My Own Labels.com makes its home in Portland, Oregon. We love it here! Most of us don’t even mind the rain. One of the best parts of living here is that Portland is a very “bike friendly” city and we are a very “bike friendly” company. Portland just recently lost its standing as “the most bike friendly city in America” (as named by Bicycling magazine). Yes, Minneapolis, Minnesota took the title this year, but Portland came in second after spending years in the top spot. We here at My Own Labels however, aren’t going down without a fight. I found some information from Portland’s Office of Transportation that shows off Portland’s love of bikes. Turns out that eight percent of Portlanders see their bikes as their primary commuting vehicles and they make over 16,000 trips daily over four of the bridges that span the Willamette River (there are ten bridges all together but the city does bike surveys on four of them). The city boasts 4,000 organized bike rides a year. That’s a lot of bike riding. Since National Bike to Work Day is coming up on May 21, 2010, we thought we would put in our plug for bike commuting.
We are doing our part to support Bike to Work Day – except we celebrate it all year long. Several employees here bike to work the majority of the time. Three employees bike to work every single day. Jeanne W, owner, and Jim M, marketing, both use a combination of bicycling and public transportation; while Alan K and Ritch A, web programmers, and Fred R, who does a little bit of everything, bike exclusively. I recently sat down with them and asked them the why’s and how’s of bike commuting.
When I talked to all our cyclists, one thing came up over and over again: how great it made them feel! Jeanne says “I feel terrific!” Alan added, “It feels great.” Jim says biking makes him feel good and good about himself. Ritch notes that he’s lost 20 lbs. since he started and he can “eat whatever I want!” Jeanne is excited that when she wants to do something like go for a hike, she’s in great shape. Jeanne says that she started biking to work for the environment but she soon realized that the personal benefit of improved health was much more inspiring and motivating.
Another thing all that biking is good for is the environment. That is one of the main reasons most of our cyclists do it. They all feel a responsibility to be kind to the earth, and it’s one of the reasons why Jeanne and her husband David decided to support bike commuting so fully at My Own Labels. Jeanne has been bicycling for years (she was the first bicycle delivery girl in Portland) and she wanted to raise the visibility of cyclists in Portland and make it easier for employees to bike to work. The company offers a transportation benefit to employees under the Internal Revenue Code Section 132, and has installed several designated “bike parking spots” including a covered hanging bike rack.
Here in Oregon one of the reasons people might list for not bicycling would have to be the rain. It rains a lot here (that’s why it’s so green!) but a little rain doesn’t stop our intrepid cyclists. Fred admits that rain isn’t great but that with good rain gear “you learn to tolerate it and it’s manageable.” Jeanne agrees that “rain gear makes all the difference” in being able to deal with the wet. Getting to work a little wet doesn’t bother Alan, he says, “Yes, you are wet, but you’re warm and you dry off soon.” None of the cyclists here let the rain decide if they ride or drive.
Weather isn’t the only thing that people list as deterrents to commuting on bikes. Safety can also be a concern. When I asked Ritch what his least favorite part of biking was he replied, “Monster truck guys!” Seems those “monster truck guys” don’t always pay attention to the bikes they share the road with. For that matter, sometimes the cars don’t either. But if you are careful and aware you can ride safely. Ritch says, “Being aware is important. When you are riding you are aware of the position of each car, pedestrian, each thing. You get a feel for when they are going to move and where.” Fred admits that biking can be scary on the main roads but that shouldn’t deter you. He recommends starting out on back streets and less traveled routes. “Bike maps are a great way to find easy routes and then work your way up.” To find bike maps try bike shops or check your city website to see if your city has bike maps available.
Whether you decide to bike to work because of the environment, your health, or, like Jim originally did, because your car is in the shop and you have to, give biking a try. Don’t think you live too far away, either. Several of our cyclists combine biking with light rail trips on Portland’s MAX Light Rail. Even if it’s only for National Bike to Work day – get out there and bike!