By Blythe Copeland, Treehugger
Trading your car for a bike can make a huge difference to your carbon footprint — and to your wallet, as gas gets increasingly expensive. But even when you know how beneficial the swap would be, it’s easier to come up with reasons to stick to your current commute than to branch out onto a bike.
If any of these six excuses are holding you back from bike commuting, it’s time to get over it.
1. You’re carrying too much stuff.
If you’re feeling weighed down with files, your laptop, your brown-bag lunch, and that change of clothes, hauling all your loot on a bike can seem overwhelming.
But a chic messenger bag, a high-tech pannier, or just a classic basket can help you carry everything in style, and even leave room for you to stop on the way home and pick up those last-minute groceries.
And if dropping the kids off at daycare is part of your daily routine, then bring them along on the bike: Invest in a carrier, and then unhook it and leave it at the daycare provider until you’re back to pick them up in the afternoon. They’ll be happy to skip the rush-hour traffic, too.
2. It’s raining (or hot, or humid).
We know you don’t want to show up at work looking all bedraggled from a commute in wet weather, or from biking through humid city streets on the steamiest summer mornings.
But this problem is easily fixed with a few simple adjustments: First, you need the right gear. Look for breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics that won’t leave you soaked (or smelly), and durable, waterproof jackets that will keep most of the water away (like Runshade shirts from Patagonia and the Lightbeam hoodie from Nau).
It’s also a good idea to stash a change of clothes at your desk (or in your gym locker, if that’s nearby) for days when you didn’t check the weather before leaving the house — and toss in an extra stick of deodorant and a hairbrush for everyday use
3. It’s Snowing.
While winter cycling brings up some of the same issues as wet- or hot-weather riding (like wearing something that you can change out of when you get to work so you don’t end up in those ice-crusted pants at your 9 a.m. meeting), it also offers challenges that are all its own.
You need riding gear that’s warm but still breathable — check your local fitness store for cold-weather workout options — and a bike that can take on salty, icy, snowy streets (a mountain bike is often better than a road bike in these situations).
If you live in an area where you expect plenty of rough weather, then studded tires are a good safety investment, and you’ll want to have an extra inner tube and a patch kit on hand, too, since the harsher terrain makes you more likely to pop a tire.
Keep your bike clean so that the dirt and debris on the road don’t jam it up, and remember to keep your battery lights fresh (since you’ll be spending more time on the road in the dark, you’ll use them more).
Image Credit: MoBikeFed/Flickr
4. You Don’t Want Helmet Hair
Is this the real reason you aren’t riding your bike to work — the one you’re too embarrassed to mention? We thought so.
No one wants to have helmet hair at work, but there are ways you can deal with it. There’s the $470 collar helmet from Hovding, which only inflates on impact, but you can also try a low-maintenance hairstyle; keep a stash of products at your office; or plan to hit the gym and shower after the commute but before going into work.
Another option: If you live near public transportation, try bringing your bike on the subway or bus on mornings when you really need your hair to look its best (like at that breakfast meeting with the CEO), and then ride home
5. It Takes Too Long
Depending on where you live (think bumper-to-bumper traffic, extra time needed to find a parking spot), cycling usually takes longer than driving. It may take longer than public transportation, too, but that depends on how close you live to the bus or train station and how reliable your city’s service is.
But you can make up that time elsewhere throughout your day: First, you won’t be sitting in traffic, so your ride will feel much faster, and you’ll also be focusing on what’s around you instead of entertaining yourself during stop-and-go traffic.
The physical side of things also means you can cut down (or totally eliminate) your daily card sessions at the gym. Just imagine: Instead of going from a stuffy office to a boring treadmill, you could let the fresh air and sunshine rejuvenate your spirit. Doesn’t that sound a lot better?
6. You’re scared of traffic.
Not wanting to fight cars, trucks, taxis, and school buses on your way to work each day is completely understandable, but think about it this way: None of the drivers on the road want to hurt you.
Taking the proper safety precautions — like using signals and lights, riding in bike lanes, and following the traffic laws — lets drivers know where you are and what you’re doing, and that makes them able to give you the space you need to ride safely.
This is also the kind of fear that only goes away with plenty of practice — so look over these 10 tips for cycling with traffic, study up on the rules of the road, buckle your helmet and get out there. You’ll be so glad to be no longer stuck in those morning traffic jams that you’ll be more confident in no time.