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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 12-16-10, 10:50 AM   #1
cacibi
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Observations from a new commuter

Well I'm in week one and it's going pretty good. But I feel like I've done more right than wrong.

Here are some things that have really helped:

1) Good Gear
When I decide to do something, I tend to go full on and get the best tools I can afford for the endeavor. I didn't go super high-end on everything, but I got some good rain pants, Gore-tex socks, good base-layers....all the things that would help make my ride comfortable. I knew if I was miserable, my excitement about the bike would quickly fade.

2) The Route
I did a lot of looking at Google Maps and street views, as well as driving different routes to and from work before starting the commute. I chose a route that minimized hills. This included a long waterfront stretch of sidewalk off the road. Part of the urge to start biking was the desire to get into better shape and drop weight. But I needed to acknowledge that I had to work into it, especially the hills.

3) Minimizing Traffic
Either by the route or the timing, it was important to me to get some rides in where I was just getting comfortable with the bike and the roads, not worrying too much about drivers.

4) Doing Whatever is Safest
I've really been observing other cyclists since I decided to start commuting. Some are very aggressive about taking the lane, others seem to stick to the sidewalk and use crosswalks as much as possible. In the end - it seems to me that it's all about whatever is safest. If there's an intersection I don't feel comfortable with - I will ride up on the sidewalk and use the crosswalk. I just don't think I should limit myself to one way or the other.
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Old 12-16-10, 11:42 AM   #2
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Cool, good advice, some people might not like the sidewalk idea, but I think it's fine, as long as you get off the bike. I think darting around sidewalks and crosswalks on a bike is usually asking for it.
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Old 12-16-10, 11:49 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by walnutz View Post
Cool, good advice, some people might not like the sidewalk idea, but I think it's fine, as long as you get off the bike. I think darting around sidewalks and crosswalks on a bike is usually asking for it.
A few comments -

If you are going to use the sidewalk and crosswalks, that is fine, but do it while WALKING not riding the bike. You might feel safer riding this way, but you are almost invisible to motorists when you do this, and it is in fact much more dangerous.

I very rarely use a car to go places, the bicycle is my primary transport mode. One of the things that always surprises me when I am driving a car along routes that I usually bicycle is how different the route looks from inside the car. I would encourage you to try several different routes on the bicycle to see how you feel. I tend to change the route that I ride a lot - partially just for variety, but also because I think about route more on the bicycle than I do in the car - If I am anxious to get home, I might take a more direct route, if it is dark out, I might shift my route to better lit roads etc. I also adjust departure times more on the bicycle than I do in the car.

The most important thing to remember is that you should be having fun - enjoy the ride!
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Old 12-16-10, 12:30 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by cacibi View Post
4) Doing Whatever is Safest
I've really been observing other cyclists since I decided to start commuting. Some are very aggressive about taking the lane, others seem to stick to the sidewalk and use crosswalks as much as possible. In the end - it seems to me that it's all about whatever is safest. If there's an intersection I don't feel comfortable with - I will ride up on the sidewalk and use the crosswalk. I just don't think I should limit myself to one way or the other.
This is something that will constantly evolve if you're anything like me. I started out on sidewalks (where I had my only wreck early on), then very submissively shared the road with cars (gutter bunny), then got more assertive with my lane positioning. Even now, I vary my lane position based on immediate conditions (i.e., if on a two-lane road, I'll take a very aggressive lane position if there's oncoming traffic, but will shift to the right when it's clear, though not all the way over to the fog line). I use lane position and hand signals to make sure traffic behind me knows what to expect. They seem to appreciate it, even when they have to slow down for me.

One thing that helped me a lot on the road was getting a helmet mounted mirror. I got it after a near miss when a city bus silently (the engine is in the back) crossed the double yellow to pass me on the left as I prepared to make a left-hand turn. Had I turned a second earlier I would have been splatted on the front of the bus. Now I always keep an eye on traffic approaching from the rear. Most of the time it just means I see cars slow down and tuck in behind me or change lanes to safely pass, but every once in a while I'll see someone doing something scary and have enough time to adjust.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 12-16-10, 01:06 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
This is something that will constantly evolve if you're anything like me. I started out on sidewalks (where I had my only wreck early on), then very submissively shared the road with cars (gutter bunny), then got more assertive with my lane positioning. Even now, I vary my lane position based on immediate conditions (i.e., if on a two-lane road, I'll take a very aggressive lane position if there's oncoming traffic, but will shift to the right when it's clear, though not all the way over to the fog line). I use lane position and hand signals to make sure traffic behind me knows what to expect. They seem to appreciate it, even when they have to slow down for me.

One thing that helped me a lot on the road was getting a helmet mounted mirror. I got it after a near miss when a city bus silently (the engine is in the back) crossed the double yellow to pass me on the left as I prepared to make a left-hand turn. Had I turned a second earlier I would have been splatted on the front of the bus. Now I always keep an eye on traffic approaching from the rear. Most of the time it just means I see cars slow down and tuck in behind me or change lanes to safely pass, but every once in a while I'll see someone doing something scary and have enough time to adjust.
+1
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Old 12-16-10, 03:11 PM   #6
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I agree with Doohickie, you will constantly evolve. Just listen to everyone's advice, but adjust it to fit your specific needs or situations. I do or have done things counter to popular opinion or openly debatable topics (i.e. reflectivity, cycling specific, helmet, lighting, lane positioning, etc.). But I am the one who has to deal with the consequences.
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Old 12-16-10, 03:29 PM   #7
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sweet, keep it up
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Old 12-17-10, 10:19 AM   #8
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+1 on the mirror. Any mirror is better than no mirror, I prefer a helmet mounted Take-a-look mirror.
Best of luck to you.
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