There’s a class every month at the downtown Dallas Public Library that teaches people the ins and outs of bike-riding in North Texas. It’s called Bike Commuting 101, and it covers everything from bike gear and safety to state biking laws. This week, the cyclists prepared for Bike to Work Day on Friday.
Mark Draz is a cycling instructor with the League of American Bicyclists. He said the first rule is to not take the route you normally would drive. For those of us who are used to driving to the office, it can be tempting to follow the path often traveled.
"It’s well worth it to go 5 to 10 minutes out of your way to take neighborhood streets, bike paths or even to combine your bike with mass transit," Draz said.
North Texas isn’t well known nationally for its cycling scene. The League of American Bicyclists ranks Dallas number 58 on a list of the 70 largest bike commuting cities. Fort Worth is 64th and Plano is 69th. However, the League has noticed North Texans wanting to ride more. They say there’s been a more than 200 percent increase in cycling in Dallas in recent years. While most still prefer cycling for recreation, more and more people want to ride to work. But what about sweat and hygiene?
"If you have a commute over 5 to 7 miles, think about combining your bike ride with DART or a vanpool, take an easy pace, and then when you get to work check and see if you have shower facilities."
If not, Draz says keep a change of clothes at the office. Wear bright, breathable fabrics and consider buying a vented helmet or a cargo rack to keep stuff off your back and minimize that back sweat. Above all, make sure you’re comfortable on your bike. Otherwise, Draz said you may end up exerting more effort, sweating more or hurting yourself.
"You don't need a lot of extra gear to ride your bike to work," he said. "As long as you have a basic knowledge of how to ride safely, part of the fun and the adventure of it is just trying and seeing how it goes. You don't have to do it every day. You can do it once a week, once a month, even once a year."
Some basic safety tips include riding in the center of the lane for visibility, using clear hand signals, riding with (not against) traffic, and following all traffic laws and road signs. Don't forget to wear a helmet and carry an ID or driver's license.
Draz said to be alert, but also have fun. Riding his bike to work has enriched his life.
"Before I was bike commuting, I was spending an hour-plus each day in my car, and now I have that time back to be outside in fresh air, look around and enjoy the sites and have 30 minutes to be by myself and relax after a long day at work."
Dallas has set up eight energizing stations at DART stops from Plano to Oak Cliff. There will be snacks, beverages and free bike safety checks from 7 to 9 a.m.