Have you ever looked at cyclists and compared them to other commuters? They look determined, engaged, and content. A scowl might cross someone’s face when a car gets alarmingly close or a downpour starts out of nowhere, but other than that it’s all smiles…or at least neutral. In most regards, cycling is the perfect commute: it can be faster than public transit and even driving (especially in DC), it provides stress relief, it is a workout, and it helps reduce the carbon footprint. But it can be intimidating for people just starting out. There are oblivious drivers and cavernous potholes and crazy cyclists and pedestrians that appear out of nowhere. It gets cold and daylight hours become fewer. How does a person work up the courage to put two wheels to pavement?
Enter DC’s Interagency Bicycle Group (IBG)!
With the IBG you can go on hour long bike rides with a group of people of all experience levels. Since so many agencies are within 2-3 miles of each other in urban DC, the field trips are to nearby places. Having the encouragement of other folks can make trying something new much easier, or at least more feasible. Not only can the group rides give you some experience, it can also open your eyes to more resources, like the Washington Area Bicycle Association’s city cycling classes.
Pedaling through town for an hour or so every month is a definite perk but it’s not the only goal of the IBG. The mission is to create a network of bicyclists throughout the federal agencies to promote and encourage bicycle riding throughout the government. Each agency does things a little differently to support their employees who cycle: showers and locker rooms at work, places to lock up bikes, time to exercise during the work day, etc.
One of topics that came up at a meeting is transit benefits for cyclists. Some agencies only have transit benefits for public transit; city bike shares and personal bike maintenance aren’t included. Others reimburse up to $20 of bike maintenance fees. And still others have found ways to combine the transit benefits with bike reimbursement or a way to pay for their employees to have an annual city bike share membership. The moral of the story here is if you’re interested, you’ll need to ask the person at your office who handles transit benefits. He/she can find out what your agency can provide, if anything.
Some agencies, such as the Architect of the Capital, have gone above and beyond and are now a Bicycle Friendly Business, a title bestowed by the League of American Bicyclists. Having this title means that the Architect of the Capital is recognized for encouraging its employees to bike to work and trying to improve the support it provides to those cyclists.
The IBG is a collaborative group so everyone can come together to share best practices, then hopefully more and more people will feel comfortable joining the carbon free movement. Currently the group is comprised of 55-60 people in the DC area from about 15 different federal agencies. If you’re interested in joining the IBG, check out this link. Some people couldn’t join with their government email accounts and had to use a personal gmail account. If you’d like to apply for membership be sure to fill out the box saying, “Yes I work for X and I am a cyclist.” This keeps out all the robots.
Do you have any suggestions for how we can increase conscientiousness in regards to biking? What support is out there? What can we do to improve?