There’s a very real possibility that bus and T service will come to a screeching halt in the next month or two if the Local 85 transit union decides to strike. This will be very difficult for the thousands of folks who rely on transit everyday to get to work, run errands, visit friends and family, or just to go out for a night on the town. Bike Pittsburgh is not taking sides in these negotiations between the transit operators and Port Authority management. We’re just here to help you get to all the places you did with transit, but under the power of your own two feet.
Don’t let the Strike slow you down, BIKE!
- Click here to find a BikePool in your neighborhood. Can’t find one near you? We’ll help you. Just call 412.325.4334 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Check out our handy Bike-to-Work Resource Guide Below
1. Plan the route
It’s important to figure out your route before you decide to ride to work. Sometimes, the route that you are used to, either because the bus takes it or you drive it, isn’t the best route for cycling. There are many safer, parallel side streets that have less car traffic, as well as planning to use one of the City’s many exclusive bicycle paths.
After you figure your route, give it a practice run on a day that you’re not working. Make sure to time your ride to see how long it takes you. You’ll most likely be surprised at how little time it takes! New cyclists tend to ride between 8-10 mph. So a commute of 4 miles, the approximate distance from Bloomfield to Downtown, should only take about 25 minutes or so (maybe faster because inbound is mostly downhill!).
If you have a shower at work, plan on making that part of your morning routine instead of at home. If not, on the warmer days, be sure to give yourself a few extra minutes so that you can cool down before going in. While riding, you are self-cooling, but when you stop riding, you tend to sweat a bit more until your body regulates its temperature.
It’s also a good idea to figure out where you can park your bike. See if you can bring it in, that will be the safest and most secure. If not, find a secure outdoor rack, and use a good lock. If you only have a cable lock (not a good lock), get a U-lock, or you will be posting your bike here. We don’t want a bike thief smorgasbord. Ask your building manager if there is secure on-site bike parking. If they say “no,” ask them, “well, why not?”
All Parking Authority garages downtown have free bike parking inside for all day storage.
TIP: Try to park on racks that have other bikes on them too. There’s a better chance that this is a secure location. CLICK for bike parking “Do’s and Don’ts”
We’ve created the most comprehensive Pittsburgh cycling map available. It is a great resource for route planning, finding trail access (and where the FREE trail-head parking is), bridge crossing info, etc.
Click on the image to explore the map.
You can also pick up a print version of this map at most bike shops.
Other route planning resources:
- Check out our Getting Around section
- Have a question? Looking for a riding partner? Ask local cyclists on our Bike PGH Messageboard
- Many routes are already posted on Bikely.com, a user-run route planning website. Just search for your neighborhoods and see if something comes up.
2. Get your bike ready
Make sure your bike is safe and ready to roll. If you don’t know what you are doing, ask a friend or take it into a local bike shop for a tune up.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can also get advice on some basic things at Free Ride, or check out Sheldon Brown’s website for a how-to explanation on just about everything.
Some basics (Also known as the “ABC Quick Check”):
- A) Check the air pressure of your tires. There is a “recommended inflation” on the sidewall of every tire.
- B) Make sure your brakes work. You shouldn’t be able to squeeze the brake lever so that it touches the handlebars. Also, make sure they don’t rub against the wheels.
- C) Make sure your chain isn’t rusty. In fact, check to see if your entire drive-train mechanism (shifters, derailleurs and chain) are working properly. Again, if you don’t know ask a pro.
- Quick Check) Make sure your wheels are firmly attached. If you’re not sure how the quick release mechanism works, click here or please ask someone. This is a common way for people to fall off their bike.
Although not completely necessary, fenders are probably the most important accessory for making your commute fun, dry, and clean, especially in Pittsburgh. Not only do fenders keep your pants, shoes, and butt dryer, they keep the cyclist behind you from getting your spray. If you wear glasses, it’s even more important because it keeps water from splashing onto your face and making it more difficult to see.
Lights are not an accessory, but a necessity. With sunset getting earlier by the day, getting a front and back blinky light is extremely important. You can get a pair for under $30, and it’ll be the best money you can spend. For the most part, you don’t need lights so that you can see the road, rather you want drivers to be able to see you. Get a white one for the front, and a red one for the back. We recommend getting newer LED lights over the old halogen as they last longer and are brighter. They usually come with mounting hardware so that you can attach it to your bike. Be careful and don’t leave the light on your bike, they are easy pickins for thieves, and they do get stolen.
- TIP: If you have a headlamp at home, you can just secure the band around your arm and make sure the light is pointing forward.
3. How to bike to work
What to Wear
- Helmet – You know you should wear one, so do it! It’s the best $30 you’ll ever spend.
- Dress in layers – This allows you to remove or add layers as you heat up or cool down. Don’t overdress.
- Windbreakers- A jacket and/or pants are great for cutting out the fall and winter wind and light rain
- Rain Gear– Essential if you want to ride in the rain. Although it’s best to have something that is breathable to cut down on sweating, a simple poncho works great too.
- Strap or large rubber band– Secures your right pant leg, especially if you don’t have a chain guard
- Rediscover wool– Wool is a great wicking material (draws moisture away from your body), and is great for all temperatures. It also has a natural anti-odor property and doesn’t wrinkle.
Changing at Work
- Bring a Change of Clothes– You can carry it with you or store them at your work. Many people at least keep their work shoes at their job. If you roll your clothes, they will be less likely to get wrinkled.
- Use a bathroom stall to change– The wheelchair accessible ones have the most room.
- Dry your cycling clothes– If you are able to park in a secure indoor location, use your bike as a drying rack. If not, put them in your bag. If you’ve nowhere to let cycling clothes dry, put them inside a plastic bag.
TIP: If your work has a shower, save some time at home and wait until getting there to shower. If there isn’t one, carry a moist towelette, deodorant, or talcum powder with you to freshen up. If your job doesn’t have a shower, ask them for one! Many buildings have them, but no one knows they’re there because no one asks. Also, if you are a member of the YMCA or other health club, you can use their showers.
Good: Cheap, most people already have one
Good: Can use a bungee cord to secure to a rack
Bad: You’ll sweat more because it’s against your back
Bad: If you carry a lot of stuff, it will be uncomfortable after some time
- Panniers (bags that attach to the side of a rack-RECOMMENDED):
Good: Holds lots of stuff without straining your back
Good: Sweat less, there is nothing on your back
Good: Easy to take on and off your bike
Bad: Can be expensive
Bad: Harder to carry stuff around once off of your bike
TIP: If you don’t have a waterproof bag, put your belongings inside a plastic bag or ziplock before putting it in your main bag.
Check out our Ride Safe section. It’s important to learn the most common types of crashes…so you can learn how to avoid them.
In the meantime, here are some quick tips:
- Always wear a helmet
- Ride predictably. Bikes are allowed on the street. Often it is necessary to take the full lane to stay safe.
- Obey the law. Bikes are traffic and should be treated and act as such.
- Ride with confidence. If you look like you are confident and know what you’re doing, drivers will be more comfortable around you…and treat you better. Use hand signals, drivers will appreciate it.
- Scan ahead. Look for potholes, sewer grates, terrible intersections, etc. Call 311, the mayor’s response line to report hazards.
- Be seen. Dress in bright clothing and get front and rear blinky lights. To many drivers, cyclists are invisible.
- Stay out of the door zone. Scan ahead for opening doors or people inside of cars – especially in bike lanes.
- Stay vigilant. Many drivers are distracted and aren’t looking out for cyclists.
- Stay calm if confronted by angry drivers. Remember, you’re on your bike and having way more fun than they are.
What Bike Pittsburgh is doing to help cyclists
We’ll be updating this section with our schedule of Bike Commuting 101 Classes, Biker Breakfasts, Tune-ups, and Happy Hours. Keep checking back!
Articles related to the strike
Post-Gazette, N16: Anatomy of a Port Authority labor situation
Post-Gazette, N9: How about letting bikes use busways in a strike?
Post-Gazette, O20: Workzone: Bicycling commuters must plan their routes