City officials want people to try biking to work this month – and there's almost no excuse you can come up with that someone, somewhere around town, hasn't figured out a workaround for.
Need to drop the kids off on your way to work?
That didn't stop Kurt Whited, who used to haul his kids to daycare in a trailer hooked to his bike before heading to his job as a project manager for Atos, the IT company used by the city.
Think you've got too far to go?
In 15 years of commuting to various factory jobs, southern Allen County resident Lee Cook has pedaled up to 20 miles – one way – even when he didn't get off work until after midnight.
Can't afford fancy biking duds?
Quit fretting and start riding, says Rachel Blakeman, a compliance officer who regularly rides to City Hall in a skirt and heels. She scoffs at the notion that a special wardrobe is needed for cycling, noting that though she's been commuting for years, she owns no special biking gear other than a helmet, a neon vest for visibility and a pair of gloves.
“Do you have a helmet and a bike? Then you're 99 percent of the way there,” she says. “The other 1 percent is to get on your bike and ride.”
That doesn't mean there aren't challenges to be resolved. But rather than getting overwhelmed by all the would-be obstacles, try working through things one step at a time, suggests senior city planner and summer commuter Paul Spoelhof.
Maybe you're one of the many people who've learned to love riding on the many miles of paved trails around town. Maybe you've even started adding a few streets to your normal trail ride.
The next step, says Spoelhof, is to start noticing where the bike lanes are. While they're not as well-insulated against vehicles as the trails are, they do provide a buffer.
From there, you might start figuring out how to navigate intersections.
In the process, Spoelhof says, “your confidence grows, step by step.”
When you're ready, practice riding your route on the weekend. Figure out any tweaks you might want to make, and then give it a try.
Need more convincing? Check out these excuse-busters from local commuter cyclists:
WHAT IF IT RAINS?
There's nothing wrong with being a fair-weather rider. Blakeman is, and unapologetically so, noting that she still rides more days than not in the warmer months.
Riding in a chilly rain can be “bone chilling and soul crushing,” admits Amy Hartzog, who regularly pedals 3.25 miles to her job as the city's program manager of greenways and trails.
But Hartzog adds that when the temperature climbs above 60 or so, rainy rides can be fun and invigorating, bringing out your inner kid.
She recommends an inexpensive rain jacket, and if desired, rain pants and boots as well. A waterproof bag for your work clothes – including dry socks and shoes – is essential. While not absolutely necessary, bike fenders will keep you cleaner and drier.
Finally, always have a backup plan – someone who can give you a ride home if needed.
WHAT ABOUT SMELLY SWEAT?
If you work downtown and have a YMCA membership, you could shower at the Central location or the new Skyline branch at the Ash Skyline Plaza, where you could also opt to stow your two-wheeler in the weather-protected bike hub.
But showers aren't always convenient – or even necessary, if you're a good planner.
Karen Nesius Roeger, a librarian at the Hessen Cassel branch of the Allen County Public Library, brings a fresh set of clothes and a washcloth in a plastic bag for freshening up in the ladies' room before work on hot, humid days.
Sweat isn't a problem for Blakeman, who lives only 1.5 miles from city hall and is generally at her desk by 8 a.m. Hence her willingness to ride in skirts and heels.
If it's unusually hot, she just starts earlier and rides slowly to avoid breaking a sweat – a tactic Nesius Roeger also employs on her longer commute.
“I know what I can get away with,” Blakeman says. That goes for which skirts require shorts underneath as well as dealing with the weather. As with anything else, practice makes perfect.
WHAT ABOUT FLAT TIRES?
Invest in a durable set of tires and you'll spend less time changing flats – or even thinking about them.
Cook, who estimates he rides 3,000 miles a year, says he put 10,000 miles on his last set of Schwalbe tires without ever getting a flat.
“I buy really good tires,” he says. “They've got Kevlar in them.”
YouTube videos or the staff at any of the local bike shops can teach you to change a flat.
If you don't want to deal with it, line up a friend, family member or co-worker you can call to help you out in an emergency. (Which is a good idea anyway, though opinions may vary over whether a flat tire qualifies as an emergency.)
WHAT ABOUT SCARY TRAFFIC?
Whited takes a longer route than necessary so he can incorporate the Greenway into his 7.5 mile one-way commute, partly because it's more fun but mostly because it's safer.
“Safety is No. 1,” he says.
The route you end up riding to work is unlikely to be the route you'd drive, agrees Blakeman, who cuts through Freimann Square. She also eliminated one particularly troublesome intersection simply by cutting over to another street.
In most cases, if you're willing to add a bit of extra mileage, there is almost always a way to avoid or at least minimize the most nerve-racking sections of your route. Trial-and-error is key.
Seek out bike lanes and trails where available, follow standard driving laws to avoid startling drivers, and wear something bright to increase your visibility.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE STUFF I HAVE TO CARRY?
There are so many options for transporting things by bike – basket, backpack, luggage rack, not to mention the station wagon-like contraptions known as cargo bikes – that you're pretty much only limited by your lack of creativity.
Blakeman has carried cakes to work strapped to her luggage rack.
Micki and Charles Syndram transport their dog, Daisi Mae, to their Crescent Avenue bike shop, INRush Bicycles, in a trailer like the one Whited once used to take his children to daycare.
WHAT IF I DON'T KNOW THE RULES?
The best practice is to act like you're driving a car: Signal turns; stop at stop signs and traffic lights.
This makes you more predictable to drivers, and will earn their respect – which is important if you're going to be sharing the road on a regular basis.
It will also help you avoid getting a traffic ticket. Cook notes he was once pulled over for running a red light at U.S. 27 and Hessen Cassel Road late at night. He'd stopped, but since no one was coming, continued on his way before the light changed.
The officer didn't ticket him, but Cook notes he's much more careful now – even when he thinks no one is watching.
Tanya Isch Caylor blogs about post-fat living at www.90in9.wordpress.com. Contact her at email@example.com. This column is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.
National Bike to Work Day:
*Swing by the Headwaters Park West Pavilion with your bike on Friday, May 19 from 6:30 to 8 a.m. for free coffee and breakfast and a chance to win prizes.
*Join the after-work party at Fort Wayne Outfitters, 1004 Cass St., for live music, a food truck and door prizes.
Practice cycling as transportation:
*Trek the Trails group ride at 6 p.m. every Tuesday all summer. This Tuesday's ride will meet at the Rockhill Park trailhead for a nine-mile ride. Call 427-6228 for more information. Register at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5YTDDXG
*Active commute Fridays – The city is encouraging people to walk or ride to work every Friday in May, when dress codes are more relaxed. For more information, call 427-6228.
*Second Annual CycloFemme – This local version of a global event to celebrate cycling for women and girls of all ages is not limited to women. It is 2 p.m. Sunday at Rockhill Park. For more information, check out CycloFemme Fort Wayne on Facebook or Bicycle Friendly Fort Wayne at https://bffw.org/.
*It's not too late to sign up for the Fort4Fitness Spring Cycle on May 21. Five different tour distances are available, from 10 miles to a “metric century” (62 miles). For more information, go to fort4fitness.org.
For more information on these and other upcoming events, check out kickstartfortwayne.com.