Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Commuting tips from Susan Schmitz of Downtown Madison Inc.

During Bike to Work Week in Madison, Downtown Madison Inc. (DMI) and Godfrey & Kahn sponsored a commuter tips luncheon at the Madison Municipal Building. Susan Schmitz, DMI's president, handed out a list of great commuter tips that we'd like to share here. There are a couple of Madison-specific references, but most of the information is applicable no matter where you are in the state. Here goes

It is not hard — it is fun — and you can do it!

The thought of commuting to work via a bicycle can seem like a daunting task. But if you consider the following tips, it will help you work through your fears and make it an enjoyable experience.


It is important that you be committed to trying this new way of getting to work and home. The dynamics are different than driving a car.

Because bicycling to work is different that driving a car to work, patience is extremely important—change is hard for people and you need to take your time in order to build confidence in what you are doing. Also, you will be sharing the road with other bicyclists and motor vehicles—this takes some getting used to and can be inhibiting. That is why the next tip is important for your confidence and your safety.

Gather any and all information that you can get your hands on before starting. The Bike Fed is the best place to get started. They can help you with your route and provide you with tips about riding and the rules that you must follow (including bike etiquette). Also, you will want to talk to other commuters. Make sure to check out your chosen route on the weekend when you are not in a hurry so you can get used to the stops, lights and crossings—this will help build confidence. Having alternate routes is very helpful.

Go to a local bike shop (preferably one near your home or on your bike route) and ask them to help you get ready for commuting. There are many great locally owned bike shops in Madison and they all have trained staff that will ask you the right questions and give you the right answers.

Planning ahead is the most important part of bicycle commuting. You need to take time to think about your clothes, shoes, make-up, hair, errands on the way home, etc. This is where talking to other commuters will be helpful. Start with getting the right “pack” for your bike. Think about what you want to keep at work so that you do not have to haul items back and forth every day. This is especially important with shoes and boots because they take up a lot of space and they can be heavy. Also, keep hair products and make-up at work. It takes time to figure out what works best for your lifestyle, but that is where the “patience” comes in.

This is the best part of all! Once you have everything figured out, you can relax and enjoy your commute! There are bike paths next to both lakes and there is nothing better than the sunrise on Lake Monona and the sunset on Lake Mendota! Remember that you are being good to your mind, body and the environment! It becomes addicting!


Something fun to remember when biking, there is no bad weather—just bad clothing.
Susan commutes by bike year-round. "Winter riding is so much fun," she says. "You feel like a kid going through the snow."

You can see more pictures from the commuter tips luncheon, including a show-and-tell of cool commuter accessories, on our Flickr page.

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