[Ed. note: This article is part of our series of weekly church activities, Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays]
May is National Bike Month, and this week, in particular, is Bike-to-Work Week. That means that towns and cities across the country are holding events to encourage safer and more sustainable (not to mention fun!) modes of transportation. On Friday–Bike-to-Work-Day–scores of employees will pedal to the office in their suit jackets and heels, declaring a commitment to making streetscapes more inviting for bipedal transportation.
One of the best parts of participating in a Bike-to-Work-Day event (check out Bike-to-Work events in your area) is having the company of other cyclists with you as you try out a new route–and a new vehicle–on your daily commute. In this way, the League of American Bicyclists, which promotes National Bike Month, normalizes the practice of getting out of our cars and into the fresh air, not just for exercise on the weekends, but for daily errands and transportation.
That’s a good thing. Doctors say that a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three times a week will help us reduce obesity (currently 32% of Americans are obese) and increase our victories over heart disease and diabetes. And since cars emit three times more pollution on short trips than on long trips, quick trips by bike also help reduce the automobile emissions that are so harmful to us and to creation. Fostering a culture that prioritizes bicycling and walking from place to place also helps us slow down our lives so that we get to know and love our neighbors, our communities, and our ecological landscapes better.
So even if you can’t hop on your bike tomorrow for your trip to work, consider making it part of your routine this Sunday–or every Sunday! Biking to church will open your eyes to glory of God in creation as you make your way to worshiping, fellowshipping, and learning in his name.
Find a Route
One of the main concerns folks have about biking is safety. Many prefer to stick to designated biking trails where they know they will not encounter car traffic or dangerous road surfaces. But these days it’s easier than ever to find a reliable route that will keep you on the most bike-friendly roads as possible, even when you have a street address for your destination.
Google maps’ “Bicycling” feature now plots several bike-friendly options for you just as it does for car travel. Though the feature is still in its beta stage, it can be used to find a route to a destination around the corner or across the country. Plug in your starting and ending points and choose the best-looking option. If the route seems intimidating, you may want to walk or drive it (or as much of it as possible, if the map takes you through some biking or hiking trails) beforehand to increase your confidence.
One of the most exciting parts about biking is getting to know new parts of town and discovering a new shop or restaurant you’d always ignored as you flew by it in your car. Enjoy the adventure of biking, and once you feel more comfortable with being on the road, try out some new streets. Bikes can often go where cars can’t, so this is your opportunity to explore!
If this is your first time biking to church, don’t go it alone! Biking is one of our favorite activities from childhood on. As we get older, many of us simply get into the habit of driving and forget to consider taking the bike out, instead. So ask among your congregation to find out who would be interested in joining you–you might be surprised by the enthusiastic response!
Before Sunday, arrange a meeting place and time that everyone is comfortable with, and take off on your adventure from there. Be sure to leave plenty of time for getting to church, changing your clothes (if necessary), and accommodating those folks who haven’t biked in a while!
Remember that the point of biking is to enjoy the journey–not to get it done perfectly. Don’t be legalistic about having to bike the whole way to church if part of the route is dangerous. Instead, bike to someone’s house and carpool from there, or drive to a parking lot from which the church can be safely accessed by bike, and then cycle to and from that spot. Be creative and enjoy the spirit and possibility of getting from point A to point B without relying on a car, but don’t let legalism prevent you from getting on a bike at all.
Whether you’ll be on your bikes for a few minutes or a few miles, you should always be prepared for unplanned needs along the
way. Most of the following items can be carried in a backpack, saddlebag, or bike basket:
- Helmet – The most underrated lifesaver on the road, the helmet is something you’ll want to wear whenever you ride a bike, but especially when you’re traversing unknown territory and joining car traffic to reach your destination.
- Water – Drink it often when doing any exercise! And carry it in a sturdy re-usable bottle. Doing so not only reduces the amount of plastic we clog the environment with, but these bottles will be sturdier than a throw-away plastic one if they fall from your bike to the street.
- Hand pump – A sleek bike tire inflation pump will be sold with an attachment so that it can fit on your bike without any problem. This tool will be indispensible after you’ve been riding on those tires for some time.
- Tools – The League of American Bicyclists recommends carrying tire levers, a spare tube, a pump, and a patch kit for flats, and an Allen wrench, chain tool, and screwdriver for mechanical problems.
- Change of clothes – Riding at a leisurely pace should prevent you from needing to shower when you reach your destination. However, unless your church has pretty casual dress expectations (or you like biking in heels), you may want to bring a change of clothes with you so that you can be comfortable on your ride and comfortable at church.
- *Know the rules of the road – The League of American Bicyclists has a comprehensive list of rules for cycling, but in general, keep to the right of the road, travel with traffic (on the road, keeping the sidewalks safe for pedestrians), and use proper hand signals to identify to drivers your intentions as you ride.
Plan for Next Time
Even though Bike-to-Work Day is this Friday (and Bike-to-Church Day can be this Sunday), you can bike to church or work any day! Here’s how to make the most of your biking experience once you’re a pro and would like others to join you:
- Think about your first try and evaluate what went well and what could have been better. Was the route comfortable to bike or do you think there might be better alternative? Should you plan more time to reach your destination next time? Did you realize you’ve outgrown your bike?! Most concerns can be easily addressed so that the rides just get better and better.
- Advertise–let others in your congregation know that biking to church is possible and even fun! Gather a group of regular cyclists and be welcoming to newcomers.
- Make biking to church easier and more appealing by helping to establish sufficient bicycle parking on the church property.
Do you already commute to work or church on your bike? Take a picture of the fun you have or the natural beauty you pass and send it to Flourish at . We’ll post your shot on the blog or on our Facebook group to share your cycling adventures with others!
League of American Bicyclists
The National Center for Bicycling and Walking