The pouring rain didn’t stop hundreds of dedicated bicyclists from turning out to celebrate Bike to Work Day in Washington D.C., Silver Spring, Arlington—a total of 18 different sites across the region. About 5,000 people pre-registered for the event illustrating the growing appeal of bicycle commuting, an environmentally-friendly alternative that reduces road congestion and improves personal health.
Each area “pit stop” featured food, giveaway items, entertainment, speakers and chances to win bicycles and other prizes. Twenty-two bicycle commuter convoys led by experienced bicyclists converged on the main gathering point, Freedom Plaza in downtown, from routes throughout the area.
"The Council of Governments is dedicated to relieving traffic congestion and reducing air pollution in the region,” D.C. Council Member and COG Board Member Phil Mendelson told bicyclists at the Freedom Plaza rally. He praised participants for showing their commitment to bicycling to work despite the less-than-perfect weather.
Bike to Work Day, organized by Commuter Connections, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), is held every spring to increase awareness of bicycling to work in the National Capital Region. “This is our annual celebration of bicycling as a clean form of transportation," said WABA's Executive Director Eric Gilliland. “From a health standpoint, it's one of the greatest ways to combine commuting and exercise."
In addition to encouraging bicycle commuting, the event also showcased other alternative commute programs such as the Guaranteed Ride Home Program. GRH, a service of Commuter Connections, provides commuters who vanpool, carpool, bicycle, walk, or take transit at least twice a week, with up to four emergency rides home from work per year, when they encounter an unexpected personal emergency or unscheduled overtime. Through Commuter Connections, local employers are encouraged to promote cycling to work by providing employees with bicycle parking, showers and changing facilities, flexible work schedules, the option of cashing out their parking benefit to purchase bicycles, and the Guaranteed Ride Home program.
As a special feature of this year’s event, bike part manufacturer Shimano and Bicycling Magazine gave away 50 free bicycles as part of their Bike Town programEarlier this spring, Washington area residents were asked to submit a short essay on how they would use a bike to get to work. Fifty of the most compelling entries were selected by the editors of Bicycling, and the winners were asked to keep track of their commuting experiences with the bike for three months. The winners were officially presented with their bicycles at the rally in downtown DC.