Choosing whether to be a “biker commuter” or not can be a difficult decision.

Seattle, biker commuter, bike to workIt doesn’t help that the statistics on bike accidents and calculations of cost-to-benefit ratios are notoriously unreliable. Yes, the Federal Highway Administration reliably reports that bicyclists account for two percent of traffic deaths even though they only account for one percent of all trips. But no official safety/accident statistic accounts for the miles bicyclists travel, how long they take to travel, or all details of riding conditions. And since fewer bike accidents are reported to insurance companies than car accidents, the exact number remains unclear. Moreover, the cost-benefit analyses that do exist appear to contradict each other, depending on how risk is defined.

The ambiguity of this information means that most people have developed uninformed beliefs about which bicycling activities are safe and which ones are not. And commuting to work–on busy roads, with heavy work materials often in tow–is still often seen as dangerous and unjustifiable, according to an informal survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency blog.

However, as one safety expert pointed out in a article, the reluctance to commute by bike has more to do with cultural norms than logical cost-benefit analysis, because “[m]inority status generates fear.”

John Franklin, cycling skills expert who authored the book Cyclecraft, agreed that perceptions of cycling are skewed. “There’s nothing in life that’s risk free,” he said. “It’s about the management of risk, not simply the fear of risk.”

Part of the risk management aspect is undeniably the infrastructure and design of urban areas, which have much room for improvement in most U.S. cities right now. However, even without a bike-friendly environment, there are many biker commuters successfully making it out there on their own. Here are three of their stories, geared to get you thinking about what it would take–and what it would mean to you–to become a biker commuter.

commute to work, ride to work, biker commuter, CopenhagenThe working man

Jack “Ghost Rider” Sweeney is a contributor to who shared his story: “I commute because I love to ride my bikes, because I live close enough to where I work to make it feasible, and I don’t have to pay for parking, gas and all that other stuff that goes with being a car driver. My current commute is 6 miles each way … Most people react like I’m some drug-crazed fiend [when they find out I ride to work] — ‘You ride to work? Holy cow, that’s crazy!’ The more they think about it, the better it sounds, though, especially when I tell them the benefits (‘I don’t have to pay for gas or parking and I always find a parking space!’).”

Sensible mom rides with kid in tow

Dara Marks Marino blogged on about her experience combing her car and bike: “Twice a week I put my bike on the roof [of my car]. I load my child in to the car. We pick up our neighbor for carpool. We drive to school. I kick the kids out of the car. I unload my bike from the roof. I put on my second pannier. I ride to campus and take classes about climate science and climate solutions. I ride back to the kids school. I take my second pannier off. I reload my bike on to the roof. I get the kids. We drive home. … Bike commuting has changed for me [over time]. I’m sure it will change again as my daughter gets older … In the meantime, I’ll keep loading my bike on the roof and being grateful that I get to ride at all.”

Woman takes on city

Earlier this year NPR shared one city girl’s commuting story, addressing the concern that more men than women ride to work: “Chicago resident Rebecca Roberts says she rides more than 8 miles to her job at a nonprofit. She says she sees plenty of female riders, but she understands that some might worry about biking and how they dress for work. ‘I’m in my jeans today, but usually I ride in a skirt,’ Roberts says. ‘I have a commuting bike. I can usually keep coffee on the front of it, and I just feel like it’s a better way to get there.'”

Photos courtesy of Oran Viriyincyand Comrade Foote/Jens Rost (bottom) via Creative Commons