It's Bike Month: Get Out There and Proselytize!

It’s May 1–and May is National Bike Month in the United States of America. (We don’t do May Day here. Pay no attention to anyone who does.)

So if you have the weekend off and a five-day, 40-hour work week, banish those commie thoughts and instead think about how you’re going to spread the word of bikes.

Commute by Bike Missionaries
Photo: My Life from the Bleachers

Maybe you already commute five days a week, and don’t know how you could be any bikier.

This month, could you be just a little bit more influential?

Remember, if you’re an experienced bike commuter, you are a resource for everyone you know who is on that delicate tipping point; those people who just might try biking to work–insane as the idea may sound.

Bike to Work Week this year is May 15 to 20 in most places. So you only have two weeks from tomorrow to work your magic.

Top Four Tips For Being More Influential to Non-Cyclists

4. Don’t Proselytize, But Be A Resource

As I said recently, our Commuting 101 section is a great place to bone up on your sage cycling advice.

The League of American Bicyclists also has some great tips for beginners.

Let it be known that Bike to Work Week is coming up, and invite anyone who is interested to ask for more information–but don’t have any expectation that anyone will.

If you’ve already tried to convince someone and failed miserably, leave that person the hell alone all month.

3. Adapt Your Pitch For Each Potential Convert

For each person who wants to know more–if anyone does–the first part of your pitch should be, It’s fun. Oddly, most people like fun.

But what comes next should vary from person to person, based on what you know about him or her.

It’s fun, and I get in a good workout.

It’s fun, and I’m saving the planet.

It’s fun, and I’m sticking it to the Saudis.

It’s fun, and I’m saving a bunch of money on gas.

It’s fun, and I don’t have to hunt for parking everyday.

The International Bike Fund has a page “60 Benefits of Bike Commuting” with many advantages that can be stuck on the end of, It’s fun, and…

(#61 is, It’s fun.)

2. Tell A Personal Story, But Don’t Be A Windbag

If you have a story of how your commute makes you feel, and why it’s worth the extra preparation and learning curve, tell it. But be alert for that glazed look in their eyes. Maybe practice your story until you can get it down to 30 seconds.

1. If Possible, Don’t Be Seen In Spandex This Month.

And if you do wear spandex, for Pete’s sake, don’t rave about the joy of cycling while wearing it.

Years ago, I was heading into Jacksonville Beach, FL on my bike. There was a really dangerous looking bridge with no bike lane or sidewalk.

I nonchalantly entered a Harley shop on the west side of the bridge. I wanted to ask the owner of the pickup truck out front if he would be so kind as to carry my bike and me to the other side of the bridge.

None of the bearded and tattooed gentlemen would even talk to me. Then I realized why: I was wearing spandex cycling knickers.

I went to the bait shop next door and asked to use their bathroom. I changed into my jeans, then went back into the Harley shop. It was as if I’d taken off my invisibility cloak.

Lesson Learned: Spandex is a social barrier.

The pickup owner carried me over the bridge. I gave him a dollar for gas. And I was on my way to being tormented by raccoons all night. But that’s another story.

What about you? Have you succeeded in helping someone overcome their hesitancy to commute by bike? How did you do it?

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11 thoughts on “It's Bike Month: Get Out There and Proselytize!”

  1. matt says:

    A couple colleagues at work have started commuting by bike, mostly because of me (they say). In neither case did I proselytize — ironic, since I served an LDS mission like the photo above. Instead, I just did my thing (and in spandex), and after awhile people started asking questions.

    It probably helps that I’m older and chubby. And my ride is 26 miles round trip, so they think “hey, if Matt can do it so can I” and they are right.

    Once they ask, mainly I help them pick a route. This is the scariest part as far as I can tell. I optimize for safety over distance or speed. I also help them tune up their old bikes.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Great story and tips, Matt.

      Who said anything about an LDS mission? That photo is of Josh and me.

  2. Andrew says:

    Two guys with white button up shirts, ties, black pants and pamphlets in their hands. You guys look a LOT like mormon missionaries in that photo. And at that small size the bike to work logo looks like a book of mormon (or something) in your breast pocket.

  3. matt says:

    Oh I thought that’s what it was…my mistake. The name tags would be on the left anyway…

  4. Spencer says:

    Ha! Very creative twist on Bike Month, though. I, like Matt, was also dressed like that for two years.

  5. another matt says:

    lolz on the spandex part, its nice for a full day riding with a group but other than that I haven’t really felt the need to wear it commuting. Just the other day someone asked me where I got my panniers from, who knows maybe they’ll get a pair and start commuting too ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Dee says:

    Have you heard about the Bicycle Commuter Benefit Act? Find out about it here:

    Dee at

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      It’s fun, and you can get $20 a month for doing it.

      What not to say: It’s more fun than donating plasma, but it pays less.

  7. burnhamish says:

    For two seasons I commuted up to three days a week 39 miles round trip through the Detroit suburbs (impossible & impractical with snow on the ground). I was lucky in most places there was ample shoulder or a trail/multi-use path available, which aided me during afternoon rush hour. I can ride with car traffic, but it is more stressful.

    I got a coworker to start biking his nine miles to work when I told him how far I had to ride, and I still lived (he offered to put up a ghost bike should I meet an untimely end). He was the only convert, however, even though many people were impressed that we rode to work at all. Detroit is decidedly non-pedestrian. Go figure.

    Now I work in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and there is a stretch of road I would be compelled to ride if I biked to work, but the traffic in the afternoon scares me when I drive my car! My season of riding this year is stalled because of the lack of cycling-friendly infrastructure in Fort Wayne, at least where I have to ride.

  8. Steve says:

    I commute seven days a week, usually doing from ten to twenty miles a day on a recumbent. I have a lot of people ask me if that type of bicycle is hard to ride, ect. What really gets their attention is the money I save because of cycling! (I haven’t gassed up my clunker of a van since mid-February). Then I tell them not to treat a bike like a toy, but look at it as your primary vehicle for getting around. I tell them that they don’t have to commute as much as I do, but to ask themselves if they really need to hop in their car and drive two or three blocks to rent a movie, ect. I just want to be a good example as I commute around town and answer any question those that are trapped in a car may have.

  9. Niki says:

    I commute 3 days a week to school and use my bike for any local trips I can. People who meet me are always impressed, but I haven’t had anyone nibble on the idea of starting to bike themselves. I find though that most people are fearful of riding for safety reasons. I live in So Cal so the bike riding mentality is pretty prevalent here. I always tell people you just have to pay more attention, because cars aren’t looking for you and ride where you are comfortable… start at the beach or trails and work your way onto the road. It also helps that all the public transportation is more bike friendly too. There are a lot of us commuters out there…. just being seen is a major step in the right direction.

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