Biking to work picks up speed among city employees

May is National Bike Month, and an ideal time to begin biking to work
By Nicholas Johnson | May 03, 2017
Courtesy of: Jennifer Adams A group of city employees met at the Rosehill Community Center on Monday morning, May 1, to ride to together to City Hall. From left are Assistant City Engineer Andrea Swisstack, Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Associate Planner Karl Almgren, GIS Technician Matt Entinger, and Senior Engineering Technician Challis Stringer.

A group of city employees are getting into gear this month by biking to work as often as possible in recognition of National Bike Month.

National Bike-to-Work Week is set for May 15-19 and Bike-to-Work Day is May 19.

On Monday morning, May 1, a handful of city employees, including Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, met up at 6:30 a.m. at the Rosehill Community Center for a group ride to City Hall, kicking off Bike-to-Work Month in Mukilteo.

“With all the rain this past winter, quite a few of us had stopped biking,” said Karl Almgren, an associate planner at the city.

“The hope with biking to work is that we can shift our habits a bit for those of us who want to ride. I know it doesn’t feel like it quite yet, but spring is here and it’s the best time to get back into biking regularly.”

Almgren said biking to work in the morning helps to wake him up and makes him more productive at work.

“When you’re walking, you can day dream more, but when you are biking, you see more,” he said. “You are in such an alert state of mind that you might notice details about how your city is set up. As a planner, I love that because it plays into my work.”

Matt Entinger, a GIS Technician at the city, said he’s been biking to work most of his working life and has found many benefits.

“It gives me an hour and a half of exercise a day, which is a lot,” he said. “It saves me money because I don’t have to pay for gas. I notice that when I get to work, I am much more alert and awake then when I drive to work. It’s also more entertaining than sitting in traffic in a car.”

Entinger, who moved from Minnesota about seven months ago, said the biggest terrain challenge in Mukilteo is hills.

“Minnesota is pretty flat and this area isn’t,” he said. “It’s more challenging, but you get more exercise, and I like that aspect of it.”

Entinger commutes several days a week by bike from his home between Brier and Bothell. It’s about 11 miles, or 45 minutes.

“Any day where the forecast says it’s not going to be raining at 7 a.m. or 5 p.m. I try to bike to work,” he said. “I haven’t yet biked in the rain, though. I want to bike more often so I’ll probably be doing it in the rain.”

Entinger said motorists tend to be pretty respectful, but he knows he’s the vulnerable one.

“I’m in a pretty vulnerable position on a bike, so I make sure that motorists can see me,” he said, suggesting reflective gear at night and bright gear during the day.

While bike lanes are designed for cyclists, they are still dangerously close to vehicle traffic.

“When you’re in a bike lane, the number one thing to watch out for is cars turning right,” he said. “They are thinking they can turn right without looking, so a lot of people won’t check their right mirror. So, I watch for turn signals and pay attention to what cars around me are doing.”

Entinger said if no bike lane exists, he might move into the vehicle lane toward the centerline so motorists don’t try to pass in an unsafe way. Almgren said he avoids streets without bike lanes or wide shoulders as much as he can.

“I try to stick to slower back roads if I can,” he said.

Entinger agreed.

“I will study maps a lot before I choose a route,” he said. “I try to go on roads that aren’t the most obvious route for a car to take. Doing that makes the ride more enjoyable and safe.”

For some, biking to work seems a logistical impossibility. Almgren acknowledged not everyone is in a position to bike to work.

“For some people, it’s definitely a dress code issue,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s about budgeting enough time. Another barrier is often how far away you live from work.”

Entinger suggested packing a change of clothes, or stashing a pair of dress shoes at work. He also said city employees are fortunate to have showers at work.

As for gear, Almgren said not much is needed to get started. He suggested a bike lock, a flashing light on front and back, a helmet, and a rain jacket.

“When I got into biking to work, I hardly had any gear,” he said. “I eventually worked up to nicer gear, but you don’t need that much to get started. All you need is a working bike, whether a road bike or a mountain bike or whatever.”

Beyond wearing bright or reflective gear and having a flashing light, Entinger and Almgren suggested riding with a buddy, someone to watch your back for added safety.

“You are the vulnerable one on the bike,” Entinger said. “It might be the driver’s fault sometimes, but you’re the one who is going to hurt.”

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