How to get the most out of Bike to Work Month

Anne MacCorquodale and Dave Noiseux have both started riding their bikes to work — and so far, they have no regrets.

From fancy maps to testimonials from 2 new cyclists, here's your guide

May is Bike to Work Month. Dave Noiseux and Anne MacCorquodale are both recent cycling converts, and say the change gets them to work faster — while costing them less. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Two Bike to Work newbies who are finally getting into gear and using their bicycles to commute say they're finding more pros than cons to the change. 

Anne MacCorquodale works downtown at Nav Canada and started biking a mere three days ago. She thanks a change in jobs for convincing her to get on a bicycle every morning. 

"I was working out of the airport, and it was just a little bit too far for me and a little bit too scary," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on the first day of Bike to Work Month.

"I moved downtown to this job, and I decided that — once the snow finally melted — I was determined I was going to cycle this year. So I've done it."

Quicker than the bus

Dave Noiseux cycles from his home in Hull to his job at the University of Ottawa. He began the two-wheel commute in April. 

Noiseux told Ottawa Morning he really had no excuse not to bike to work, since his family only has one car and is trying to keep it that way.

He said the switch has proven good for his health — he's already lost a couple of pounds — and it's cheaper and quicker than taking the bus. 

I'm not the most confident cyclist, so for me, it's all about making sure I can choose the safest option that I can.- Anne MacCorquodale

"It's definitely faster coming in by bike. It can vary coming in by bus. On a fast day it'll be 30, 40 minutes, including walking at both ends. But if there's traffic, forget it. It can take over an hour," he said. 

The benefits outweigh the negatives, MacCorquodale said, so anyone thinking of trying to bike to work might as well give it a go — even if they're worried about their route and navigating cars. 

"I've got a number of different options, so it really is safe for me," she said. "I'm not the most confident cyclist so for me it's all about making sure I can choose the safest option that I can."

Interactive maps for cyclists

One new tool to help cyclists plan safe routes comes courtesy of Bike Ottawa, an advocacy group that promotes cycling in the city. 

The group recently launched a series of interactive online maps that let riders figure out where collision hotspots are and plan their ride based on their own stress level.

Heather Shearer, vice-president of Bike Ottawa, told Ottawa Morning the group used data already available on a platform called Open Street Map.

An example of Bike Ottawa's traffic stress map. (Bike Ottawa)

The maps, Shearer said, to account for factors like speed limits, street widths, and the presence of bike lanes to measure the traffic stress level.

We think it's a great resource.- Bike Ottawa's Heather Shearer

Each street is then given a ranking based on how difficult it is to ride on, Shearer said. Routes are also colour-coded, with blue and green for a comfortable bike ride, yellow for a slightly-stressful one, and red for high stress.

What Bike Ottawa's routing map looks like. (Bike Ottawa)

Those measurements allow cyclists to set the level they're willing to tolerate, Shearer said, and plot a path that won't exceed that level of comfort.

"We think it's a great resource," she said. 

"You can look at street-level images of the city as well ... We went out and took nearly a million photographs of Ottawa at street level. They're all GPS tagged and organized in a way that you'll be familiar with if you use Google Street View."