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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bike to Work Week, Yada Yada, Meaningless or Worth Trying?

Bike to Work Week is a "community event" in cities like Toronto and Vancouver (and doubtlessly others) that is called a "community event" because they are not sure what else to call it.

To me a community event is something where you go outside and socialize with other people - which means talking to them!

However Bike to Work Week doesn't really much socializing. Unless you count the confused coworkers who go "Huh? Did your car break down or something?"

At which point you have to explain "Oh, it is bike to work week. I am going to do this all week."

And they say "Oh. Okay. Whatever."

And then by Thursday you have given up on the whole bicycling to work thing because you have to pick the kids up after work from soccer practice and you realize that bicycling to work isn't always practical for your lifestyle.

At which point your co-workers make fun of you. "Oh, I guess you changed your mind about bicycling to work eh?"

And you mumble something about your kids and soccer practice.

So here is the thing...

The whole "Bike to Work Week" thing is designed to get people to at least TRY bicycling to work, to see if it is something that works for them. If it is convenient enough / enjoyable enough, some people may decide to start bicycling to work every day.

Depending on the type of work you do however, bicycling to work just isn't convenient. eg. Construction or landscaping, you will want a truck to be able to carry around tools, building materials, plants, etc.

On the other hand if your job is working at a graphic design firm, and the heaviest things you carry to work is your water bottle and your laptop, then perhaps cycling to work actually makes sense for you.

For example, my brother-in-law bicycles to his law office regularly (depending on the weather, time of year). He carries a brief case with his laptop and legal papers in a rack on the back of the bicycle. (A rack I helped him install.)

So for him bicycling to work makes sense part of the year. Other times of the year he might be more concerned about those precious legal documents and decide taking the TTC bus/subway makes more sense, as does staying warm.

So Bike to Work Week serves a single purpose - to get people who have the option, ability and the type of job where they could potentially bicycle to work to give it a shot and see if they like it.

It is NOT a community event. No matter if cities try to push the idea by offering free drinks, snacks, etc at "Celebration Stations" like the city of Vancouver is currently doing.

The people who show up at these Celebration Stations drink the free drink, eat the free food, and then they leave. They don't usually stick around and socialize.

Most of them will be people who fall into the following categories:
  • They already bicycle to work.
  • They are outside for a recreational ride.
  • They are currently conducting an errand.
The percentage of people who are actually bicycling to work for the first time will be very low. So really this "community event" is mostly for people who already ride their bikes to work, ride for recreational reasons, or just like running errands on their bicycle.

When I lived downtown I used to bicycle around doing errands constantly. I also rode my bicycle to work regularly during the warmer months.

Now that I live in Leaside (basically uptown suburbia) I really only ride my bicycles (I currently have 11) these days for recreational purposes. I don't ride them to work any more because I have too much things to carry, and I don't use my bicycle for errands any more because if I am running an errand I am either: Close enough to walk there, or far enough that the wife and I take the car.

And in the near future, with a baby on the way, I will be barely working at all and on diaper duty instead. Maybe then I will get a sidecar or trailer to carry the baby in and I might be outside running errands with the bicycle+sidecar.

Or maybe I will just take the stroller. We shall see.

In related news, I am browsing options with respect to sidecars or trailers suitable for babies.

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About the Author

Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



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