Commuting - What are your needs?
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10-09-06, 02:21 PM
Hello all, I'm posting this thread in hopes to do some research for a design project of mine. I'm trying to collect an accurate listing of the biggest deterents that are inherent in using a bicyle for commuting.
This is a great chance to vent about all the little things bothering you about riding your bike. And the best part is I'll listen! Leave no detail out, spare me no pains. I want to hear it all. You can stream of conscious your replys or make them organized, it doesn't matter. The main thing I need in adition to your vent is some background on you. What kind of person you are, how far you commute, age, gender and so on... All generic but important stuff for me.
So with no more futher ado, what bothers you? Is it locking your bike up, the weather, tearing your pants, etc... But please don't just answer yes. I need you all to vent every detail if you can spare the time. Give me some context and I'll be your best friend. :)
I'm a senior studying Industrial Design at the University of Illinois.
10-09-06, 02:36 PM
Bad drivers and lousy road conditions.
I'm a 41 year old husband and father of one, currently working as a Graphics Department supervisor for a service bureau near Dallas, TX. I ride a mountain bike on trails for recreation and on street as a commuter.
My commute is 62 miles round trip, split between 22 miles on bike and 40 aboard commuter rail. This make the workday go from about 6:20 am to 6:15 pm. I generally manage to ride 3-4 days a week. Occasionally I ride all 5 days, and sometimes only 2 or three, depending on what I have to do after hours and whether I need 4 wheels to accomplish it. I maintain a goal of ~110 biking miles per week, recreational or commuting.
My only problems with the commute are mental. I like to get away from the industrial park area where I work during lunch time for a break, or to take care of errands that pile up when you're away from the house for 12 hours a day. It's not time-efficient to change for riding at lunchtime, nor is it hygenically practical to ride in office attire at noon in North Texas weather. Even if it were practical, there's not much available in the immediate area, beyond a couple of fast food restaurants. So I wind up eating lunch at my desk, which make the workday seem that much longer, and the food is pretty boring.
In the year since I've started riding regularly, I've made good headway in finding a better attitude about riding in adverse weather conditions, particularly headwinds, which frequently range in the vicinity of 20-25 mph at ride time for days at a time, and I'm able to think of them as a challenge rather than a big pain in the saddle.
Lighting is a continuing thorn, trying to be sure I have enough charge in the battery to make both trips, forgetting to charge, or worse - forgetting to STOP the charger before damaging the battery, and flimsy blinkies don't help. They seem to last about as long as the 1st set of batteries.
It's also mildly depressing to make both the out and return trips in darkness a few months of the year, (although it's depressing to do that by car, as well).
In short, I have a few excuses for not riding, but none of them are particularly good reasons not to. It just depends on how strong the excuse gremlins are on a given morning.
10-09-06, 02:58 PM
Visibility is probably #1. I have to admit I've kind of taken a defeatist attitude about making myself more visible because the existing options kind of suck. I use a blinky and a bright headlight, wear a reflective jacket, and call it good, but it's really not sufficient in some situations.
I absolutely hate cheap plastic blinky lights that burn batteries and break. Buying batteries and plastic garbage does not make me happy. I love my Turbocat headlight, but with a 4 hour runtime it seems to die at the worst possible moment. I would love a dynamo-based system but they are expensive, heavy, and there is cabling to deal with. Soo... Here's what I want in a lighting system
durable (no crappy plastic)
does not require batteries or charging
if dynamo-based, even works for a bit when the bike is stopped
bright, bright, bright
has decent side visibility
has a variety of well-designed and solid mounting options
no weird/expensive/proprietary parts, comes with spares
not a total hassle to transfer from bike to bike
not butt ugly
10-09-06, 03:36 PM
Well, not much would be a deterrent to me, but I know from others who don't commute; They all think I'm nuts. And it's because people in Georgia know how bad drivers here are.
My roomate would never ride some routes, that I just think nothing off. The roads here in Georgia, while not smashed and potholed, are not suitable for bikes either. If you'll look, you will notice that Atlanta, GA is the worst city in the U.S. for bicycling, and the reasons are obvious.
Drivers, even commercial drivers, don't know the law. They honestly think I am just being an intentionally unsafe jerk by riding in the road. Some are petty enough to attempt to make a physically threatening point with their vehicle. It's happened more then once.
So I guess the major things that bug me, and would be at the root cause of others not wanting to commute to work would be these:
Drivers ignorance of basic bicycle safety. I didn't have these questions on my driving exam, and I find that 20 - 30% of the general public have no idea that bikes are not allowed on sidewalks where I live, and are actually entitled to take the entire lane.
Bike routes that actually go somewhere. We have bike routes in Georgia, but they are just scenic. They don't actually go anywhere. So you'll be riding, and if you count on a bike lane to ride, you just have to turn around. Some end in some very bad, high traffic, narrow areas, with no warning. Have a purpose to a bike route other than just tooling around.
The last is a conglomeration of issues. Biking where I live on roads with any sort of traffic is just flat out dangerous. I accept it, and it doesn't bother me. But try telling that to the average mother of 3, who decides to try and ride to work for her first time, ever. I'll be she doesn't try it again, at least not down here. Hense the "dude, you ride all the way from you're house? That's crazy" response I hear again, and again.
For me, all of these are non-issues, but then again, I, like almost everyone on this board, would ride pretty much no matter what. It's accepted that it's dangerous, and drivers pay way to much attention to their cell phones than the road. It's accepted that road conditions sometimes suck. But for a person who would want to try it, just to see what it's like? It's in all likelyhood not going to be something they would care to repeat.
Are you asking about deterrents for people who have never commuted by bike, or deterrents for current commuters? I think the answers would differ.
I am a female in my early 30s and I work in a tech job in Northern California. I'm very lucky in that the weather is always good, aside from the rainy months, which aren't even that bad.
Here's a little thing: it's hard to be fashionable at work (styled hair, clothes, sometimes makeup, etc) when I have to drag everything with me in a bag, and wear a helmet, and sweat profusely. There's more pressure on women to spend time on their appearance, and cycle commuting is adversarial to that. It's the little stuff: my skin is flushed most of the morning from the exertion of the ride, for example. No way around it. Sigh. I'll never be the belle of the cube farm. Luckily, I don't have dress business-formally for my job.
Of course, the previous posters' comments about traffic, laws, visibility, and safety, are also annoyances for me. But they said it better than I could have, so I've nothing to add.
And, certainly, none of these annoyances will deter me. The only things that would deter me are 1) if I got injured and physically couldn't ride (god forbid, knock on wood); 2) if I worked at a place where I'd have to get dolled up and they didn't have the facilities to do so; 3) if it was farther than my physical abilities.
10-09-06, 04:37 PM
okay i just wrote a big post about a bunch of stuff, how it would be improved, but it wasn't really about stuff that deters me from commuting. whoops!
anyway, i'm 26, i'm a lady, i live near portland in a small town and my 22-mile round-trip commute is over busy highway and hilly country roads.
the things i'm dealing with are debilitating arm pain from RSI (i.e. an ill-fitting bike), lack of sleep/time, inadequate equipment (i need rain and cold-weather gear), and occasionally fear of traffic or insufficient visibility. i'd be more comfortable if i knew i were easier to see. it gets foggy and my headlight is quite dim. i have a lot of blinkies and a safety vest, but i want to be brighter. i wish more cycling jackets were covered in reflective material, and were made in fluorescent, hi-vis colors, instead of red or golden or blue or black (?!). it's hard to decide between them because one jacket will be hi-vis, but not breathable, then another will be breathable but forest green with no reflective accents. i want a rain jacket i don't have to wear under a safety vest. i'm going to buy a sam brown reflective sash to wear on top of my jacket.
what has kept me from riding, though, and the reason i didn't ride today even though i was packed and ready, was arm pain. so i don't know how that applies to anyone else but for me it is a deal-breaker.
the other big deal is packing--last week i missed a day riding because i stayed up too late messing around with Bike Stuff. you have to recharge everything, roll everything up, adjust stuff, tune things, clean them off, replenish supplies, etc. i think i'm going to make little lists so i know what's supposed to be where and whether or not my bag has everything it's supposed to, so i don't have to think about it so much. i don't want to show up at work without clean underwear you know, or forget to charge batteries for my lights. the side issue with packing is storage: i don't have room in my pannier to take all of the cold-weather/rain gear "just in case"; or sometimes if i wear a sweater, when it gets warmer i have no room to put it in the bag. then at work i have to find someplace to put everything and i have only a small locker. so smaller, packable things would be nice. a slightly bigger pannier. etc.
10-09-06, 04:43 PM
Being able to listed to high quality reproduction of music supplied from line level 1/8" stereo jack delivered to non-ear drivers at a sound level that is below the level of traffic/human sounds that contribute to situational awareness in a durable and compact package that integrates into bicycle and is quick removable to deter from theft.
Deterents Inherent in Using a Bicyle for Commuting: Leaving earlier
Arriving home laterI only bike my meager 5 mile commute, when conditions suit me perfectly. I only ride because I enjoy it, and if it's any kind of bother, there's no point in it to me.
10-09-06, 04:54 PM
I'm a 23y.o. law student w a commute of about a mile to school. So, basically, I could walk but it would just take longer. The reason I go on bike (aside from time efficiency) is because I'd like to live without a car when I get out in the world-- so why not start now? I did a little bit of bike-commuting in undergrad, but then I decided to be more serious about it and sell my car.
I didn't want to use my road bike to do errands and get to school, so I built up a beater (it's so cool! such a nerd bike, bright orange single-speed, but i love it...) with the help of my LBS.. I just use that to get around town, and it's great fun.
Deterrents to bike commuting? I tend to ignore them since I didn't give myself a choice. Weather is increasingly a problem; I'm from Florida, so sub-fifty is a big deal for me, but if I want to get to class (or get groceries, or meet people) i'm going outside anyway. I rarely use the metro, because I'm a five-mile ride from most places in town. Tearing my pants is a problem often when I'm not riding my bike, so I'd say that's a non-factor.
I think for me it's just the little nitpicky things. Cities are designed to make driving as convenient as possible, so riding a bike is a little like flouting the system. For one, the bike racks at my school are in a dank corner at the bottom of the parking garage, and constantly full--which is cool b/c you bump into people and talk about bikes, but still. Generally, you lock up to whatever is around. And drivers here are lightyears ahead of Floridians (horrible), but they still don't look out for you. My favorite is when they trail you for a bit until they realize that you really are only going 15-20 mph. Which is plain unacceptible, so they gun it past you to make up the four seconds they wasted trying to be courteous. Usually you both get stopped at the same light.
Anyhow, for alternative commuting, DC is a dream compared to FL towns: awesome metro/bus (some of which run on natural gas, so less fumes), generally slow traffic, and overall shorter distances to travel because of the density of the development. In most places in FL (big cities at least), it's insane not to have a car: no metros (obviously), urban (and suburban) sprawl to rival the Californians, and a preponderance of highways to match. I grew up in Jacksonville, which is composed almost exclusively of suburbs, where a lot of people commute 20-50 miles on the interstate in town (the public transit system, predictably, is a joke). So seeing what it's like for cyclists in DC is night and day.
That's my rant, although I've got it way easy compared to most. All told, I love riding, and I have to say it's fun trying to figure out how to get things done w/o a car. Hope that helps and good luck!
oh yeah and I second that not being able to listen to music while riding.......
10-09-06, 05:04 PM
not listening to cds was one of the biggest drags for me because i was learning chinese in the car last work year, and i didn't drive a lot over the summer, so i was looking forward to starting up lessons again in september :) but i'd rather ride my bike anyway.
Not a deterrent, but an irritation: Quick-release anything.
I'm tired of having to disassemble half the bike and carry it around with me every time I park it. Gimme accessories (headlights, battery packs, blinkies, cyclometer, etc.) that bolt on and stay bolted on.
10-09-06, 05:45 PM
I'm a.... 30 something father and husband living in the greater metro Detroit area. I work as a laser programmer/operator on the night shift. I commute 20 miles round trip, most of it on bike path and slow residential roads.
The one thing I totally hate and fume over every day I commute is the condition of the roads, they are aweful! Sometimes I'll ride the sidewalk if I fell it is safe to in order to avoid the crags and cracks in the road. These things are several inches deep and 3-5 inches wide. And it's not like there are only a few here and there, it is a constant thua-thump tha-thump rumble rumble rumble. No attempt to fix them either, and every winter they get worse.
Another thing that bothers me is the total lack on the part of planning when these roads were built. Every road around here has a speed limit of 45mph or higher and no shoulder. The lane ends with an 8 inch high curb. This was meant to keep cars from passing on the right and "making lanes" when the traffic got bad. It's a shame that they had to resort to these kind of things since the police failed to do their jobs.
10-09-06, 06:03 PM
20 y/o living in central San Diego. I hate riding around 6 lane "highways" with minimum speed limits of 35 mph and up. I will try to avoid these at all cost. I also hate my immature peers who heckle you. It's not so much the irritation but for safety. I get spooked easily and when I'm zen0like on my bike, the last thing I need is some @$$hole scaring the $hi+ out of me and risk me losing control. But those are rare.
10-09-06, 06:05 PM
Thankyou all who posted a reply so amazingly fast, I am forever in your dept for such in depth responses.
So the biggest things I'm hearing from you are about bike path availability/quality, safety concerns such as visibility and the ability to be seen by motorists (lights and reflective wear), blatant disregard of motorists, time issues such as preparation, and having to leave early, and the inconvenience of needing to wear an overabundance of gear. This, getting in the way of apearance for job or whatever (vanity is a valid concern, if I said otherwise I'd be a hypocrite).
Another main issue is road conditions. I'm not sure what I could really do about it cause I didn't design/unkeep the road systems in this country, but they seem to be a very large concern for many people, myself included. Potholes, cracks, sharp curb edges (deadly to road bikes), gravel etc...
I actually have this problem right next to where I live. There is a patch of concrete I have to roll over to get home and it is horribly broken. Most of the way I can fly as fast as I have the energy to, but here I have to slow and it is really frustrating.
One thing I wanted to add for people who may yet post or those who want to re-post, and this may sound a bit odd, but I'm really interested in how people view their bikes. If you could give your bike a persona, what would it be? I personally like to view my bike as a friend. Something very warm and welcoming. I see my bike as a faithfull horse or stead, ever willing to bear me off to my destination with no complaint. How does your mind respond to your bike?
10-09-06, 06:10 PM
I view my bike as an animal of burden, leave him in one spot and he'll happilly rest, eat and wait there until I need him. Sometimes, I groom him from time to time but I like to keep him low maintennance.
10-09-06, 06:17 PM
Me: 36 (nearing 37) year old cryptographic researcher
My commute: 13.5 miles in 15 miles back (slightly different route back for more safety)
The weather: Here in New Mexico, we have (usually) mild winters, and little rain, but we often get winds that are utterly ridiculous. The other day I had to ride into a 30 knot headwind, and it was far more work than I want to put in on a regular basis (and nearly the entire month of March is like that here).
The hills: I have a climb in each direction on my commute, and while they're not all that bad, some mornings I just don't feel like dealing with that.
Road crap: I'm sick of flats. And while slime tubes and puncture resistant tires do help, we've got the double whammy of a lot of junk in the road here and goatheads -- concentrated tire evil. I've had one flat in my life with a car, if only this were the case with the bike.
The lost time: My trip is 30-35 minutes by car, and currently about 60 minutes by bike. Add on to that the extra time that it takes me to get out the door with the bike (helmet, shoes, gloves, check tires, make sure I've got all my gear that I need, strap on messenger bag or panniers, etc...).
The lost carrying capacity: If I needed to, I could take a washing machine in to work and then bring home a refrigerator full of food. With the bike I'm always debating if I need to bring that extra book or not.
Errands: If I need to run across town after work, I'm not going to want to do it on my bike. I'm already running a big time deficit (see above), and I have that limited space to work with. Plus with one of my bikes I don't usually carry a lock/chain with it as I park my bike inside a fenced in area inside of an Air Force base, and don't need to lock it at work -- because of this I can't really even make unplanned stops along the ride home.
I'm sure I'll think of a few more...
I'd like to see casual clothing designed that's dressy enough to wear at work, but comfortable and practical on the bike. It's a hassle having to change clothes twice a day, and changing takes almost as long as my commute. (Not really, but it seems like it.)
I wish there were better locking systems for commuter bikes. Current locks are cumbersome and hard to stow for riding. The effective ones cost more than some of the bikes that I ride, and that's pretty ridiculous. I wish there were cable locks that retract into the frame when not in use. That could be combine with locking wheels and maybe even a locking headset or crankset--all with the same key.
I don't attribute a personality to my bike but I'm happy when I see it.
If you could give your bike a persona, what would it be? I personally like to view my bike as a friend. Something very warm and welcoming. I see my bike as a faithfull horse or stead, ever willing to bear me off to my destination with no complaint. How does your mind respond to your bike? Yep, that's it. My bikes are trusty beasts. All my bikes have names. :)
10-09-06, 07:43 PM
I'm 41 and female and do web development at a big software company.
I have a great commute and live in a great place for cycling. The roads are pretty good, unless they are doing construction on them. The bike lanes are clean, plentiful and wide.
I totally understand the sweaty/hair/make-up thing. I will never advance in my career as long as I have to slow down the pres and the CEO on the way to work, and as long as I never change into "dress-for-success" clothing. Oh well. I do not care. I would rather live life for today than kiss a bunch of ass and dress in drag.
My biggest beefs are foggy days and rude/dangerous drivers.
I ride one of my three bikes: An older mountain bike with smooth tires and a bolted on panier that nobody can steal, a recumbent bicycle and a recumbent tricycle. By far I'm treated the best when I ride the tricycle because people think it's a hand-cycle or a wheelchair. That one is my "human powered vehicle" and feels like I'm driving a little clown car.
My bikes don't have a persona, but in a way, I have a persona when I'm on the bikes. When I'm on the mountain bike I'm incognito. When I'm on the recumbent bike everybody recognizes me. When I'm on the trike I'm "Domaintrikes", the dominatrix of traffic.
truamn would an electric assis work to lessen burden in your life?
10-09-06, 08:22 PM
When I'm on the trike I'm "Domaintrikes", the dominatrix of traffic.
haha that's classic. i have to second that persona theory-- when i'm on my road bike i'm a reluctant poseur, but when i'm on my goofy commuter i'm a goofy commuter
10-09-06, 08:58 PM
So with no more futher ado, what bothers you?
Equipment that doesn't hold up. Most accessories seem designed for occasional use rather than for daily commutes. For example, it's annoying to buy a tail light that ... flashes intermitently. Or...the bracket just breaks after 500 miles (less than a month).
I would like light weight bike parts that are designed with the commuter in mind. That last say 10K miles!
10-09-06, 09:35 PM
I've been commuting daily for long enough that nothing really bothers me anymore. In fact, the things that concern me are things that threaten what I already have, such as the push from cycling "advocates" to get me off the roads and on to some insufficient network of second rate "bike paths". I'd like it if the police around here actually enforced the law occasionally, but I've grown that accustomed to drivers and other road users breaking the law on a regular basis that I can deal with it without too many problems. The gridlock I ride through tends to keep them reasonably well under control anyway. I'm also not real fond of those hot and humid days we get for half of the year, but nothing is going to change that.
I think the real reasons most people don't cycle to work (and the real reasons it will never really take off) are the perceived effort, perceptions of how it will affect their status in the eyes of their peers, and finally, perceived danger. The first two don't bother me at all, and I've learned how to deal with the last one on my own.
10-09-06, 09:56 PM
I'm from Arizona originally... my nick in other forums is AzCowboy.
That said, I told one of my coworkers who thought it was funny to move my bike that I think of my bike as my horse, and you know what we do to horse thieves in Arizona, don't you? hint: Get a rope! :p
Anyway, I'm 32, and IT Manager at my work, I ride 14 miles each way, 5 days a week.
My only real deterrant is pain... I have a bad knee (Two torn ligaments and slight damage to the menescus) They won't operate on it because they say they'd most likely only make it worse. When my knee hurts I'll ride the bus half way home to avoid some of the climbing.
I'm 23, male, and live in (see location on left). I work as a loss prevention agent so I don't worry much about looking fancy. I'll spare you the autobiography, but I ride a Trek 5200 on a 15-20 mile, depending on the route, round trip commute. Here's my list of things that suck and need to be improved.
-The pavement. 90% of the roads are fine, but theres sections that are torn up pretty bad.
-Parked cars in the bike lane. It's posted "no parking" but it isn't enforced. There's been a roofing truck sitting in the same spot for the last three weeks. It was finally gone a couple days ago.
-Left turn lights that will work for a cyclist. Many times on my commute I'm the only one that's turning left. It's a major pain to have to wait 10-15 minutes at a light becuase the traffic doesn't break long enough to safely turn and left turning cars are infrequent.
-Debris on the road. Large pieces of debris need to be cleaned up pronto. Whether it's 2x4's, tree limbs, or bumpers, the street sweeper doesn't get them and they just sit until they blow away.
-Construction crews. They tear up everything, and slap it back together half-assed often with the roads being worse than before.
-A place to put some personal effects at work. I could carry so much less if I just had a locker.
I don't really care about locking up as I store my bike in my office. Gear isn't that big of a deal, I'm a minimalist. I have one head light and one rear blinkie.
When I'm on my bike nothing else matters. When I look at my bike, I see freedom. Sometimes I get frustrated with it when stuff doesn't go right, but it's no big deal. Riding makes me happy. The stress of the day falls right off. Personal problems disappear. I'm at peace. Next to being with my girlfriend, riding is the only thing that brings serenity into my day.
10-10-06, 10:42 AM
My biggest deterrent is that I take my almost 9 year old son to school near my work and I am not comfortable with him riding on the busy streets that my commute uses. I am looking for alternate routes, but all are pretty busy with commute traffic. My son rides in the street, and I am teaching him when to take the lane, to ride consistently in lane, not dart in and out of traffic, but he is kid and a car going by fast is unnerving.
Bigger bike lanes might be an answer, but the real answer will be a) a route that is quieter (don't know if it can happen) and b) a little more age and confidence (maturity) for the kid
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