Ditch the Car and Ride Your Bike to Work Tomorrow

On your way to the office tomorrow, you may notice more bike commuters than usual. Friday, May 21 is National Bike to Work Day. To celebrate, Philadelphia’s mayor will pedal to city hall, and St. Louis will have refueling stations throughout the city.  The League of American Bicyclists has compiled links to events across the country taking place on National Bike to Work Day (and events for the rest of May, which is Bike Month).

While the notion of cycling to work may seem novel or strange to many Americans, elsewhere it’s common. As the video below shows, in the Netherlands all kinds of people—some estimates say more than one-third of the population—make their daily commute on bikes. According to the text accompanying the video, it was recorded at around 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday in April 2010 in Utrecht, a city with 300,000 people. The 8-minute recording was compressed to 2 minutes.

Most riders aren’t wearing helmets—probably because they feel safe. According to a 2008 study (pdf) published in the journal Transport Reviews found that “Cycling is over five times as safe in the Netherlands as in the USA and more than three times as safe as in the UK. That might explain why the Dutch do not perceive cycling as a dangerous way to get around.” The authors calculated that for every 10 million km cycled, 37.5 bicyclists are injured in the US, while 1.4 are injured in the Netherlands. When it comes to bicyclists killed per 100 million km cycled: USA 5.8; Netherlands 1.1.

Bike commuting tips:

Bike routes
Many cities have bike lane maps, and Google Maps will plot a cyclist-friendly route for you, as will MapMyRide.com. Goal-oriented riders may be interested in signing up for a free account on MapMyRide, which allows you save your routes and track your mileage (and gear, weight, and other things).

Get $20 a month for riding to work
Bicylce commuters are eligible a tax break similar to the ones that other commuters are eligible for. Under the Bicycle Commuter Act, as of January 1, 2009, employers can reimburse employees who regularly commute to work by bicycle up to $20 a month for reasonable expenses incurred, such as buying, repairing, and storing the two-wheeled vehicle. Click here for more info.

Bike stations

For about $100 a year, cyclists in cities including Washington, DC, Longbeach, and Seattle have access to Bikestations: facilities that offer 24-hour secured bicycle parking, changing rooms, basic repair assistance, maps and more.

Best bicycling cities
Wondering how your town compares? Check out Bicycling magazine’s America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities. Here’s how the magazine picks the best cities for biking:

There are many important things a city can do to gain our consideration for this list: segregated bike lanes, municipal bike racks and bike boulevards, to name a few. If you have those things in your town, cyclists probably have the ear of the local government—another key factor. To make our Top 50, a city must also support a vibrant and diverse bike culture, and it must have smart, savvy bike shops.

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