The University of Washington: Facilities Services

Planning your Bike Commute

Biking to Campus

If you’re new to bike commuting, going by pedal-power may seem a little intimidating. Here are a few tips to get you on a bike and on your way to a better commute:




Step 1: Find a bike that’s right for you

With so many styles and sizes to choose from, finding a bike that’s right for you can seem overwhelming. Being comfortable on your bike is the most important thing, so try stopping by a local bike shop and testing out different styles and sizes. Talk with the shop attendant about how you’ll be using the bike (Commuting? Grocery shopping?), and they’ll be able to tell you your frame size and suggest different bikes to try. If shopping for a bike still seems intimidating, ask a bike-minded friend, family member, or co-worker to go with you when you look at bikes; they’ll know what to ask and look for in a bicycle. Once you’ve tried a few different bikes and have a better idea of what you want, you’ll be ready to buy a new or used bike that’s perfect for you!

Step 2: Plan your route to UW

There are many resources to help you find a great bike route to campus:

  • Googlemaps now provides bicycle directions! Enter your start and end points and let Google do the rest.

  • Ride the City gives you three different routes to choose from. Just decide whether you want a “Direct,” “Safe,” or “Safer” route.

  • Commuter Services’ Route Planning page contains additional route planning tools and information.

Once you decide on a route, test it out! Try your new route on a weekend before your first commute to campus. There should be fewer cars out, and you’ll get an idea of what to expect from your route during a regular commute. Consider asking a friend or co-worker who already bikes to ride with you the first few times.

Step 3: Know where to park your bike at UW

The UW campus is home to over 5,500 bicycle parking spaces, including racks, lockers, rooms, and houses. If you have questions about parking your bicycle at a specific building, contact the building coordinator to see what your bicycle parking options are.

Step 4: Accessorize

In addition to your bicycle, certain accessories are required by law, and others will make your experience on a bike much more enjoyable. Here are our “Top 5” recommended accessories:

  1. Helmet: the law requires you to wear a helmet when biking. Helmets are designed to prevent injury from a single impact, so replace your helmet if it absorbs a major impact. Helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years due to materials degradation. Discounted helmets are available through the Student Health Advisory Quorum.

  2. Lights: the law requires you to have a white front light and red rear reflector when riding at night, but why not have more?! We recommend a solid white front light, a second blinking white front light, and at least one blinking red rear light to go with your rear reflector. Discounted lights are available through the Student Health Advisory Quorum.

  3. U-Lock: a stolen bike will ruin your day, so protect your bike by locking it up with a high-quality U-Lock. Discounted U-Locks are available through the Student Health Advisory Quorum. Learn about proper locking techniques here.

  4. Fenders: keep your bike, body, and the folks riding behind you dry by investing in full front and rear fenders!

  5. Bike Bell: politely alert pedestrians and slower-moving bicyclists that you’re about to overtake them by ringing your bell. Ringing your bell makes you more predictable as a rider, which makes it safer for folks around you. Discounted bells are available through the Student Health Advisory Quorum.

Step 5: Attire-ize

Just because it’s wet outside, doesn’t mean you have to be. Keep yourself warm and dry by investing in rain gear for fall and winter riding:

  • Rain jacket: look for something waterproof, light, and breathable. Jackets designed for biking also usually have a “flap” that protects your backside from the elements.

  • Rain pants: look for something water-proof, breathable, and that won’t restrict your movement. Rain pants designed for biking often have built-in reflectors for improved night-time visibility.

  • Gloves: keep your fingers warm and dry! Gloves are a must, especially for winter riding.

  • Cap: take care of your head and ears by covering them up with a cap. Caps designed for biking typically fit under a helmet and have built-in flaps or bands that cover your ears. Also a must for winter riding.

  • Booties: don’t get cold feet. Waterproof booties will keep your feet warm and dry. These low-cost wonders fit over most shoe styles and are easy to slip on and off.

Step 6: Register your bicycle with UWPD

Losing your bike stinks. Register your bike with UWPD, and if your bike is stolen and later acquired by UWPD, they’ll return it to you.




The tips on this page are by no means exhaustive. If you have questions or comments about these or other aspects of bike commuting, feel free to contact us at bikehelp@uw.edu. Interested in taking your bike skills to the next level? Consider signing up for Commuter Services’ Bike Classes taught by certified instructors from Cascade Bicycle Club. Enjoy the ride!

Planning Your Commute

Choosing a bike route

Just because a route works well for cars or buses doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most convenient or comfortable when you’re traveling by bike. Fortunately, there are many great resources to help you find bike routes that work for you:

  • Ride the City is a route planning tool that gives you three different routes to choose from. Just decide whether you want a “Direct,” “Safe,” or “Safer” route.
  • Google Maps now provides bicycle directions! Enter your start and end points and let Google do the rest.


Bike maps


Taking your bike on buses, vanpools, and light rail

All buses and most vanpools have easy-to-load bike racks so you can pedal one way, or part way, and ride the bus or vanpool for the rest of your journey. Bus and vanpool bike racks typically hold 2-3 bicycles. Bikes can also be taken on Sounder commuter rail, Central Link light rail, and Tacoma Link light rail.

Practice makes perfect

A practice bus-bike rack is available at the University Transportation Center at 3745 15th Ave NE. The demonstration rack is located outside the main lobby entrance along the front of the building. Instructions are posted next to the bus-bike rack so feel free to practice loading and unloading your bike anytime you like. If you’d like to make an appointment for personal assistance, please contact Commuter Services at (206) 616-7493 or bikehelp@uw.edu. For instructions on how to load and unload your bike see Metro’s Loading Your Bike on a Bus video below:



Curious about bicycle etiquette on Sound Transit light rail trains and express buses? Check out the video below:



More bikes on transit videos after the jump:




The recommendations on this page are by no means exhaustive. If you have questions or comments about these or other aspects of route planning or biking and transit, feel free to contact us at bikehelp@uw.edu. Interested in taking your bike skills to the next level? Consider signing up for one of Commuter Services’ free Bike Classes taught by certified instructors from Cascade Bicycle Club. Enjoy the ride!