Ron Milone is the director of the TPB’s travel forecasting program. He will be participating in Bike to Work Day for the first time ever this Friday, May 20, riding from his home in Rockville to the COG offices in downtown DC. He was inspired to graduate from his stationary bike to trying out bike commuting on BTWD. We’ll be following along and sharing more of Ron’s journey here and on Twitter with the hashtag #Rons1stBTWD. Stay tuned!
“Maybe next year.”
That was the response I gave each year when asked if I was going to participate in Bike to Work Day. In truth, I’ve never even considered the bike as a viable commuting option. After all, I’m 57 years old and there are 18 miles between my Rockville home and my job at COG. My initial perception about biking was that it’s exhausting, impractical, slow, and risky driving in traffic. Who needs that?
But attitudes and perceptions can change. A few months ago, I learned that BTWD 2016 was scheduled for Friday, May 20 and I decided “next year” is now.
But it’s not like I had a spontaneous flash of inspiration. There was a series of baby steps that took place over the past three years that gradually built my confidence. It began with a commitment to get back to the gym on a regular basis. After fumbling with random exercise programs, I finally settled into a stationary bike (Spinning) class that I attended three times a week for two years. It was tough at first, but with time, I got to the point where I enjoyed the workout. A natural progression followed: A spin class led to bike shoes; bike shoes led to a bike purchase; a bike purchase led to me joining more serious bicyclists on weekends. Short trips turned into long trips–and then longer.
“A spin class led to bike shoes; bike shoes led to a bike purchase; a bike purchase led to me joining more serious bicyclists on weekends. Short trips turned into long trips–and then longer.”
TPB Travel Forecasting Director & first-time bike commuter
One day, a bike-buddy asked me a simple question: “Why don’t you commute on your bike?” I was hesitant. Recreational biking is one thing, but commuting is quite another. The question at first evoked a series of negative images in my mind. I could get lost; my bike could be stolen; the weather might turn; I could be injured. These perceptions are very real determinants of bike use as a commute mode.
As a transportation planner I’ve learned that bike commuters are still a small minority in the Washington area, making up less than one percent of all commuters. But that small share is not deterring policy makers from working hard to increase bike use substantially in the future. The Washington region features an extensive and high-quality bike-path network that includes dedicated bike lanes in several area jurisdictions—not just in the downtown core. The Capital Bikeshare program has overtaken the “core” jurisdictions and is steadily expanding into the suburbs. The TPB‘s planning goals that guide our system plans over the next 20 years go beyond the basic objectives of a safe and efficient transportation system. The regional transportation goals include increasing “multi-modal” options that will serve to reduce the share of single-occupant autos using our roads in the future.
It’s also important to consider the connection between transportation systems and public health–a very popular research area over the past decade. Traffic engineers now recognize the importance of designing roadways that encourage healthy lifestyles and promote sustainability. Accommodating walking and biking is not only healthy, it’s good for improving air quality and for reducing congestion.
I’ve finally made the decision to participate in this year’s Bike to Work Day event after some preparation and a little attitude adjustment. I plan to take advantage of our region’s great bike network and to reap all of those health benefits. I have evolved from “No way!” to “I can do this!”
I’ll let you know how it goes.
You can do it, too! Sign up for Bike to Work Day and be sure to share your story on Twitter using the hashtag #BTWD2016. Follow Ron’s adventure at #Rons1stBTWD.