Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to cycle to work - Part 01

A cautionary tale from a bicycling commuter..

Here in Malaysia, there is no such thing as a "cycling culture".
To put it bluntly, people who cycle to work are your local Banglas who pedal around with their motorised grasscutters.
Why? Because that's their only means of getting around on an affordable mode of transportation.
In reality, the roads are busy, there are no facilities for cyclists to ride without putting their lives in danger.
And most of the townships in the Klang Valley are not properly linked with bike lanes. 
Bike lanes? Well, yeah, it's a new term today as cycling is becoming more popular than ever.
People are demanding from their community leaders for bicycle lanes. Hopefully, they're gonna get some.
But at the time being, we'll have to bear with all the shortcomings.
If you even consider cycling to work, you have already taken the first step.
For starters, it takes a lot of guts to even get out of your house and cycle to the convenient store.
It may sound insane, but cycling to work is an experience and if you are one of those city folks who have little or no time on the saddle, cycling to work is a good excuse to sweat it out.

The real cyclist (left) and the leisure cyclist (right)
Okay, so, all that said and done, how does one even plan to cycle to work? Well, here are some steps that you should take (suggested by me, disputed by some guerilla cyclists & confirmed nutjobs).

Step 1: Equip yourself

The whole point about this exercise is owning a bike and taking it to your workplace.
Say you have a bike, you want to ride, you are not sure if it's the suitable bike that will take you places. Get a ride that you feel absolutely comfortable with and could ride without having too much fear that it would be pried away from your saddle. In short, don't splurge on your ride knowing that there are huge risks. 

Okay, say that you've solved the choice issue, get used to the road conditions. Road confidence and street sense is very important because when you are on the road, you will have to make split-second decisions. The more experience you have on the road, the more confidence you will gain.

Right, now, there's the issue of normal bikes vs folding bikes. So, for conversation sake, my weapon of choice is definitely the folding bike? Why? It functions as a bike, and when you want to get it in your workplace, you can fold it, bag it and bring it into your cubicle.

My bike, right next to my workstation..
Step 2: Master the art of negotiation, talk to the right people

Allright, you've covered your bike, now, you are ready to cycle to work.
But your office colleagues are not used to seeing you with your bike. And the suits are terrified about it.
Be diplomatic about this. Do not challenge your co-workers about your "rights".
The best way to go about this is to talk to your management, convince them that by cycling to work, it won't hamper your productivity.
Negotiate with them to allow the bicycle to be kept in a safe place. Because if all else fails, you would need to chain it outside the office. If that is the case, you will worry even more about the bike.

If your workplace has a "Green policy", then it's best to raise the matter on alternative way to commute to work. One way is to cycle. It's non-pollutive and a healthy way to get around. So, if things work out for you with your management allowing bikes in the office, you are in for a ride..

The bike lane on the Federal Highway connects to many townships along its route

Step 3:  Plan your route...

The shortest route doesn't mean it'll be the safest passage.
So, before you ride off to the office, take some time to recce the route.
This is important as the less exposure you have with traffic means the less risk of conflicting with motorists.
Mark important landmarks in your journey to the office so that you could carry out contingency plans in case of an emergency.
This means, try to draw a route where it's not too secluded or too far away from civilization.
The stark reality shows that even when you ride prepared, if there's a breakdown, you are entirely on your own..
If you ride solo, be sure to include stages where you can bug out with your bike. Point in case, flooding on the bike lane or an all out mechanical breakdown.

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