The Lesson From Bike to Work Day: Regionalism

Ballston Pit Stop - Washington DC Bike to Work Day - WABA table

Last Friday’s Bike to Work Day was a great success, setting a new record for registered riders and number of pit stops.  Thanks to the beautiful weather and great activities provided by pit stop sponsors, the over 14,500 riders who came out were treated to a fantastic celebration of biking to work.

This weekend, I started looking through Bike to Work Day’s final registration tallies and data. And all figures pointed in the same direction: Bicycling is growing in the entire region, so we need to continue our ability to grow our regional advocacy approach accordingly. Hopefully, the expansion of our advocacy work in recent years and the launch this winter of our suburban outreach program has helped to dispel any remaining notion that WABA is only about biking in D.C.

We have increased our efforts in suburban jurisdictions, just as Bike to Work Day has expanded its pit stop offerings away from downtown and into all parts of the region. We can see the results. Bike to Work Day’s top three overall pit stops were evenly spread: one in Virginia (Rosslyn), one in Maryland (Bethesda), and one in the District (Freedom Plaza). This makes sense given the region’s employment density, and, in my view, reflects that the decision by the Bike to Work Day organizers to better cover the region with pit stop opportunities was the correct one. What we lose in the optics of everyone in a giant gathering at a single location, we gain back in overall growth and attraction of new riders throughout the region who want pit stops convenient to their commutes.

Of course, no discussion of regionalism in transportation can go far without addressing the elephant in the room: WMATA.  Previously, though it’s engaged on transportation issues that affect bicyclist and pedestrians, WMATA had played a limited role in Bike to Work Day.  Since the completion of its excellent Bicyclist & Pedestrian Access Study, WMATA has taken steps to further encourage integration of bicycling and Metrorail/Metrobus commuting. This year, it hosted two pit stops at two Metro stations, West Hyattsville and Cheverly. The choice of these stations was especially important, because they’re in areas of relatively low Bike to Work Day registration. Additionally, West Hyattsville is a major destination for Spanish-speaking bike commuters who are more difficult to reach through traditional marketing, outreach, and education channels; Cheverly is in the region east of the city that notably underserved in biking infrastructure. WMATA’s pit stops didn’t break attendance records, but they helped us  broaden the event demographically and geographically and provide additional outreach on bicycling to communities we might not have reached otherwise.

Next year, we hope to work further with WMATA to encourage non-cyclists to try bicycling by better marketing the multi-modal commute—and ensuring that people understand that biking to Metro counts for Bike to Work Day.

Finally, the final tally did allow us to compare participation by jurisdiction to see where we have more work to do to encourage greater bike commuting.  In total, Virginia had the most registered riders, followed by the District, with Maryland slightly behind. Given the relative populations of the jurisdictions, we would like to see higher numbers from Maryland relative to the District and Virginia. These Bike to Work Day numbers confirmed a concerning trend we’ve already recognized in our own membership and supporter data. As a result, in the past week we have submitted proposals to Montgomery and Prince George’s County to expand education and outreach activities, in hopes of growing ridership in Maryland. One measure of our success will be next year’s state-level breakdown of Bike to Work Day data.

Thank you to everyone who registered and rode on Friday. We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t be a statistic,” implying that “being a statistic” is only applied to bad outcomes.  In biking, where our governments are often unwilling or unable to invest in generating the data and statistics that would help us make the case that bicycling is important to the region’s transportation, health, and economy, being a statistic—especially on Bike to Work Day—is incredibly helpful.

We can’t thank you enough for being a living, breathing person who came out to celebrate bicycling with us.  And thank you for being a statistic who will help us demonstrate the demand for bicycling and push for better bicycling in the coming year.

Image by Flickr user MegaBeth. Join our Flickr pool!

Bike to Work Day 2013, in Infographics

Many thanks to all who registered for this year’s Bike to Work Day and got to work on two wheels last Friday! This was a record-breaking year for Bike to Work Day participation, with over 14,000 people registering for the event.

We put together some infographics based on registration data. We always encourage people who identify as regular bike commuters to register for Bike to Work Day even if they can’t ride on that specific day, because it’s a way to generate numbers about bike-commuting patterns in the region.

Also in the category of “Bike to Work Day infographics” is this set from Fitness for Weight Loss, which illustrates some of the health benefits to be reaped from bike commuting.

Share Your Bike to Work Day With Us!

Good morning, #btwd13!

Bike to Work Day 2013 has been a wonderful success.  The final total of registrants came from 14,577, considerably more than last year’s 12,000. We’ve heard great things from WABA members and supporters all over the region about their commutes—and we welcomed many new members to the fold. Thanks so much for joining us for the year’s biggest and best celebration of getting to work on two wheels.

Did you tweet, Instagram, or otherwise record your Bike to Work Day experience? Keep tagging those insights with #btwd13 so that we can see them! If you wrote up your ride, send us a link. We’d love to direct people to it. And if you took photos, upload them to our Flickr group!

Find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr.

For those of you looking for a return stop, consider the Bike From Work Day stop in Columbia Heights’ civic plaza, from 4-7 p.m. And keep sending us your photos!

Best Wishes & Be Safe

While we have not been contacted directly by anyone associated with the bicyclists involved in crashes this morning and therefore can offer no further detail than what the media has already reported, we offer our best wishes and support to all involved.

Anyone who needs help dealing with a bicycle crash or advice on any issue related to bicycle safety or law can reach us at

For the 14,000-plus people who will be riding tomorrow in celebration of Bike to Work Day—or for whatever reason—please be safe.

One Last Bike to Work Day Reminder…

Still on the fence? You can do it! Register for Bike to Work Day now—it’s tomorrow! We’ve already surpassed last year’s registration record of 12,000. Over 13,000 people have registered as of this morning. Can you help us get to our goal of 14,000 Bike to Work Day registrations region-wide?

And, you can join WABA (or renew your membership) at a discount, $25, when you register. We’ll see you on the road, on the bus, on Metro, or at a pit stop tomorrow.

Have You Registered for Bike to Work Day?

Welcome to Bike to Work Week! Don’t forget to register for the region’s largest celebration of getting to work on two wheels, Bike to Work Day! Bike to Work Day 2013 is this Friday, May 17.

When you register, you can join WABA or renew your membership at a discount, $25. Register today and join the nearly 11,000 others who have already signed up.

Want to learn more about Bike to Work Day? Read our blog!

Rider Profile: Nancy Birdsall

RideOn is WABA’s quarterly newsletter. If you’re a WABA member, you receive it by mail. We make it available to nonmembers online, too. In this month’s issue, we ran a profile of Nancy Birdsall, founding president of the Center for Global Development and a longtime D.C. bike commuter. As Bike to Work Day approaches, we want to share Nancy’s story on our blog to inspire those of you who might still be on the fence about riding to work.

Register for Bike to Work Day (it’s next Friday, May 17!) and join or renew your WABA membership at a discount, $25. In addition to RideOns lovingly delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, WABA members have access to a host of great benefits.

By Catherine An

Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, is a longtime D.C. commuter cyclist. As WABA works to get more women on bikes through our Women & Bicycles program, stories like Nancy’s can be an inspiration.

It caused a small media sensation in some Latin American countries: headlines like “New leader bikes to work” swept across newspapers when Nancy Birdsall, incoming executive vice president of the Inter-American Development Bank, declined one of the perks of the prestigious new job: a car and driver—and a reserved parking space in the bank garage. But by 1993, when she assumed the position, Nancy had already been biking to work for 20 years and had grown both accustomed to and fond of the efficient mode of transportation.

“They were very kind about it,” she laughed, retelling the story and the flurry it caused. “The bank put a special bike rack in my spot in the garage.”

Today, Nancy is the founding president of the Center for Global Development, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. She’s been biking to work for over 40 years and encourages women to take up what she sees a surprisingly easy and convenient way to commute.

She got started as a young woman:
“I started commuting by bike in 1970 because there was no easy way to get from Glover Park (where I lived at the time) to Columbia and 18th (where I worked). I was very young and in a junior position and there was nowhere to park and no convenient bus route.”

And it was a good fit from the start:
“I was a bit of a jock in college—and I have no recollection of many problems getting started. I had some concern about how to organize myself – what to wear and how to carry things (I remember wearing slacks or a skirt and bike pants underneath, but those were pretty easy to solve.”

There were a couple of tough times:
“I’ve had two big accidents: Once while riding, I was hit by a car from behind, thrown backwards off my bike, and landed on the hood of the car. I remember it was during the Reagan administration because the guy who hit me worked in the White House and he was pretty freaked out. Everything worked out OK but the accident wrecked my back for a while.”

“The other time was when my youngest child was six weeks old and I was just getting back to work—it was my second, maybe third day back on the job and I was only working half-time and going in later in the day. By the time I left for the office, there were cars parked alongside the sidewalk so I was biking a bit further from the curb than usual. I hit a bump in the road, flew over the handlebars, and broke my elbow. Everything worked out OK, and the worst of the accident was not being able to pick up my six-week-old baby for a while.”

But it’s gotten better than ever:
“There’s been a huge upsurge in biking over the last 20 years. Workplaces have gotten more bike friendly; even the taxis—which used to be more aggressive—have actually gotten better now. Drivers are more accommodating. The challenges, if any, are easier to overcome than ever.”

And you should try it, too:
“Despite the number of people in the CGD office who bike to work (at least a handful), I’m the only woman who regularly commutes by bike. And of course it’s easier to bike if there are accommodations at work that allow for it (bike racks or storage, a place to change, etc.) but it’s not that big a challenge if you try.”

“It’s surprisingly easy. It’s easier than people realize. It’s just a matter of getting started.”

Nancy is the founding president of the Center for Global Development. CGD is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think that that works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community. Learn more at

Catherine An is the Center for Global Development’s media relations associate.