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How to tackle common concerns and start biking to work

To mark Monday's Bike to Work Day Metro offers some tips to get you in the saddle.

Metro's Sarah-Joyce Battersby offers her tips and tricks for biking to work. Step 1: Just try it.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Metro's Sarah-Joyce Battersby offers her tips and tricks for biking to work. Step 1: Just try it.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Cycling in a city can be scary. Ultimately, you are a soft bag of flesh on a few sticks of steel among delivery trucks, potholes and streetcar tracks.

We’ve seen the tragedies, including just last week when a five-year-old boy was killed.

Infrastructure has a long way to go to make cycling safer and more inviting.

But an attitude adjustment can help. Monday’s Bike To Work Day will see hundreds of cyclists, including Mayor John Tory, take to the streets on two wheels to celebrate and promote biking as a mode of transportation.

If you’ve toyed with the idea but something holds you back, I am here to say: Just try it. You will surprise yourself. You will get better at it. And you will love it.

Here are my tips for overcoming some common excuses.

Weathering the storms
No matter how you travel to work, providing you leave your home at all, you will be exposed to the elements. You’re already doing it! Good for you. Now take your basic understanding of how to combat rain, snow and cold and extend it. Wear layers in the winter (gloves are an absolute must) and rain gear when it’s wet. Also, bring a change of clothes.

Work clothes are not bike clothes
Accept the fact that most days require a change of clothes, which by extension means a backpack (a basket will do, too). Pants wear out in saddle-shaped patterns, pencil skirts don’t fit over crossbars comfortably and high heels slide around on pedals (but are manageable in a pinch). Another option: stash a collection of finer work garments at the office, provided you have storage space.

Streetcar track attack
The horror stories of tires stuck in streetcar tracks are numerous and terrifying. But the time may come when you have to cross over the rails. Try practising a crossing (always on a wide angle) on a quieter stretch of street, so you will be ready if it happens mid-commute. If you’re too nervous, take the time to map a route that doesn’t put you alongside them.

Be seen
The worst thing for your safety is not being seen. So embrace your ’90s style icons and go neon. My winter jacket is black, but my backpack practically glows it’s so bright. Same with my gloves. Cover yourself in lights and reflectors. And if you have to, take up space in the lane. Don’t shrink into the curb just to be polite. Biking is about being loud and proud — and alive.

Keep running up that hill
I can’t really help you here, other than to say get a bike with gears. I ride a fixed-gear for its overall simplicity, but that means when I face a hill, I have to stand up and power through. Do your best. It will get easier the more you try. And if you truly can’t muster the strength, just hop off your bike and walk up the sidewalk.

What keeps you from biking to work? Ask Metro’s resident cyclist how to hack your commute. Email questions or concerns to sjbattersby@metronews.ca

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