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Bike Commuting: Building the Habit

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I see a lot of blog posts and tweets, and hear a lot of people in the shop repeating the same intention: I'd like to start bike commuting. But how do you go from the thought to the reality? In reading this line in a Zen Habits post today, I saw the answer:

"You could keep putting it off. Or you could read an article or three about it. You could find three examples of people who have made the change. You could surround yourself with several people making the change themselves. Pretty soon the surrounding works. The repetition convinces you, motivates you, to take action. Repetition works."

It's no wonder so many of our staff bike to work on a daily basis. It's contagious. There's a lot of *good* peer pressure to bike commute when you work at a bike shop. Wherever you work, though, you can create an environment and a community that will help you keep the momentum in that initial intention going strong. Inspired by Leo's post and a few others from the site, here are a handful of ways to make bike commuting a regular habit in your life.

Surround yourself with others who bike commute in your city, neighborhood, or workplace. Talk to them about their experiences. Learn from what works for your neighbor, friend, coworker.

Read about how others make bike commuting a part of their daily life. Learn from their example.

Repeat to yourself, "I bike to work every day — it’s who I am." As Babauta says very clearly, "By repeating this to yourself, [biking] (or whatever change you’re making) becomes part of your identity."

Make biking to work your #1 priority. What does that mean? Perhaps it's commiting to commuting by bike on Mondays. By starting your week off with a ride in to work, you'll be more likely to flow naturally into doing so on Tuesday, Wednesday, and the day after that. For some it's putting out their riding gear the night before. Packing a pannier or gathering your outerwear after checking the next day's forecast. For the committed, all-weather rider, it means being prepared to bike in whatever mother nature throws at you with clothing that will keep you warm and dry and practical accessories like fenders for your bike. These don't have to be expensive investments. You can make a fender from a milk carton, after all.

If you've never bike to work before, make a route plan and practice the ride in on a non-work day when there's no pressure to arrive at a certain time.

Start small. Maybe in and back is too tough when you're first starting out. Try taking the bus to work in the morning with your bike, then riding home. After a couple of weeks, take the plunge and do the both trips by bike.

Get accountability from your fellow-bikers and others in your life. Once you start biking to work, you might notice that your coworkers greet you with the question, "Did you bike today?" each morning. Pretty soon, you'll be excited to reply with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" This will be especially true on those "bad" weather days you might have driven in the past, inevitably stuck in traffic. Cold, snow, and rain will change from obstacles to interesting new ways to experience your ride.

Make it social. Share photos from your commute on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Plan to ride in (or ride home) with a coworker once a week or once a month. Participate in #30daysofbiking. Meet fellow bike commuters for happy hour on Friday at a spot with great bike parking.

And finally, enjoy the ride.

All photos by Martha @ Perennial Cycle except: Left middle, by Dave Fayram; Bottom center, by Mahalia Stackpole.