By Constance Cavallas
Next time that friend, family member or coworker expresses an interest in giving the two-wheel commute a try, consider yourself the missing (chain) link between them and the fabulous world of biking. You may be surprised to find how far some simple advice and a little encouragement can carry your bike-curious friend.
When Vincent Ma agreed to join his company’s Bike to Work Day Challenge team as a novice rider, coworker and team organizer Jess Zak was able to get Ma up and riding with just a little bike-route advice. “I think that once you get someone out there, they will realize pretty quickly how easy, and often faster, cycling for transportation can be,” said Zak.
Here are some simple and simpler tips that can help you help others get on the road and riding.
Simple: Offer to Loan a Bike
For those who don’t own a bike and have never biked in the city before, a bike might be too big of a purchase to jump into without a chance to try it first. We seasoned cyclists know what great investments our bikes are – in fact, some of us own more than one. To that I say, share the love! Lend out a bike, helmet or lock and, rest assured, your friend will want a bike of his or her own after taking your pride and joy for a spin.
Simpler: Spare Some Air
Maybe your friend already has a bike that just needs a little chain grease or air in the tires. If you have what it takes, offer your tools and skills to get that bike in riding condition so your friend can soar. In Ma’s case, his coworkers suggested the local bike shops they most trusted for a good tune-up.
On Bike to Work Day, May 13, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition will be partnering up with local bike shops to offer free basic bike maintenance at Energizer Stations throughout the city. See sfbike.org/btwd for locations.
Simple: Lead the Way
Riding in traffic can be intimidating for a beginner. A good way to put new bikers at ease is by literally showing them the way. Offer to ride the route or plan a weekend excursion to help them get comfortable riding on city streets. In your company, your bike-curious friend will learn good routes and good cycling habits.
Simpler: Plan a Route
New riders might not realize that bike-friendly streets are not always along driving or bus routes. Helping them map out a good bike route could be some of the best advice you can offer.
For Ma, good route advice was key. “The hump for me was understanding that it wasn’t that far of a bike ride,” he said. “After doing it a couple of times, it definitely got easier.” Ma continues to ride his bike to work a couple of times each week.
Leading new bikers to local bike organizations can be helpful as well. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, for example, has a Bike Buddy program to pair up new and experienced cyclists. They also host Bike Buddy route rides to get new riders acquainted with common rides, and Commuter Convoys on Bike to Work Day that depart from various neighborhoods and head downtown just in time for the workday to begin.
“I was very happy to see Vinnie continue to ride his bike to work after the challenge ended,” said Zak. “It made me proud to know that with just a little bit of encouragement (and some healthy competition) I had added another cyclist to the road.”