Being multimodal is about choosing the best vehicle for each trip. If you’re in Utah and need to go to Taiwan for business, a big old jet airliner is just the ticket. If your plans carry you over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, a car is likely the best choice. For many shorter trips, especially those of five miles or less, bicycles are best.
Being multimodal is about consciously making that choice instead of mindlessly reaching for the car keys. We’ve already gone over why you should do this. Today is about how to get started and make it happen. Here are some real simple ideas…
Use Google’s MyMaps feature to create a map that includes all the places that you can go to within five miles of your home. This is your Bike 5 map so it’s okay if you go a little crazy. Use bright colors and wild icons. Once you’ve created it, identify just one or two places that make sense to go to on your bicycle instead of in your car and then just do it. You don’t have to do it every time. Just do it every once in a while and see what happens.
What to Ride
Being a multimodal Bike Fiver means you can ride whatever you want. Road bike? No problem. Mountain bike? Sure, why not! Ideally, it’s best if the frame has braze-ons and eyelets so that you can add fenders, racks and baskets. Consider a used bike. You can probably pick one up for a song. I started Bike 5’ing on a cool old mid-1980s Cannondale touring bike that my wife found at a garage sale for $25. I sold it a year later for $30.
Where to Ride
Most neighborhood streets are perfect for riding, even in the heart of big cities like Chicago and New York. Side paths are also great. More cities have protected bike lanes that will get you where you need to go. Ride wherever you’re comfortable. Use a mapping tool to plan routes. If you’re going to ride longer distances on major arterials, take a class like the Bike League’s Traffic Skills 101 before you hit the road to develop the confidence necessary to ride safely.
Make It Fun
For me, just being on the bike is its own reward but if you need some additional incentive, try this. Tally the miles you travel by bicycle and then pay yourself back at the IRS rate of 56 cents per mile. If you travel 200 miles next month by bicycle, that’s $112 you’ve saved in gas, oil, wear and tear, etc. Write yourself a check and spend it however you like or bank it for something bigger down the road…like a new bike, for example!
Last but not Least…
There are a lot of things in life that come with a long lists of rules. This isn’t one of them. Riding a bicycle is one of the easiest ways imaginable to have fun. It’s so easy a child can do it. Ever notice how when they do they’re always smiling and laughing and hoopin’ and hollerin’?
Riding a bike for transportation is even better. It’s one of the most empowering things you can do. It changes you. It also changes your community and the greater world. So relax and smile. You’re in charge and nobody gets to tell you how to do it. Experiment. Play. Take your hands off the handlebars. Wave at passing motorists. Pop a wheelie. Smile. Embracing the multimodal you will change your life. I promise.