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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 12-17-12, 01:34 AM   #1
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Able to block it all out?

Apart from biking to work while briefly living in Bozeman , Mt., I've never lived close enough to my place of employment to make commuting feasible. As a result, my riding is pretty much for pleasure and cardio, and I tend to take the " road less traveled"(country roads with relatively little traffic).

Recently, I've been noticing a guy who commutes to work via a rode near my house. What has peaked my curiosity is the fact that this road, while not a major highway or interstate, is nevertheless a one lane, two way highway with a 55 mph speed limit. I see him as he is coming home from work in the evening when there is a heavy, steady stream of traffic zipping by him. Yesterday, out of curiosity (more likely nosiness), I followed him for about 7 miles. He's got a nice CAAD 10 with font and rear blinking lights, but at dusk he is really kind of hard to pick up. There is about a 6 foot wide shoulder on this road but he tends to stay just inside the white line separating the road from the shoulder. As cars pass him they must veer slightly in towards the center line in order to miss him by a couple of feet. As I followed him for the entire 7 miles there was never a moment where traffic was not breathing down his neck and yet he was consistently riding fast and hard and appeared rather oblivious to his plight.

Now all this brings me to the question of how is this guy able to block this out? On the rare occasions I ride briefly on the shoulder of heavily traveled roads, I breath a sigh of relief as soon as I'm off. It's not even so much the fear of getting killed as it is the fear of getting mangled and spending the next 6 months in a hospital and rehab. Just wondering if any of you have similar commutes and how you deal with it.
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Old 12-17-12, 01:54 AM   #2
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I do thay everyday on 6 lane roads. You just have to be assertive and trust that the cars will follow the rules. I suspect riding motorcycles for 8 yeats conditooned me to ignore the sheer closeness of it. Still buses and trucks still get me somewhat nervous. What I don't enjoy is returning home after dark in the winter rain in heavy traffic with ice on the roads.
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Old 12-17-12, 07:15 AM   #3
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OP I think that the issue really is mental attitude and "comfort zone" - very rarely are bicyclists hit from behind, so what he is doing is not very dangerous. Of course, with distracted driving (texting, etc) on the rise it's a bit more dangerous than in the past, but collisions from behind are very rare. I ride every kind of highway/street in my area (except the freeway) and the only time I have had a close call, which is maybe once per year (probably less, but I don't keep track), is when someone passes closely on purpose to "make a point". But even those happen on quieter neighborhood streets.

If you want to (not actually necessary since it is not part of your ride) start riding the same highway for a while a couple of times a week just to tweak it into your comfort zone. Not being scared of traffic can open up new routes and possibilities.
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Old 12-17-12, 07:44 AM   #4
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Ya get used to it. My commute is 100% on 2 lane roads with little if any shoulder, 50 MPH speed limits most of the way. I am as accomidating as I can be while staying safe, and cars don't bother me any.
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Old 12-17-12, 01:44 PM   #5
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Being surprised by a high-speed vehicle's presence IMO is the biggest reason those roads "feel" dangerous. If you don't already use a mirror, figure out a way to install one (or two for best measure). When you can get a feel for the road w/ just your peripheral vision it feels much more comfortable to be on the high-speed roads.

If you're a little jumpy to noise (I've become that way due to noise sensitivity), breaking off half a earplug and using that can do wonders. By not covering most of your outer ear you prevent road vibrations from transmitting to your ears (found out this is why musician's ear plugs don't cover the entire ear), and those cars whizzing past you suddenly feel much less intimidating (if you're fine w/ the noise level as it is, you can still try this for a week or two to 'train' your brain that those cars don't scare you). Also brings down road noise from high speed traffic to sane levels that won't damage your hearing. W/ my heightened sensitivity to noise I always bring half plugs w/ me riding, and put them on once I enter high-noise areas.
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Old 12-17-12, 01:52 PM   #6
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Practice.....and some faith in mankind.Your at their(drivers) mercy.....they can kill you at anytime.For myself,I believe most people don't REALLY wish me dead or need to grease the front wheels.....
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Old 12-17-12, 01:57 PM   #7
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The truth is, people who commute by bike are just that awesome.
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Old 12-17-12, 01:58 PM   #8
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I've always maintained that commuting in an urban environment takes an "attitude" to do well & properly. You get used to the traffic, and if your commute is usually around the same time of day and you use th same route, then the drivers will (for the most part) get used to you too.

Get rid of those knobby tires, though! And get some slicks. I commute on Performance Bicycle's Forte Metro K with Slime tubes. Well over a year now, and not one flat.
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Old 12-17-12, 02:17 PM   #9
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Practice.....and some faith in mankind.Your at their(drivers) mercy.....they can kill you at anytime.For myself,I believe most people don't REALLY wish me dead or need to grease the front wheels.....
It's not the malevolence of my fellow man that I fear, it's the everyday common distractions ( cell phone use, fiddlin' with the radio, daydreaming, etc.) that could get you eliminated. In all honesty, when I see the above mentioned rider commuting and consider the margin off error with vehicle speed and proximity of bike to car, I can't help but think it's just a matter of time. Hopefully I'm overreacting.
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Old 12-17-12, 02:18 PM   #10
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The truth is, people who commute by bike are just that awesome.
Now it all makes sense.
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Old 12-17-12, 02:46 PM   #11
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Apart from biking to work while briefly living in Bozeman , Mt., I've never lived close enough to my place of employment to make commuting feasible. As a result, my riding is pretty much for pleasure and cardio, and I tend to take the " road less traveled"(country roads with relatively little traffic).

Recently, I've been noticing a guy who commutes to work via a rode near my house. What has peaked my curiosity is the fact that this road, while not a major highway or interstate, is nevertheless a one lane, two way highway with a 55 mph speed limit. I see him as he is coming home from work in the evening when there is a heavy, steady stream of traffic zipping by him. Yesterday, out of curiosity (more likely nosiness), I followed him for about 7 miles. He's got a nice CAAD 10 with font and rear blinking lights, but at dusk he is really kind of hard to pick up. There is about a 6 foot wide shoulder on this road but he tends to stay just inside the white line separating the road from the shoulder. As cars pass him they must veer slightly in towards the center line in order to miss him by a couple of feet. As I followed him for the entire 7 miles there was never a moment where traffic was not breathing down his neck and yet he was consistently riding fast and hard and appeared rather oblivious to his plight.

Now all this brings me to the question of how is this guy able to block this out? On the rare occasions I ride briefly on the shoulder of heavily traveled roads, I breath a sigh of relief as soon as I'm off. It's not even so much the fear of getting killed as it is the fear of getting mangled and spending the next 6 months in a hospital and rehab. Just wondering if any of you have similar commutes and how you deal with it.
The road my driveway exits onto, is a 45mph 1 lane each way road that is actually a main back road artery around here (no shoulder or bike lane), leading onto the main road I have to travel when commuting which is another 1 lane each way road but with a 50mph speed limit.. there are bike lanes on either side at about the same width as the shoulder you describe.. believe me it isn't hard to get used to it if you want to.

Last edited by RaleighSport; 12-17-12 at 03:08 PM. Reason: clarifying
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Old 12-17-12, 06:41 PM   #12
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Knowing what the risks are makes you safer and lowers your fear level. That's a winning combination in my book.
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Old 12-18-12, 08:35 AM   #13
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The truth is, people who commute by bike are just that awesome.
+1

The vast majority of drivers will do the right thing without even thinking about it, despite any intentional intimidation, or texting, or stupidity, or being blissfully unaware. Drivers really don't want to hit us.

Let me say that again: Drivers really don't want to hit us.

It ruins their day too, you know. Plus the police, insurance, collision shop, and rent-a-car hassles--and those things are still hanging out there even if they hit-and-run.

That's what gives me the confidence (well, that, hi-viz and a DiNotte 300R) to use a six-mile stretch of narrow four-lane (11-foot lanes) with a granite curb (nope, no shoulder) with bonus storm drains sticking out two feet or more into the lane.

I completely understand that all it takes is one, but in nearly seven years of cycling that route, I can remember only one time I had a bad interaction with a driver--and that was at a stoplight where he was second in line behind me and couldn't turn right-on-red.

And no, I don't block it all out. I keep an eye on my mirror. Not that I've ever seen anything back there that made me soil my chamois.
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Old 12-18-12, 08:43 AM   #14
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There is about a 6 foot wide shoulder on this road but he tends to stay just inside the white line separating the road from the shoulder. As cars pass him they must veer slightly in towards the center line in order to miss him by a couple of feet. As I followed him for the entire 7 miles there was never a moment where traffic was not breathing down his neck and yet he was consistently riding fast and hard and appeared rather oblivious to his plight.
I commuted on a 55 mph road for years. It had no ride-able shoulder but it did have a passing lane. I believe that if the available 6' shoulder is paved and rideable yet the cyclist chooses to ignore it forcing every single motorist to both notice him in time and to maneuver around him, he is oblivious of more than just traffic passing patterns.
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Old 12-18-12, 03:41 PM   #15
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There are high 45mph speed limits where I live and most drivers blow that by 10 to 20 mph all day everyday. While you want to keep an eye on your mirror, the real dangers lie in drivers turning (right hook or left hook) into your path, typically without signaling, especially when it seems like you should be in plain sight and there is now way they could turn at that moment.

IMO, the key is keeping a peripheral awareness of the front wheels of nearby cars or cars that have an opportunity to turn even if they haven't signaled. That is your split second warning to evade. I had two near misses in the past week or so that I appear to have gotten through due to that slight edge.

There is nothing you can do about drivers buzzing your elbow over the speed limit, except maybe taking more of the lane (doesn't seem to work here). For that just focus on enjoying your ride, your cadence, etc.

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Old 12-18-12, 08:18 PM   #16
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I commuted on a 55 mph road for years. It had no ride-able shoulder but it did have a passing lane. I believe that if the available 6' shoulder is paved and rideable yet the cyclist chooses to ignore it forcing every single motorist to both notice him in time and to maneuver around him, he is oblivious of more than just traffic passing patterns.
Riding on the shoulder trains motorists to expect that cyclists will ride on the shoulder. From the description, the lane is wide enough to share. Cars have to 'veer slightly' to get by him. That's how shared lanes work.

That said, I sometimes ride on the shoulder, when necessary/appropriate.
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Old 12-18-12, 10:10 PM   #17
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Riding on the shoulder trains motorists to expect that cyclists will ride on the shoulder. From the description, the lane is wide enough to share. Cars have to 'veer slightly' to get by him. That's how shared lanes work.

That said, I sometimes ride on the shoulder, when necessary/appropriate.
"Cars have to 'veer slightly' to get by him. That's how shared lanes work."
What a load of "stuff"! Cyclists getting hit "slightly" at 55 mph by the first motorist, who for whatever reason, fails to veer slightly/"share" is in a world of unnecessary hurt. Hurt that would have been avoided if the cyclist only used the available shoulder and was not on some dang "training mission".
You seem to be touting that a cyclist should endanger himself unnecessarily to "train" motorists in some hypothetical supposition of yours?

When do you find it "necessary" or "appropriate" to ride on a 6' foot paved shoulder parallel to a 55mph road, if not this scenario? And what happens to your motorist training program then?
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Old 12-19-12, 06:47 AM   #18
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Riding on the shoulder trains motorists to expect that cyclists will ride on the shoulder. From the description, the lane is wide enough to share. Cars have to 'veer slightly' to get by him. That's how shared lanes work.

That said, I sometimes ride on the shoulder, when necessary/appropriate.
If there's a shoulder on a high-speed highway, ride it. This would not be the appropriate time to "train" drivers.

The rider described in the OP stays off the shoulder, but none of us except labas has seen this road so I imagine he has his reasons. But in a situation where there is a shoulder to ride on, that's where I'll be.
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Old 12-19-12, 07:13 PM   #19
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Where to ride, shoulder or lane, should be the rider's decision.
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Old 12-19-12, 07:46 PM   #20
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If there's a shoulder on a high-speed highway, ride it. This would not be the appropriate time to "train" drivers.

The rider described in the OP stays off the shoulder, but none of us except labas has seen this road so I imagine he has his reasons. But in a situation where there is a shoulder to ride on, that's where I'll be.
The shoulder in this instance is identical to to the road. The only thing that sets it apart is the white dividing line. Seeing how aggressive this fellow rides, my thought is that he is just making a statement about his legal right to share the road.
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Old 12-19-12, 10:01 PM   #21
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The shoulder in this instance is identical to to the road. The only thing that sets it apart is the white dividing line. Seeing how aggressive this fellow rides, my thought is that he is just making a statement about his legal right to share the road.
"Aggressive" is one way to describe such cycling behavior; ignorant and foolish is another.
I am sure his widow or mother can engrave that "statement" on his tombstone, after some distracted motorist doesn't understand or comprehend the "statement."
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Old 12-19-12, 11:32 PM   #22
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"Aggressive" is one way to describe such cycling behavior; ignorant and foolish is another.
you have never seen this cyclist ride and yet you are angry about the way he rides and think he will surely die. Is this a fair characterization of your posts in this thread?
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Old 12-20-12, 05:26 AM   #23
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There's one highway a couple of neighborhoods over that goes through a recreation area (so it's usually dark) and the speed limit is 50MPH. I don't think i'd have the guts for that, i'd use the shoulder definitely. Maybe if one day I can sustain about 30Mph on a lightweight bike?
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Old 12-20-12, 05:08 PM   #24
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"Aggressive" is one way to describe such cycling behavior; ignorant and foolish is another.
I am sure his widow or mother can engrave that "statement" on his tombstone, after some distracted motorist doesn't understand or comprehend the "statement."
If there were no shoulder on this road would he still be a wreckless idiot in your mind?
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Old 12-21-12, 03:40 PM   #25
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Apart from biking to work while briefly living in Bozeman , Mt., I've never lived close enough to my place of employment to make commuting feasible. As a result, my riding is pretty much for pleasure and cardio, and I tend to take the " road less traveled"(country roads with relatively little traffic).

Recently, I've been noticing a guy who commutes to work via a rode near my house. What has peaked my curiosity is the fact that this road, while not a major highway or interstate, is nevertheless a one lane, two way highway with a 55 mph speed limit. I see him as he is coming home from work in the evening when there is a heavy, steady stream of traffic zipping by him. Yesterday, out of curiosity (more likely nosiness), I followed him for about 7 miles. He's got a nice CAAD 10 with font and rear blinking lights, but at dusk he is really kind of hard to pick up. There is about a 6 foot wide shoulder on this road but he tends to stay just inside the white line separating the road from the shoulder. As cars pass him they must veer slightly in towards the center line in order to miss him by a couple of feet. As I followed him for the entire 7 miles there was never a moment where traffic was not breathing down his neck and yet he was consistently riding fast and hard and appeared rather oblivious to his plight.

Now all this brings me to the question of how is this guy able to block this out? On the rare occasions I ride briefly on the shoulder of heavily traveled roads, I breath a sigh of relief as soon as I'm off. It's not even so much the fear of getting killed as it is the fear of getting mangled and spending the next 6 months in a hospital and rehab. Just wondering if any of you have similar commutes and how you deal with it.
haha at first I thought you were describing a guy I've seen lately almost every evening on bike, on the highway I travel on when going home from work, - also a 2-lane 55mph state highway. But then I got to the part about the 6-foot shoulder and I knew it wasn't this highway, because the highway I travel on has NO shoulder. As a result the guy has to ride just inside the white line, and with no turning lane cars usually doing 60+ must cross over the middle line a bit to get around him. Also I have noticed his front light is almost not even visible at night. It's probably a cheap one like mine. I don't know how the guy does it. I sure wouldn't want to.

Curious, how were you able to follow him for 7 miles? Weren't you in your car? And you must have been going really slow to stay behind him? That would have looked a little weird to the cyclists and other motorists, no?

This is the road I take going home, and also the place where I see the guy on a bike coming the other direction: http://goo.gl/maps/OiOtb

*edit* I would be interested to know how far this guy goes, where from and where to.
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