a way to get the word out about how to overcome these concerns. For example, there is a workshop offered on three different days to answer the question, “How do I bike to work?” The event also gets people talking about bicycling to work, so experienced bike commuters can share their experiences with new bike commuters.

Here’s a common concern about biking to work, and is one I used to use before I started bicycling to work: I don’t want to show up to work disheveled and sweaty. I have avoided that problem by wearing lightweight clothing and riding slowly to work. I pack my clothes and take them with me on my bike, or if I plan ahead, I bring a few days’ worth of clothes on that occasional day that I drive. When I bike, I arrive at work refreshed, not disheveled or sweaty.

Other concerns expressed include how to ride safely, the distance someone would have to bike to get to work, or not knowing the best way to get to work by bicycle. To learn how to ride safely, refer to the League of American Bicyclists. The basic premise is to follow the same rules as a car–for example, ride with traffic, stop at stop signs and lights, and signal your turns. The workshops will cover some of the basic principles. To address the distance issue, you could try biking part of the way, then taking the bus the rest of the way. Or drive your bike to a co-worker’s house, then bike to work together. To find a good route to work, look at the Champaign-Urbana Bicycle Map, or ask someone else that bicycles. If we personally don’t know a good route for you, we probably know someone that does. Attending one of the workshops will put you face-to-face with an experienced bicyclist that can make route suggestions.

Smile Politely: What are the goals of this year’s C-U Bike to Work Day ?

Lorrie Pearson: We would like to provide a reason for someone to try biking to work, and C-U Bike to Work Day can be that reason. Once you register for the event, you’ve set your goal to work toward. Once you join us at a Bike Station, you’ll be rewarded with coffee, fruit, and other breakfast items. There will be giveaways and prizes, and camaraderie among the participants. It’s a celebration we hope many new and experienced bicyclists will join.

Since this is our first C-U Bike to Work Day, we will use the event to determine what changes to make for next year. For example, we will look at where people are riding from and where they’re riding to, which will help us decide where to have the Bike Stations next year.

Smile Politely: Feel free to share anything you’d like about your personal commuting experience or anything you want to emphasize about the event.

Lorrie Pearson: Champaign-Urbana is a great place to bicycle to work. The distances across town are relatively short, and most areas are fairly flat. Give it a try on C-U Bike to Work Day!

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