RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK (May 8, 2018) - A deep concern for the environment fueled Matthew Cushing’s decision to start using a bicycle as his primary mode of transportation six years ago, but it’s another kind of green he references most when promoting the benefits of biking to others.
“The thing a lot of people respond to is that it’s a cheaper way of getting around,” says Cushing, Transportation Demand Management outreach coordinator for Duke University. “Even people who are not green-minded can appreciate a more cost effective way to get to work.”
May is national Bike Month, and for GoTriangle and its partners, biking is an important part of their employer services and student programming that focus on all the ways people can get to work or school other than driving alone in a vehicle.
“Helping people learn about the benefits of cycling and pointing them toward resources to help them safely bike to school or work is part of our overall mission,” says Shelly Parker, manager of sustainable transportation at GoTriangle. “Cycling is completely removed from the traffic congestion equation and doesn’t impact the air quality negatively. The more people who bike, the better.”
The month will be full of bike-friendly events throughout the Triangle, including Bike to Work Day is May 18.
Other events include the Capital City Bike Ride from 8 to 9 a.m. May 11 at Raleigh Union Station Plaza, the Bike to Work Week Kick-Off Social from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 14 at Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub in Durham, the Bike to Work Day Pit Stop from 7 to 9 a.m. May 15 at the Downtown Cary Depot and the Bikes, Bells & Blueberry Days from noon to 3 p.m. May 19 at the Chapel Hill Community Center.
Find a full calendar of more than 40 events across the Triangle at gotriangle.org/bikemonth.
Over the past few years, Triangle municipalities have been working to make bicycle commuting or weekend rides easier for residents. In Raleigh, for instance, the city planned 4 miles of bike lanes in 2009. For fiscal year 2019, that number will increase to nearly 54 miles of bike lanes.
Figuring out how to bike to work, however, can feel daunting, says Cushing, who also is a certified League Cycling Instructor. LCIs help people feel more secure about getting on a bike, teaching them how to ride safely and legally.
“It’s something you should try out at a low-traffic time,” Cushing says. “If you’re planning to bike to work, don’t make your first time trying it out Monday morning for a 9 a.m. meeting. It will be stressful. And be a little open minded about routes. A lot of people, especially people driving, have a direct route between Point A and Point B. For bikes, that’s not always best. With bikes, sometimes taking a 5- to 10-minute detour will make it more comfortable.”
Cushing has plenty of bike-safety tips that riders can see at bit.ly/bikesafety18. You also can sign up to be a bike mentor or locate a bike mentor or other cyclists who share a route and schedule similar to yours through GoTriangle’s Share the Ride NC program. Track your trips to and from work to earn monthly prizes through the GoPerks program. And with the Emergency Ride Home Program, there’s no reason to worry that you’ll get stranded at the office. Find out more at gotriangle.org/erh.
For Cushing, who shares a car with his wife, a combination of biking and busing has been the best way for him to travel between his home in Chapel Hill and his job in Durham. All GoTriangle, GoDurham, GoRaleigh and GoCary buses are equipped with bicycle racks.
“With the bike on bus, even if you find only part of a route is good for biking, you can make it work,” he says. “I don’t like the infrastructure the whole way; some of it I find hairy. With a combination of bike and a bus route, you can go a really long distance and be more selective about your routes.”
At gotriangle.org/bike, GoTriangle offers information and resources, including biking tips and maps and guides to help potential riders plan safe routes.
“Biking offers that time at the end of the day, that time to clear your mind, or to wake up for the morning,” Cushing says. “You get a little bit of exercise, depending on how far you go. There are just so many benefits to biking.”