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How to bike in the city?

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How to bike in the city?

Old 03-02-13, 12:23 AM
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exe163
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How to bike in the city?

I am a college student with a bike as my main mode of transport. I only bike around the proximity of my school and not that frequently since I live on campus. I have some questions regarding how to bike in the city environment.

1. main road of sidewalk? The streets are quite narrow and not designed for bikes around my school. They are usually 1 car wide in either direction. If I bike on the road I would be blocking the car behind me. Also I don't have a helmet yet and prefer not to wear one if I don't have to. The sidewalk is bumpy and sometimes with ppl in the way. But at least I feel safer.

2. Stop lights. I've been biking on the sidewalk and starting after each stop light is very awkward for me, especially when the ground is not flat. My bike is kinda tall. I can reach the ground by leaning toward one side and tip my toes to prevent myself from falling over.

3. How do you get on a bike when a basket attached to the rear? My bike has a triangular frame. I attached a basket to the rear rack and now I find myself struggling to hop on and off the bike for obvious reasons.

Any input is appreciated.
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Old 03-02-13, 01:11 AM
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First advice I would give you is start getting use to your bike by riding it as much as possible in a stress free environment (park, mup, etc). This way you will get the feel of the bike and starting/stopping and getting on/off will become second nature.

1. I don't see where you're from, but I do suspect that riding on the sidewalk is probably prohibited by the law, and even if it isn't, you will eventually need to ride on the pavement since getting on/off the sidewalks is going to get very tiring. In your case, I would start cycling on the street, but would chose to take the quieter ones with less traffic, even if it means adding more distance to your commute. As time passes and you become more acquainted with riding with traffic, you can venture onto streets with heavier traffic.

As for helmets; putting aside any laws that might be in effect in your area, I would definitely advise you on wearing one. It might not be the coolest thing to wear as fashion goes, but keep in mind that-that 250+grams of foam and plastic is designed to keep the most vital part of your anatomy safe!

2. I have the same problem as well, and try to balance as much as I can when I need to stop at lights. Whenever I can and it's safe to, I stop near the curb and rest my foot on the sidewalk while sitting on the saddle. Just keep in mind that-that's not the safest place to be since cars might try to squeeze past you thinking that you've stop to take a breather! When you can't use the curb, try sliding off the saddle, while straddling the top-bar and lean to one side so that your foot is resting flat on the ground.

3. I sometimes carry panniers (saddlebags on the rear rack) with items bulging out from both sides of the bike and additional items on the rear rack sitting taller than my saddle; and I'm what we call a Clyde (280lbs/ 125kg!). When my bike is loaded like that, I lean the bike over towards me as much as I can in order for my leg to clear the obstacles; in your case the basket, and then straddle the top-bar until I'm ready to roll. Back in the day when I used to ride motorcycles, it was easier for me to lean the bike (chopper back then) and pass my leg front - above the saddle (top-bar on a bicycle) since I couldn't swing it back to font because of the sissy-bar.

Starting off commuting on a bike is daunting, but as time passes and you get used to your surroundings, all of the above will become second nature.
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Old 03-02-13, 01:26 AM
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Originally Posted by exe163 View Post
I am a college student with a bike as my main mode of transport. I only bike around the proximity of my school and not that frequently since I live on campus. I have some questions regarding how to bike in the city environment.

1. main road of sidewalk? The streets are quite narrow and not designed for bikes around my school. They are usually 1 car wide in either direction. If I bike on the road I would be blocking the car behind me. Also I don't have a helmet yet and prefer not to wear one if I don't have to. The sidewalk is bumpy and sometimes with ppl in the way. But at least I feel safer.

2. Stop lights. I've been biking on the sidewalk and starting after each stop light is very awkward for me, especially when the ground is not flat. My bike is kinda tall. I can reach the ground by leaning toward one side and tip my toes to prevent myself from falling over.

3. How do you get on a bike when a basket attached to the rear? My bike has a triangular frame. I attached a basket to the rear rack and now I find myself struggling to hop on and off the bike for obvious reasons.

Any input is appreciated.
1. Ride on the street. Unless your dad just took off you training wheels and is running behind you holding your saddle. Wear a helmet but only if you have anything in your head worth protecting.

2. when you stop at a light scoot forward off the saddle and straddle the top tube.

3. I just swing my leg over. Swing it higher if there's a basket.
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Old 03-02-13, 04:57 AM
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Ride in the street
If the road is narrow; don't squeeze to the right, this will only put you in danger of car doors swinging open into you; as well as encourage cars to hit you with the passenger mirror as they pass you.
instead when the road is too narrow and has no bike lane, ride in the middle of the lane like a car or motorcycle would.
Sidewalk riding is usually illegal, and it is dangerous for you; cars pulling into driveways don't usually check that a bike(or pedestrian for that matter) is in the sidewalk they are crossing.

Obey stop signs
here's a good tutorial on how to stop/start the bike http://sheldonbrown.com/starting.html Should help smooth things out.
also possible that your bike is too big for you....

I just step over the bike from the middle
maybe your bike is too big for you.... or if there is some physical limitation in how high you can raise your leg; a step-through frame may be needed
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Old 03-02-13, 05:49 AM
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The sidewalk is designed for pedestrians going pedestrian speeds. Therefore, motorists are expecting pedestrians, not cyclists, and will turn in front of a cyclist (that they think is going much slower, as untrained people are horrible judges of speed), causing a right hook collision. The only time I will use the sidewalk is if I'm going at pedestrian speeds, and that's usually to access on-sidewalk bicycle parking.

If the lane is wide enough to safely share with car traffic, does not have parked cars along the right side, and does not have a significant number of driveways, riding in the right side of the lane (allowing at least 3 feet to both sides) is relatively safe.

Otherwise, take the lane. Assuming you're in a US state that follows the Uniform Traffic Code, you have the legal right to take the lane. The laws in most states require a bicycle rider to rider "as far to the right as practicable", but precedent has set that, if the lane is any less than 14 feet wide (and I do mean the lane - this doesn't include space in which cars are parked - speaking of which, don't weave in and out of parked cars), the lane is yours.

Yes, you'll annoy drivers. Better to annoy them than for them to never notice you.

Also, this is where equipment comes in. Run a mirror, so that you can see traffic that's behind you easily - you can get handlebar, helmet, or eyeglass mount mirrors. If you see cars backing up behind you and are on a 2-lane road, you can help motorists get past you - watch for oncoming traffic, and if the way is clear, wave motorists past. If the way isn't clear and doesn't appear to be clearing any time soon, you may consider pulling off in a safe place to allow motorists to pass you.

While I'm at it... lighting is important. Good quality lights both front and rear, to be seen by, and to see with, are crucial if you're riding at night. And, avoid dark clothing.
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Old 03-02-13, 09:29 AM
  #6  
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Consider reading Art of (Urban) Cycling : a guide to bicycling in 21st-century America by Robert Hurst. Find it on the shelf at your library at 796.6 HUR. It's accessibly-written with helpful illustrations. It focuses on pragmatic (as opposed to dogmatic) solutions to everyday matters, including how to choose between sidewalk and street.
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Old 03-02-13, 09:32 AM
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To ride in the city safely:

1. Helmet. Try running as fast as you can, leaping in the air, and landing with your head spearing a curb. Now try it with a helmet. Obvious choice.

2. Position in the lane. If the road is wide enough for a car to pass you safely, then stay to the right so they can do so. When doing so, beware of parked cars' doors suddenly opening (that's called "getting doored"); look for heads in those cars, if one is occupied, stay clear. If the road is too narrow, then ride in the center of the lane ("take the lane"). If you are thus holding up traffic, either ride faster or pull over and let cars pass. Just like you'd do if you were driving a very slow car on a one lane road. A mirror, preferably helmet-mounted, helps you keep track of what is behind you. If there is a redneck pickup truck zooming up behind me intent on giving the bike rider a close shave, I prefer to be forewarned.

3. "Right hooks." The most common fatal bike accident in the city is when you are riding on the right edge of the road and a car suddenly turns right and cuts you off. A couple of people are killed every year this way, in Portland. Cars do this at intersections, driveways, and sometimes to snatch a parking space. When approaching an intersection, don't ride to the right or the rear-right of a car; slow down if you must. When passing driveways and parking spaces, at least be alert. Also, when you are stopped at an intersection, remember how easy it is for a driver to turn right when the light goes green and drive right over you. If they are in a large comnercial-type truck they may be unable to see you way down there; other times they are looking for pedestrians and other cars, not for a bike tucked in by their passenger fender. Either stop well back from the limit line and all the way to the right; or right smack in the left-middle of the lane so the car is behind you, and can turn right in the space you've left open.

4. Ride like a car. This means obeying the rules of the road and behaving like a driver. Don't swerve around, cut sharply across lanes, jump back and forth between sidewalk and street, ride against the direction of traffic ("salmoning"), blow through lights and stop signs. If you are more predictable and give hand signals, drivers have an easier time avoiding you. On stop signs - I don't come to a full stop if there is no traffic, but I slow down to walking speed, look both ways, then go through.

5. Be very visible. If you ride at night with no lights or dark clothes, you deserve to be hit. Drivers can't see ninja bicyclists. Heck, on my bike, I can't see ninja bicyclists. They appear out of nowhere, and only by luck are they not run down. Their luck doesn't always work. So, I don't care how poor you are, spend $40 on a bright blinking headlight and a bright blinking taillight, use them whenever it is dark, dusk, raining, or anything but bright and sunny. Mount the tailight as high as possible, on your helmet or your back pack is more visible than down low on your bike, but anywhere is better than nothing. Helmet is also a great place for the headlight if you can mount it securely and safely. Spend another $10 for reflective tape and stick it on your helmet, your bike, your backpack. And wear a bright jacket, it doesn't have to be day-glo yellow, but that is the most visible.

6. Assume you are invisible. Doing all of the above will keep you safe around the 90% of drivers who are alert and careful. There is the 10% who are so careless, tired, drunk, distracted that they will drive right over you even if you're in fluorescent orange head to toe in broad daylight. They simply don't register that you are there. Their eyes may see you but their brains don't process. So do what old motorcyclists do: assume that no-one sees you. Actually the really old motorcyclists assume that every driver is out to kill them, but on a bicycle, with merely a 1/4 HP engine, I find that level of paranoia is merely exhausting.

7. Stay off the sidewalk. It is for pedestrians. No-one expects to see a bicycle there. People will open doors in your face, veer into your path, cars will run you down in driveways. Okay, when the road is really dangerous I will get on the sidewalk for a block or so, but I'm riding very slowly, at walking speed, just until I can turn off to a safer street.

Sounds like a lot to remember, and it is at first. Riding a bike in the city is a learned skill just like driving a car in the city. Your results and your survival are mostly up to you; luck is a minor part of it. I started riding a bike in the city when I was 8 y/o. Today I ride in the city, among cars and buses, every day. Zero accidents with cars, only 1 solo accident and that was at 15 y/o. Safety isn't just luck. Stay safe!

Last edited by jyl; 03-02-13 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 03-02-13, 09:44 AM
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I don't know where you are from but you may consider taking a bicycle safety course. Learning a few rudimentary skills will help build your confidence in riding in traffic.
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Old 03-02-13, 10:10 AM
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confidently.

this could be interpreted as offensively or aggressively as well.

drivers will automatically sense if you're a passive rider.
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Old 03-02-13, 10:36 AM
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The League of American Bicyclists Traffic Skills 101 course is designed to help you get comfortable with bike handling, rules of the road in your area, and get you used to riding with traffic.

You can look up instructors in your area and contact them to see when they'll be offering a class by going here: http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/e...ourses.php#101
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Old 03-02-13, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
If you ride at night with no lights or dark clothes, you deserve to be hit.
You should tone down your arrogant rhetoric a tad.
Originally Posted by jyl View Post
Doing all of the above will keep you safe around the 90% of drivers who are alert and careful. There is the 10% who are so careless, tired, drunk, distracted that they will drive right over you even if you're in fluorescent orange head to toe in broad daylight. They simply don't register that you are there.
This statement makes you sound like a basket case hysteric, or worse. If those percentages were even faintly close to reality, bicyclists would not last a day cycling on the street.
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Old 03-02-13, 01:10 PM
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I realize that I'm opening myself up to charges of hypocrisy since I never wore a helmet in college. But then we were all pretty sure that Reagan and Gorbachev were going to start lobbing nukes anytime so what was the point?
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Old 03-02-13, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
You should tone down your arrogant rhetoric a tad.

This statement makes you sound like a basket case hysteric, or worse. If those percentages were even faintly close to reality, bicyclists would not last a day cycling on the street.
I believe the "deserve to be hit" part. Ninja bikers are as bad as salmon.

The 90/10 - okay, maybe it is 95/5 or 98/2. But our OP needs to know the 10 or 5 or 2 . . . is not 0. An alarmingly high number of drivers you encounter do not "see" you. No one, who is experienced at riding in the city, doesn't realize this.
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Old 03-02-13, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
I believe the "deserve to be hit" part. Ninja bikers are as bad as salmon.
I might have negative "beliefs" about the "badness" of know-it-alls from Portlandia, but I don't pronounce that they deserve it if they should meet a misfortune.
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Old 03-02-13, 03:55 PM
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Definitely take a riding course. It sounds like you don't have even the beginning knowledge needed for riding in the city. The course will not only teach you how to ride with traffic but it'll make you feel much more secure doing it. At the very least use the internet to read up on it. There are many common sense rules that people don't think of until they read it then it's like a bulb lighting up.

It doesn't make sense to new riders but riding on the street is much safer than riding on the sidewalk - and much faster.

I was pretty scared of riding in traffic when I first started but I've become "comfortable" now. My commute is along a very busy street and it was downright terrifying at first but once you learn what you are doing and get confidence it's no problem. Take the lane when you need to to be safe and don't worry about holding people up. Of course be courteous when you can but it's better for them to have to get to their destination a little slower than to injure you. Being overly courteous can get you killed.

WEAR A HELMET.

It also sounds like your bike is either too big for you or isn't adjusted correctly. A bike shop can help you with fitment.
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Old 03-02-13, 04:10 PM
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Here are a few things to start you reading:

http://bicyclesafe.com/
http://www.bikesense.bc.ca/ch4.htm
http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/...etter_tips.php
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Old 03-02-13, 08:21 PM
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1. Ride on the street. The sidewalk is the side WALK, bicycles do not belong on it. Make sure you have good lights and you'll be fine on the road... after all, on a street that narrow you're probably going almost as fast as the cars are. I would say a helmet is a good backup but not as important as good lights and safe behavior. Your goal is to not get hit, because if you do get hit any protective gear will only help a limited amount. Use proper hand signals, ride in a predictable way (not weaving around), and obey all traffic signs. Be aware of your surroundings.

2. Stop at the stop lights! And stop signs! Yeah it's awkward. You know what else is awkward? Getting a ticket. Or getting run over. Try scooting forward so you're not on the seat anymore, that'll give you a couple more inches. If your bike is still too big for that, lower the seat or get a smaller bike as soon as you get the chance.

3. How big is your basket? I just swing my leg up over the milk crate behind my bike. Depending on your personal flexibility and comfort that may not work. You could try standing on a curb so you're a few inches higher, and/or tilting the bike towards you. If that doesn't work, try getting a set of "panniers" that sit down low on the sides of a rack. Or if you don't use it that much just take it off and carry stuff in a backpack!
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Old 03-02-13, 11:28 PM
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Take the advice you have been given above. Hopefully you can become part of the solution.
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Old 03-03-13, 12:56 AM
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Originally Posted by exe163 View Post
3. How do you get on a bike when a basket attached to the rear?
See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scG0jmHpK1Y&t=11m05s

I also recommend reading
http://sheldonbrown.com/starting.html
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Old 03-03-13, 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by tsl View Post
Consider reading Art of (Urban) Cycling : a guide to bicycling in 21st-century America by Robert Hurst.
^ this.

practical solutions to everyday scenarios.
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Old 03-03-13, 08:47 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by exe163 View Post
3. How do you get on a bike when a basket attached to the rear? My bike has a triangular frame. I attached a basket to the rear rack and now I find myself struggling to hop on and off the bike for obvious reasons.

Any input is appreciated.
Get a women's frame bike, pay no attention to race oriented types who claim that these easy to mount bikes are not strong/stiff enough for cycling for transport.
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Old 03-03-13, 09:10 AM
  #22  
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A mixte frame (look it up) works great too.
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Old 03-03-13, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
A mixte frame (look it up) works great too.
True, though it may be easier to look it up, then find a new one in any U.S. LBS.
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Old 03-03-13, 10:10 AM
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You should also look up the cycling laws for your state and municipality. Just google "yourstate bike laws," and check the source to make sure you're looking at something published by a government agency or a reputable advocacy group.

Your state might require you to ride with a helmet, on the street, with particular kids of lights, for example, so many of your questions might be answered for you.
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Old 03-03-13, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by tsl View Post
Consider reading Art of (Urban) Cycling : a guide to bicycling in 21st-century America by Robert Hurst. Find it on the shelf at your library at 796.6 HUR. It's accessibly-written with helpful illustrations. It focuses on pragmatic (as opposed to dogmatic) solutions to everyday matters, including how to choose between sidewalk and street.

This is a great book to actually buy. I find myself re-reading from time to time... kind of a refresher.

[Edit; just checking its publication date, 2004. It's still in print and copies available.]

Last edited by gerv; 03-03-13 at 10:18 AM.
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