British Columbians who regularly ride their bicycles to work will likely have extra company on the road this week.
Bike to Work B.C. reports that 3,634 first-time commuter cyclists registered last year, up from 3,583 in 2012, and 2,877 in 2011.
If you're thinking of biking to work for the first time this year, here are some tips to help make the transition:
1. Plan your route in advance.
Check your city or town's website for information about bike routes and incorporate them into your ride if possible.
Consider taking side streets, rather than busy roads. Try doing a "practice" commute on a weekend or in the evening, when you're not pressed for time to get to work.
2. Make sure your bike is tuned up and running smoothly.
A well-tuned bike makes for a smoother, safer and more enjoyable ride. Check that your brakes are working, your tires are pumped and your chain is oiled before you set out to ride to work that first time.
3. Gather the essential gear.
You don't need a lot of fancy gear to ride your bike, but you do need a helmet (it's the law), a lock (to keep your bike safe), front and rear lights (to keep you safe while riding in the dark) and a bell or horn (to let people know you're coming).
Saddlebags, panniers or a basket are nice to have a take a load off your back, but a knapsack will also do the trick for hauling your stuff. Gloves and rain gear make for a more comfortable ride in inclement weather.
4. Find out what bike facilities exist at your workplace.
Is there a safe place to lock up your bike? Are there showers on site, or a place to store your gear? Do you need a special key to access the bike facilities?
Many workplaces have space set aside for cyclists. You can find out what's available by talking to cyclists in your workplace, or by asking someone in your human resources department.
5. Find a bike buddy.
Chances are someone in your workplace already bikes to work, or you know a cyclist who works in the area. Ask if he or she will bike to work with you, and if they have any tips.
6. Plan your wardrobe.
If you're planning on wearing special bike clothes, make sure you also pack ALL the clothes you plan to change into at work. Otherwise you could find yourself unexpectedly wearing cycling tights all day long.
You may not even need any special clothing. Many people regularly ride to work in their regular clothes — suits, skirts and even heels. Just take it slow and don't sweat it.
7. Remember the rules of the road.
If you haven't ridden your bike in a while, familiarize yourself with the rules of the road and follow them. You may even want to take a course. Either way, play it safe and be respectful of other road users, including pedestrians, car drivers and other cyclists.
8. Take your time and enjoy the ride!
Cycling can be a fun, relaxing way to commute and an easy way to build some exercise into your day. Give yourself plenty of time to get to work, especially if you're just starting out as a bike commuter.
If you're in Metro Vancouver, you may want to build in some time to stop at one of the many commuter stations set up around the region during Bike to Work Week. You can enjoy a snack, get your bike tuned up, or pick up more information about cycling.