How I started Biking to Work

Like any other 6 year old kid I learned to ride a bike. But when I was a kid I was more into Lego bricks, so I lost the interest in biking — I couldn’t engineer or build anything just by riding my bike.

As I grew older I started to care about the environment, to think on the city concept as a whole, and how people moved from A to B. One day in the summer after seeing a large line of cars heading to the beach I told my girlfriend:

“This is stupid, people should ride bikes! I want to ride a bike again, and I need you to teach me!”

After a bit of trial and error with her bike (this stays between me and my girlfriend…), I finally saw the light: 
At 33 years old, I rediscovered the pleasure of riding a bike!

My daily commute

I live and work in Lisbon, Portugal. Here’s a map to help.

Where I live (south margin) and where I work (north margin)

Lisbon is in the top right corner of the map, so let’s put it simple: 
I live in a city outskirt and work in another outskirt…

As you can imagine my daily commute is quite challenging. Using public transportation I take at least 1.5 hours in each direction. By car… well, there is this bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril) that you’d better stay away from during rush hours, and depending on the traffic I can take from 30 minutes up to 1.5 hour in each trip. All this time locked inside “a box with wheels” — not good!

The first bike to work

Every year, there is a “Bike to work day” organized by the city of Lisbon, that encourages people to give it a try and commute by bike. Back in 2014, OutSystems (the company I work at) joined this initiative, and a team of bikers adventured to bike to work!

The first Bike to work day team!
Eating Pasteis de Belém on the way back home

In that day I rode about 50 km (31 miles), and believe me, it was a great day. It was no ordinary work day: it was a bike, work, and bike day!

Everyday bike to work

After this first experience I started doing it more frequently, and for the past 2 years, I’ve been biking to work 3 or 4 days per week.

I optimized my route and now I do around 30 km (18.6 miles) per day. I still have to take public transportation to pass the river, and I still take a bit more than 1 hour in each trip. The difference is that I use this commute time to exercise, to put ideas straight in my mind, and most of all to feel free!

Morning commute: 16.5 km (10 Miles) — Black line is Train
Afternoon commute: 13.5 km (8.3 miles) — Black line is boat

Working at a great company helped a lot: OutSystems has great facilities for the ones that bike to work: we now have a bike park and shower facilities!

OutSystems awesome bike park

We were so pleased with these facilities that the bikers threw a party to the the colleagues that made this possible.

Our bike kart! The girl in the picture is the one to thank!
Bike kart needs a push!

Biking to work changed my personal and professional life. I am fitter, happier and more productive!

Here are a few things that I learned in the past years while biking to work:

  • Always wear a reflective jacket / shirt.
  • At night always use **blinking lights**, so others can see you.
  • Avoid traffic: go early in the morning, leave early in the afternoon.

… and the next ones specific for Lisbon early bikers:

  • Be careful with drunk people driving their cars early in the morning…
  • There are people still partying at 7am.

Here are some places where I ride by in my morning and evening commute:

Docas — where people are still partying at 7am (Source)
Ponte 25 de Abril view from Belém (Source)
Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belém (Source)
Torre de Belém — World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1983 (Source)

Got you interested? Are you going to give it a try and bike to work?

Share your experience with me!