Getting Your Pals to Pedal by Andy Thornley

Tell a Friend! Now is the perfect time to talk up bicycling to your friends, co-workers, and sweeties. Read our tips on getting your pals to pedal. Then reason with them, dare them, bet them, bring them to one of our energizer stations on Bike to Work Day (and the fabulous "Work Is A Drag" party that night) - get them on a bike somehow and they'll thank you later.

Supervisor Chris Daly, one of eight biking Supes on Bike to Work Day 2001, commuting with district resident Jenny Worley.
You probably have a few friends who aren't yet into biking. And while they may have a litany of excuses for not yet giving it a try, I think the issues for a newbie biker come down to three basic things: comfort, safety, and normality. Here's how I address them:

Get comfortable Make sure your friend's bike is the right size, the seat is at the right height, there's enough air in the bike's tires and the chain is clean and lubed. If you're picking out a new bike for around-town transport, counsel away from a knobby-tired mountain bike and suggest something more street-worthy instead.

Be "normal" You can bet when your neighbor gets in his Range Rover to motor over to the mall, he doesn't change into his "car" clothes or pack up his "car" bag. There's no reason why getting there by bike has to feel like a big departure from normal routine. Help your friend outfit her bike with a sturdy rack and a bucket, basket, or panniers - those messenger bags are cool-looking, but it's easier to haul a knapsack, bag of groceries, and second set of shoes in a rack-mounted carrier.

Come as you are Everyday biking doesn't require a second wardrobe. Comfy clothes appropriate to pedaling are probably already in your friend's closet. Layering is key, stiff-soled shoes with a little tread are super (those ol' Docs, or smart oxfords), and loose slacks with an ankle clip or elastic strap do the trick. And remember: this ain't the six-day Paris indoor races - a mellow route and a practiced pace often eliminate the need for a shower and a change of clothes after cycling to work.

Cover your brain The one exception I'd make to the "no special bike apparel" line is a helmet - in a truly civilized city, bicyclists wouldn't have to armor themselves against other users of the street. But while we work towards that level of human rights, help your friend pick out a nice comfortable helmet and help him adjust it to fit right.

Show him the way(s) There's usually a quieter path to where your friend is going, whether it's the commute route or grocery shopping. Get your pal a copy of the SF Bike Map and Walking Guide, available free from the SFBC. One of the great under-promoted benefits of SFBC membership is the "ride buddy" program: Just call the SFBC at 431-BIKE, and you'll be hooked up with someone who'll be happy to accompany you as you chart your way to work or play.

Set a good example As you join your newly-enabled and-liberated friend in cruises around town, ride predictably, signal your turns, stay off the sidewalk, and give the other guy his turn.

Take the lane Let your friend know that California law (CVC 21200-21212) gives her the rights of other slow-moving vehicles—safe use of a traffic lane away from the "door zone." Taking the lane can seem wrong to a newbie, but it's usually safer than hugging the rearview mirrors of parked cars.

I could go on and on, but I've got to meet my friend for a ride down to Crissy Field now. Spread the word, and let a thousand bikers bloom!