We know that life looks different right now; your routines may be uprooted, and you may not be able to participate in the activities that normally bring you joy. As cherry blossoms bloom across the city and the sun shines in our windows, we can try out new activities to stay healthy and bring joy into our lives. For National Bike Month this May, Commute Seattle wants to help you rekindle the love for your bike!

    If you’re pulling your bike out of the shadows, we want to help you feel confident and safe as you get rolling. Read on for 5 steps for success:

    1) Prepare Your Bike

    Rekindling a long-lost friendship with your bike means checking it’s all in working order. Does your bike need a bit of maintenance? You have options:

    • Do some basic bike maintenance yourself – start with doing a quick “ABC Check” before you ride:
      1. A is for Air – check to make sure your tires are filled with air. On the side of your tire, you will find a number noting the pressure that it should be inflated to.
      2. B is for Brakes – squeeze your brake levers while pushing your bike forward. Your bike should not move. Inspect pads for wear; replace if there is less than 1/4″ of pad left.
      3. C is for Chain – your bike chain should be kept clean and lubed to keep your gears running smoothly, and to prevent premature wear – click here for more details on how to lube your chain!
    • If your bike needs a tune-up, use this handy map to find a local bike shop! Bike shops are considered an essential service and many are open for business or operating with appointment-based service. They will be thrilled to help you!
    • If you don’t yet own a bike, check out these tips on buying a bike.

    2) Safety Refresher

    Riding on the roads can feel daunting, but with some basic knowledge and a bit of practice, you can get out there safely. Watch this fun and informative video to help give you the confidence to bike around town!

    • Think about your position on the road. You should never put yourself in danger out of fear of slowing someone else down. Though it might not feel like it sometimes, you have just as much right to be on the road as any other road user. Consider two main positions you might take on the road:
      • Primary position: Taking the lane is when you are riding with the flow of traffic in the middle of the lane. This is actually the safest position for you to be in on the road because you are more visible and cars are less likely to risk trying to overtake you when it isn’t safe to do so. It’s good to think of the primary position as your default place on the road, and you decide when to move into a secondary position.
      • Secondary position: you are further over towards the side of the road – about 3ft away from the curb or parked cars. The benefit of taking a secondary position is that it allows cars to overtake you more easily so you don’t hold faster road users up. It’s crucial that YOU decide to take this position when you feel it’s safe to do so.

    3) Practice to Gain Confidence

    If you’re going to rekindle the love for your bike, you’re going to need to feel comfortable handling it. Practice the following skills before you ride in traffic. Find somewhere nearby where you can ride without worrying about other vehicles to master the essentials such as parks, trails, and quiet streets.

    • Practice braking and coming to a safe-stop – being able to stop whenever you want will help to give you confidence and comfort while riding.
    • Turning – practice turning quickly and confidently to avoid objects or make a turn while riding at speed.
    • Observation – practice looking to your right and left while riding.
    • Practice looking over your shoulder – knowing what’s actually behind you will help you to feel comfortable while riding.
    • Riding with one hand – lift one hand at a time off the handlebars and repeat until you can control your bike with either hand. Watch this short video to learn about signaling with your hands.

    4) Explore Your Neighborhood

    Seattle has over 190 miles of bike facilities and trails – many of them are “Neighborhood Greenways“, meaning residential streets (generally one off of main arterials) with low volumes of cars going slowly enough so that people who walk or ride bicycles feel safe and comfortable.

    • Due to COVID-19 and efforts to #KeepItMoving, it’s important to try to avoid crowding the most popular trails right now (such as the Burke Gilman Trail, Westlake Trail, and Alki Trail). A great alternative is to use this interactive bike map to find greenways and bike lanes in your neighborhood. SDOT has also closed select streets to cars as part of their Stay Healthy Streets initiative during COVID-19.
    • When you encounter other pedestrians or people biking, remember to pass safely (video) and follow public health guidelines for social distancing.
    • If you are using a bike share, wipe the handlebars with a disinfectant wipe prior to riding, try to avoid touching your face, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after riding.
    • Exercise like biking helps reduce stress levels and stress hormones which in turn helps your immune system. A bike ride can improve your mental health, help you feel refreshed, and get you smiling!

    5) Join the Virtual Community!

    For the month of June, Washington Bikes will host a month-long celebration of pedal-powered movement called the Bike Everywhere Challenge.

    • Join an online “team” with friends, family, or coworkers and log your bike rides. It’s is a great way to interact with others about biking and push yourself to get out on your bike!
    • Plus, there are prizes and a curbside celebration on June 19 called the F5 Networks Bike Everywhere Day.