So It’s Your First Bike to Work Day…

Every Wednesday leading up to Bike to Work Day, we’ll post here about ways you can get ready for the region’s biggest annual celebration of bike commuting. Register for Bike to Work Day now!

Is this your first time participating in Bike to Work Day? We’re so excited that you’ve decided to join us! Lots of people who are new to bicycle commuting will be out and on the roads with you, figuring out how riding to work, well, works. To make things a little less tricky, here’s a little guide to help get you and your bike ready for the commute.

What is Bike to Work Day?
Bike to Work Day encourages commuters to try bicycling to work as an alternative mode of transportation. BTWD is a free event and open to everyone in the Washington area. It’s a yearly celebration of biking in our city! This year, it’s on May 17. For more information, see last week’s post.

Why bike to work?
Besides being one of the most convenient, least expensive ways to get around town, it’s fun! Bike commuting is better for the environment, your wallet, and your waistline.

How do I sign up?
Register using this link. If you’d like a free Bike to Work Day 2013 T-shirt, be sure to register early.

What’s a pit stop and what happens there?
When you sign up, you’ll be asked to select your pit stop location. Pit stops are organized meetups in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia where you can enjoy Bike to Work Day festivities. Each pit stop provides free T-shirts for pre-registered participants, food and drinks, and friendly staff and volunteers. Some locations will provide entertainment or raffle giveaways.

Hours vary by location, so be sure to check with your pit stop manager to find out what time yours is open. Find a pit stop on your route to work.

How do I prepare for Bike to Work Day?
Once you’ve signed up for the event, you’ll need to track down, rent, repair, or purchase a bike. There are tons of bike shops in the D.C. area, and WABA members get a discount at many of them. If you’re looking to rent a bike, Capital Bikeshare, as always, has short-term memberships available. Bike and Roll is providing complimentary rentals for Bike to Work Day riders on May 17.

If you normally drive or take public transportation, planning a bike-friendly route to work is essential. Several tools are available online, including Google Maps’ bicycling directions and

Scope out the area near your office or school prior to riding to find out where bike parking is available. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and consider the weather before heading out. Sunglasses and sunscreen or a rain jacket are advised, depending on the forecast! Additionally, D.C. law requires cyclists under 16 years of age to wear a helmet.

Biking is more fun with good company, so invite colleagues, neighbors, friends, or family to participate with you. Consider it a challenge to get others out on the road with you.

My bike has been sitting in the garage for a while. What should I do to make sure it’s in proper riding condition?
If it’s been a while since you’ve been on your bike, that’s OK! Start off by doing a basic “ABC” check. Check for any small problems in your air, brakes, and chain. Have it looked at by a mechanic if you’re unsure if it’s safe to ride or if you need assistance with flat tires.

Make sure your bicycle is equipped with front and rear lights and a bell, which arerequired by law. A U-lock will be useful, and more substantial than a cable lock, once you arrive at your destination.

Should I ride on the road or the sidewalks?
Riding on the sidewalks is legal in D.C., except in the downtown central business district south of Massachusetts Avenue. While it is not recommended to ride on sidewalks, do whatever feels safe to you. Plan on using a route with bicycle lanes or if you’re comfortable, take the car lane. Still unsure about biking on the streets? Take a Confident City Cycling class with WABA!

What if it rains/snows/hurricanes/earthquakes?!
Bike to Work Day is a rain or shine event. Plan accordingly.

If you’re a first-time commuter or just a first-time Bike to Work Day participant, we hope we’ve helped you to feel a bit more confident. If you’re a Bike to Work Day pro, check back next Wednesday for a post for seasoned veterans like you! In the meantime, we challenge you to pass this along to friends, colleagues, and family members who have been hesitant to commute by bike and who would be able to take advantage of the safety-in-numbers support that Bike to Work Day provides.

Bike to Work Day pros, we’ll see you back here next Wednesday to talk ways you can make 2013 the best bike-commute celebration ever. Sign up for Bike to Work Day now!