Office Shower Politics

They are installing showers in my office building. As the one that bikes to work, everyone is eager to know my thoughts. “Are you excited?”, “Will you use them?”,  “Aren’t you glad they’re accommodating you?”

Meh… I don’t care about the showers.

It’s only 4.1 miles to work and I can’t go terribly fast due to traffic, potholes, stop lights, and avoiding devil buses. I don’t really sweat (except for August or “wet-wipe-season.”) Turning it into a true shower-requiring-workout would be extra nonsense. I imagine a personal trainer hovering over my shoulder:

Personal Trainer in the Sky

Plus, moving my shower routine to the other end of my commute would be… uncomfortable.

Office Showers

Yeah, no thanks. I’ll just get dressed at home.

But if they want to give me a closet to hang up my “emergency clothes” (ready in case of downpour or mud) I will take that. That and better coffee. Otherwise I’m all set.

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  • Love it! I’m with you–why sweat if you don’t have to? I only live 2.5 miles from work; with errands/meetings during the day I may get in another 5 miles or so but in little 1-mile chunks; and it’s uphill on the way home so who cares if I sweat then? I can’t imagine having all the stuff at work I’d need to do a full work prep there instead of at home.

    No guilt necessary. Think of the showers as being for the lunchtime joggers and people who go to midday exercise classes.

  • SRD November 23, 2011   Reply →

    I only/mainly shower at work because that way I don’t have kids wanting my attention/wanting to use the toilet etc. Work provides lovely solitude in comparison (and free hot water :)

    • Mr Butts July 28, 2014  

      I agree! My workplace actually has better showers than my home….

  • Eric Hart November 23, 2011   Reply →

    I totally agree about the showers! I bike about 3.5 miles to work and it would be silly to go to the hassle of showering when I don’t really work up a sweat! Even if the building I work in had showers I wouldn’t use them, I’d rather have nice indoor parking or even more outdoor parking!

  • matt November 23, 2011   Reply →

    I bike 13 miles each way and sweat a bit but don’t use the at-office shower anyway. I just shower before I leave in the morning and then towel off a bit upon arrival.

    btw, why stay anonymous? you should be lapping up the praise!

    • Bikeyface November 23, 2011  

      I’m not not entirely anonymous, just keeping a low profile in the age of the internet :)

    • matt November 24, 2011  

      well, we look forward to your eventual unveiling and book tour. keep up the brilliance!

  • cris November 23, 2011   Reply →

    Hot showers come into their own in the winter or during bad weather. I remember sharing an elevator with a co-worker after one horrendous ice storm and she was aggressively cursing her the dampness and the cold and then looked at me, and asked, “How can you stand riding in? Doesn’t it suck having to deal with wet clothes all day?”

    “You know what I’ve got in my bag? Fresh dry clothes and a bottle of shampoo.”

    I felt a little bad taunting her like that, but she asked.

    There are, however, certain co-workers who, now having seen them in tighty-whiteys, I can no longer unsee.

  • Invisiblehand November 23, 2011   Reply →

    I guess it depends on how far/fast one rides and in what weather.

    Personally, I think showers is a huge factor for bicycle commuting for a lot of people in the DC area.

  • inspiredcyclist November 23, 2011   Reply →

    Hilarious, thanks for the smile! No showers at work, but if there were – I don’t think I would want to take a chance. I work with over 30 women, and a few males. We share two bathrooms. Yes, two bathrooms. No time to tie them up by showering.

  • John Romeo Alpha November 23, 2011   Reply →

    Yes! Improvements bicycle commuters want/need way before showers: bike lockers and/or secure parking, a locker room or place to change and/or store clothes regardless of shower facility, routes to/from the job that are clear consistent and rideable, and equal treatment with other modes of commuting in Commuter Tax benefits.

    • Bikeyface November 23, 2011  

      Yes, exactly. There will be a follow up post to this when they demo the covered bike parking for building construction. Waiting to see if they will give us new bike parking. If not, I’ll just store my bike in the showers.

    • Tim October 23, 2013  

      Commuter tax benefits? What about the parking?

      At my work they rent a floor of a local commercially run multi-storey carpark. They also have other parking areas but the nice thing about the multi-storey is that it allows us to directly compare the standard annual rental price of a parking space in this area with the cost of an equivalent parking-permit from my work.

      It turns out that my driving colleagues get their parking subsidised by about 1000 British Pounds (or about 1500 US dollars) per annum. From an organisation which claims to promote sustainable transport!

      Of course my employer could claim that it doesn’t cost it so much to provide the facility (perhaps it already owns some carparks, etc) but then we get into opportunity costs – it could be using the current carpark areas for something more productive, like renting them at commercial rates (or just selling the real estate)?

      Of course my employer could explain there’s a cultural expectation that an employer provides parking facilities, and that it can’t just stop providing parking places to employees who took the job on those terms. Well I was taught in school that “everybody else does it” and “that’s just how I’ve always done it” are NOT good excuses. If removing the current permit system is too controversial then they need to offer non-permit-holders (like me) an equivalent benefit or we’re basically being paid less than the drivers we sit next too. Forget showers I don’t need. They could buy me a nice new bike every year for that kind of money…

  • Erica November 23, 2011   Reply →

    Having to shower at work would require coming in earlier (I’m hourly). Not going to happen. Also, getting naked at work blurs the line just a little too much between work and home. Man, I don’t even like going to the bathroom at work!

    Covered parking, or the ability to take my bike inside, is my #1 want. Work showers feels like an “accommodation” they came up with after talking with sweaty sport/recreational cyclists. I can’t see most transportation cyclists putting this on their list of wants.

    • SweatyCommuter November 26, 2011  

      I have to disagree with your attitude with regard to work showers. My commute is about sixteen miles, and I rarely arrive not needing to shower. It’s more than an accommodation to me.

      I’m an hourly worker, and I plan my so I arrive about 30 minutes early, to allow for a leisurely shower and/or flats or other mechanicals along the way. The hour I take commuting plus not having to rush to clean myself up results in a relaxing start to the shift. Especially if the commute involved an “incident” with a driver. That extra time you may believe I give to my employer doesn’t bother me one iota; I consider it my time, and I enjoy the commute very much.

      The other items you’ve mentioned are important, too, I’m not holding my breath for them to occur. Just don’t dismiss those of us with longer commutes.

  • WaitForPete November 24, 2011   Reply →

    I cycle to work most days, only 6.5 miles but I make it count! The showers are a boon, but they are individual cubicles!

  • themondaybiker November 25, 2011   Reply →

    It was bad enough to have to shower in high school. Bike storage, changing room, and lockers for a change of clothes would be much more beneficial and cost effective. I’d rather shower in the privacy of my own home.

  • Tyler November 25, 2011   Reply →

    I don’t bike to work as it’s 50 miles or so away, but I narrowly avoided having to use the office shower when the power came back on the night before, allowing me to shower at home.

    The comments above perfectly state my feelings: Too much blurring of the line between work and home, and “I don’t even like going to the bathroom at work!”

  • ridonrides November 27, 2011   Reply →

    i’ll take having a room just for changing clothes. it’s difficult hanging everything on those bathroom stall hooks. i wouldn’t put my bag on the floor (shudder). it sounds pretty awesome for summer bike commutes.

  • Sam November 27, 2011   Reply →

    There’s another reason to avoid the showers at work, but it may be specific only to places as big as my office – or just my office.
    Thousands of people work in my building. There are showers dotted around it, usually adjoining the loos. The best ones – the ones with the working hairdryers (in case of downpours) and space enough that your clothes don’t get spattered while you’re showering – are all on basement level. But they have The Singer. You’ll be relaxing as much as you can in a work-based changing facility, when from nowhere will come a male voice warbling away. My hope is that, as the facilities need cleaning, the owner of the voice is probably only warning us of his presence – but couldn’t Facilities stretch to a female cleaner for the women’s showers? They manage it elsewhere in the building where there are just toilets. But the Singer also sings in the men’s showers and is apparently just as alarming to them, possibly because he only Sings when there are one or two of you in the shower room.

    I’d rather take it easy, and baby wipe in the loos if I get a bit whiffy.

  • Ed November 27, 2011   Reply →

    Many of the above comments sound to me like the excuses people use to avoid commuting by bike in the first place. Really — it’s inconvenient to find a way to hang up your clothing? You don’t like the voice of someone singing? Someone sitting on the throne while you’re showering? I deal with all of these issues and more without a problem. These are minor.

    My commute is sixteen miles each way, in an area where the temperature ranges between minus 12F and +104F, although not that extreme every year. Hot showers at work are appreciated by me and others I work with.

    -Ed in NH

    • ridonrides December 1, 2011  

      I can’t speak for the other commenters, but mine was a reason I wouldn’t utilize the work shower. I do commute by bike and drape my clothes on over the stall door. I would utilize and appreciate a locker room. It’s just hard to be excited about things other people think you would want, but don’t actually need. For example, my job is in the process of putting in more outdoor bike racks. Well great, but what would be really useful is if they would let people bring in their bikes. But I am glad there are more, because obviously it’s needed in some corners of the building even if it’s not near my corner.

    • Ed in NH December 3, 2011  


      I don’t know your gender, but us guys *generally* tolerate inconvenience more than women. I do exactly what you do — hang the gym bag on the hook and drape my bicycling clothes over the stall door as I shower. Locker rooms would be great, but quality ones are expensive to build and keep clean, and I would be loathe to walk barefoot in any locker room, anywhere.

      Small improvements, like extra modern bicycle racks, are all we can expect in typical America. Maybe if the bicycle commuters in your organization got together and showed management good reasons for allowing bicycles inside, you would get results. Only organized political pressure, it seems to me, can lead to the real infrastructure improvements we all want (and need.)

  • AJ November 27, 2011   Reply →

    I used to have a 45min bike commute, and in the Summer it was oppressive to fight murderous suburban commuters only to sit in an office with no A/C (I normally hate A/C, but this building was located in Hades, and Cerberus’ barking was already enough to drive you insane). Fortunately, I was able to offset any complaints about my soaked clothes by explaining that I was embodying our mission of environmental stewardship.
    For the record, it was a fantastic gig in every other way, and my co-workers and I still bike into town to hang out.

  • Charles A-M December 14, 2011   Reply →

    A lot of the comments–including from cyclists–seem to reinforce the idea that there is one way to bike, and that one ride fits all.

    As Bikeyface qualifies it in her post (er, sorry for 3rd person), her commute is calm and not very long, and she doesn’t need to shower at the end most of the time. Therefore she is not the type of person who would need shower facilities at the end of her commute.

    Even more obvious, though, is the fact that Bikeyface already commutes by bicycle, i.e. without shower facilities. It’s obvious that that wasn’t a dealbreaker for her commute, and that’s why she was irritated by everyone asking her what she, as a token cyclist, thought about them. The point of adding shower facilities is not for people like Bikeyface who already commute, but to encourage the people who don’t currently bike to work to do so.

    Frankly, it would be a waste of the employer’s money to add those facilities without expecting them to encourage a behaviour change (i.e. reduced costs of providing parking, reduced health care costs through healthier employees, etc). Existing cyclists continuing to cycle is not a behaviour change.

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  • John February 13, 2012   Reply →

    I agree that it depends largely on the length of your route, as well as of course the climate where you live. Some people also just sweat more than others.

    All that said, many non-cyclists in my acquaintance DO tend to assume that you sweat all the time, probably because (1) that’s what their out-of-shape selves would do, and (2) they have a monolithic image of “cyclist” as the athletic lycra warrior who always pushes themselves as hard as possible, so they assume that’s how you ride too. (Even if they never see you in lycra!)

  • Don February 8, 2013   Reply →

    Thats why we have deodorant. There are strengths of deodorant & perfumed deodorant types these days for all tastes & body types. If I had a shower every time I ride to the shops, ride the kids to school, ride to work etc… I’d spend 1/2 the day in the shower. This is an incredible waste of time & water. I’d rather be on my bike. In the heat I often ride in, it only takes a few minutes to build up a sweat. So I use deodorant, sometimes carry a fan & take a change of clothes, especially a shirt. This avoids the office politics of who’s lining up to perve at who…not that it really matters if some people like more attention than others. So perhaps deodorant can become the new ‘politically correct’ item of baggage for cyclists. With increasing demand for deodorant & profitability of deodorant companies, may I suggest these companies start exporting it free to some of the 3rd world or poorer countries I have visited, where they don’t have the luxury of regular showers and certainly don’t use deodorant.

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