On Friday, May 18, the region's twelfth annual Bike to Work Day will take place to promote bicycling as a viable transportation alternative for Washington area commuters. Nearly 12,500 people are expected to participate, and 58 "pit stops" will be set up throughout the region to welcome cyclists and help celebrate the day's events.
Since the first regionwide Bike to Work Day was rolled out by the Transportation Planning Board's Commuter Connections program and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) in 2001, participation has grown significantly, from just a few hundred people in its first year to nearly 11,000 in 2011. The number of pit stops has also grown, from just five in 2001 to 49 last year.
As part of Bike to Work Day, a variety of support services and online tools are provided by Commuter Connections, WABA, and other regional partners to help those interested in commuting to work by bike.
Commuter convoys led by experienced bicyclists on Bike to Work Day along designated routes between residential areas and major employment centers help first-time or infrequent cyclists feel more comfortable commuting to work by bike. Free Bike to Work guides available from Commuter Connections and Confident City Cycling classes offered by WABA can also help those new to bicycle commuting feel safer and more comfortable.
An online Bike Path Finder tool helps people find the best bicycling routes -- which can include both on-road bicycle lanes and separated, paved paths -- and Commuter Connections' Guaranteed Ride Home program ensures that bicycle commuters have a free taxi ride home in the event of unexpected personal illness, family emergency, or mandatory overtime.
To help celebrate Bike to Work Day, 58 pit stops will be set up throughout the region -- at least one in nearly every TPB member jurisdiction. Up from 49 last year, the number of pit stops is indicative of the growing success and popularity of Bike to Work Day. Each pit stop will feature refreshments, opportunities to win prizes, and free event t-shirts to those who register in advance.
To measure the overall success of the program and to assess the degree to which participation in Bike to Work day changes individuals' commute patterns, Commuter Connections conducts a participant survey following Bike to Work Day every three years.
In the most recent survey -- conducted in 2010 -- more than 3,000 people responded. One-third reported that the 2010 Bike to Work Day was the first in which they had ever participated, while 17% reported that it was the first time they had ever commuted by bicycle to work. Approximately 10% of respondents said that they started biking to work on a regular basis as a result of participating in Bike to Work Day, while 22% said their participation led them to start riding more often.
In addition to helping measure the overall success of Bike to Work Day, the survey results are used by the TPB to demonstrate to federal regulators the effectiveness of voluntary steps being taken to reduce automobile-related emissions in the region.
If participation in this year's Bike to Work Day reaches 12,500, as is hoped, it will be another sign that the bicycle is a viable transportation option for a growing number of the region's commuters.