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Advice for New Commuters

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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.

Advice for New Commuters

Old 01-06-06, 10:52 PM
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Here are my tips:

1. If you don't want it to get wet, put it in a Zip-Lock freezer bag!
2. Be visible - wear a day-glo shell or vest and use lights and blinkie at night.
3. Leave some key gear at work (belt, shoes, undies, wet-ones, bike pump, etc.)
4. Don't ride on sidewalks and ride with not traffic - not opposing it!
5. Be prepared for rain.
6. Be prepared for flats - have a pump/CO2 cartridge, tube and/or patch and know how to use it.
7. If you don't have quick release wheels, bring a wrench .
8. If you have quick release hubs, close them correctly and don't let you wheels get stolen.
9. On nice days, take the long way home.
10. Don't forget the Zip-Lock bags.
11. Bring some cash and a cell phone if you have one.
12. If the ride is longer than a few miles or it's hot, bring some water.
13. If the ride is longer than a few miles and it's cold, bring an emergency blanket.
14. If you ride a mountain bike, run slicks rather than knobbies
15. Panniers are great. So are courier bags. So are rack trunks. Backpacks leave a lot to be desired.
16. You don't necessarily need a shower at work - Wet Ones and a little D.O. can do wonders.
17. Put everything you like in a Zip-Lock bag.
18. Enjoy the ride.
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Old 01-07-06, 08:38 PM
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Learning to commute is much like starting school (from Kindergarten)....

It's a struggle to get organized, learn weather patterns, dodge traffic, dress properly, etc....but it's worth it.
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Old 01-08-06, 10:25 AM
  #153  
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[/QUOTE=jnbacon]
I pack the night before, getting everything in the panniers and making/packing my lunch.
In the morning, I shower, eat breakfast, put the lunch in the panniers, put the panniers on the bike, and set up the lighting.[/QUOTE]

You could also do the lights the night before if you know it's goging to be dark. I find it best to get as much done as possible the night before or at least be in a routine that you know what needs to be done in the morning.

It's like every other type of riding? The more you do it the more experience you get. It's taken me 4 years to learn the rule of: Don't look at the obstacle just look at the line through the obstacles.
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Old 01-08-06, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Joe Dog
Here are my tips:

15. Panniers are great. So are courier bags. So are rack trunks. Backpacks leave a lot to be desired.
Panniers are DEAD weight unlike backpacks or courier bags as you are actually lift the weight this makes the bike heavier.
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Old 01-08-06, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Choccy
Panniers are DEAD weight unlike backpacks or courier bags as you are actually lift the weight this makes the bike heavier.
??? Are you talking about climbing hills, or what (the grammar of that sentence leaves me with no clear idea of what you're talking about)

No matter whether the weight is on the bike or on you, you still have to drag it up the hill, that's simple physics. 10 pounds is 10 pounds, whether it's in a pannier, in a backpack, or in fat around your belly, you still have to drag that weight up a hill. If it's in a backpack, you also have to carry the weight yourself. If you stand to pedal, you're lifting it a few more inches with every pedal stroke, which will add up to lifting that weight many more feet over the course of a ride than if it were on in a pannier and held at a constant distance over the ground.
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Old 01-08-06, 02:15 PM
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What I was trying to explain was that if you are carrying the weight you have more control over what it does than if it is on the bike.
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Old 01-08-06, 02:56 PM
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Panniers put weight on the rear tire, which helps breaking efficiency. They also decrease neck and back strain and the giant sweat marks that backpacks tend to leave. Finally, they give the bike a lower center of gravity, which increases stability.

That said, I commuted for years with a backpack. Most people already have one when they start commuting, so using it cuts down on the start-up costs. Panniers may not be right for you because of cost or because of your bike's configuration. Of course, many just prefer to wear a backpack or messenger bag.

Last edited by Daily Commute; 01-08-06 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 01-09-06, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Daily Commute
Panniers put weight on the rear tire, which helps breaking efficiency. They also decrease neck and back strain and the giant sweat marks that backpacks tend to leave. Finally, they give the bike a lower center of gravity, which increases stability.

That said, I commuted for years with a backpack. Most people already have one when they start commuting, so using it cuts down on the start-up costs. Panniers may not be right for you because of cost or because of your bike's configuration. Of course, many just prefer to wear a backpack or messenger bag.
Good points all. I did not mean to dis backpacks - I agree you can't beat them for availability and convenience because everyone seems to have one, unlike panniers. Let's not hijack this into a bad debate thread. It's a matter of personal preference and if backpacks work for you, enjoy!
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Old 01-11-06, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Tettsuo
What do you folks pack your work clothes in so that they don't get it all wrinklie?
Several companies sell clothing bags for bikes that work like garment bags and are designed to fold over a rear rack. I can't recall just who tho but they are out there.
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Old 01-13-06, 01:13 PM
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Great list Joe Dog. I love my trunk bag. I have my pump, my lunch, shirt and or rain coat, utensils, wallet, and keys in there. Other stuff, too. It isn't that big but lots squeeze into it.

Re: dress shirts--I just roll them up. I've been buying the wrinkle free type--that helps. I also change tee shirts, so that gets tossed in there as well.

Last edited by thdave; 01-13-06 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 01-13-06, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Black Bud
(It also allows one to wear, in winter, the much warmer and more potentially protective), full-face helmet!!)
I've had some odd looks from people when I've been wearing my full face helmet in traffic in winter but at least I ain't cold!
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Old 01-30-06, 07:14 PM
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I work for a temp agency so I go thru 5 to 10 new employers a year. I will drive to work the first day to look my best and to show them that I am a genuine member of their car driving culture (they think). I also look for good bike parking before risking the bike. I ask about cycling to work. If negative vibes I pull work clothes on over my gear before walking into work. Then change in a rest room. Praise OSHA for handicapped stalls. If they like cycling I ask about in close or inside parking and changing after I get there. Usually is OK. My next job may be temp-to-perm and the site is next to the west county regional bike trail. Unfortunately the only showers are for dealing with emergency chemical spills. I try to get to work 20 to 30 minutes early as a safety margin. One day I had two flats and got to work just in time.

Means? New people, take it carefully. In these days of at-will hiring it is so easy for an anti cyclist to get rid of you. Step by step. Employers may not be hostile to cycling; they just don't want it to interfere with the job.
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Old 02-02-06, 09:13 PM
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Arkel overdesigns makes a great commuter bag that I use a lot. It's the tail rider one. I used to stuff 50 pounds worth of groceries in these things. As for dead weight, well, depends on what your goal is. I kickbox, so more work is calves + pannier weight + 1999 heavy specialized hardrock classic with fenders and panniers = thick shins and calves that hurt the opponent.

Then again, that isn't everyone's aim. When it comes to commuting though, the most important piece of gear other than fenders and a rack are lights and 1 set of water proof pants. Then I'm golden.
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Old 02-08-06, 06:45 PM
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I am fairly new to the commuting gig (and in a sense, new to biking [reintroducing myself to it, haven't since high school] and i'm loving it! )and am currently riding my MTB which has 26"-ers. I have been looking around for slicks to slap on and was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on some nice slicks that can handle the pot-riddled streets of los angeles Anywho as I have been looking around the net (as well as this forum) I came across the town & country's a few times. How do you all think these tires hold-up? You guys have any recommendations for a guy lookin to slap on some slicks that are sturdy enough for the mean streets of LA but nimble as well? oh and at a reasonable price??
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Old 02-08-06, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by knykersnatchurs
I am fairly new to the commuting gig (and in a sense, new to biking [reintroducing myself to it, haven't since high school] and i'm loving it! )and am currently riding my MTB which has 26"-ers. I have been looking around for slicks to slap on and was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on some nice slicks that can handle the pot-riddled streets of los angeles Anywho as I have been looking around the net (as well as this forum) I came across the town & country's a few times. How do you all think these tires hold-up? You guys have any recommendations for a guy lookin to slap on some slicks that are sturdy enough for the mean streets of LA but nimble as well? oh and at a reasonable price??
GEAX Kevlar Semislicks.

My experience with them? 3000 miles plus through 3rd world countries, and not a puncture.

And I had 70 pounds worth of extra gear, food, and water on my bike. Hey, if they held up in those conditions, imagine puny little Los Angeles? Ask you LBS for them. I'm sure they carry em. They're like $25 a pop.
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Old 02-08-06, 09:27 PM
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much thanks for you help crotch! i'll be stopping by my LBS tomorrow.
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Old 02-14-06, 12:19 PM
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Just to add my tuppen'orth, I just want to thank everyone for all their helpful hints - this website is a real find!



As for my tips... well, most people have said the important stuff already, and as someone who is generally happy using most machinery - but utterly inept when it breaks down - I'm hardly in a position to add much of any interest here.

The only comments I'll make are:

1. I am amazed every day by the number of people who don't wear a helmet. What possible reason can there be not to wear one? Wear a helmet, folks - it might save your life.

2. If, like me, you're a backpack wearer (and I hear the pannier arguments... but then if, like me, getting sweaty is one of your cycling aims... LOL) then I'd recommend one of the hi-vis & luminous reflective covers that goes over your back-pack. It makes a big difference on the visibility stakes.

3. Make sure you're visible - that means lots of lights and lots of luminous if possible. And, since the human eye detects movement better than anything else, go with the flashing LED style lights for your rear lights, at the very least.

4. Finally, if any of you are (like me) mad enough to cycle in London... just remember, much as I hate to tar a whole group with the same brush, London bus drivers are invariably selfish, blind and brain-dead. One knocked a friend of mine off his moped the other week... so if you think he's going to be more careful because you're on a push-bike, think again. Cycle very carefully around them - because chances are, they won't be too bothered about looking out for you.

That's all folks - cycle safely!



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Old 02-14-06, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Mattyreg
...much as I hate to tar a whole group with the same brush...

Matt
i like that one.
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Old 02-15-06, 06:19 PM
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Take it slow and easy at first. Have fun!
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Old 02-15-06, 07:11 PM
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OK here's some info for commuting by bike in Australia.

1. Safety

* brakes must be perfect

* Helmet - required by law.

* Rear red reflector - law.

* bell - law.

* Brightly coloured shirt.

* Short-fingered gloves (if you should fall, they wil give protection to the all-sensitive hands)

* Sunglasses


2. Comfort

* Bike must be fitted to your body frame properly - poorly fitted bike may cause aches eg sore knees, back, shoulders, arms. Fitting includes saddle height, saddle fore/aft position, saddle tilt, handlebar distance and height.

* Good quality saddle - not too soft, that may cause numbness. Anatomical cutouts in saddle are good for preventing numbness. Make sure the horn of the saddle does not crush sensitive spots. Sitbones must do the supporting work.

* Avoid all cotton clothing including underwear and socks. Cotton holds on to moisture and becomes very uncomfortable. Use polyester, which will wick moisture away from your skin and allow it to evaporate rapidly keeping you dry. (Compare synthetics and cotton after a spin cycle in washing machine - huge difference.)

* Backpacks tend to cause a large sweaty spot on your back. Better to have a rack/basket on the bike.

* consider getting a few chamois-padded cycling knicks for longer than 60 minutes rides - they increase comfort quite a bit. These are worn with no underwear for maximum benefit.

* Use layering for warmth. A heavy garment will quickly trap body heat from the exercise, then you have to remove it and will be too cold. A few layers are best and you can remove some when too hot or add some when too cold, which will be rare.

* The most valuable garment I have is a windstopper cycling vest - nylon front, mesh back. I don this when the temperature dips to about 13 deg C. Below 10 deg C, I add arm warmers and knee warmers.

3. How to ride

* Ride as visibly as possible - that is the most important safety tip. Also, expect drivers to miss seeing you even if you are blazingly obvious, especially cars coming out of side streets or angle parking spots.

* Don't ride sidewalks - drivers tend not to see sidewalk-cyclists at intersections and there are actually more crashes involving sidewalk-riders than road-riders. It's illegal anyway except where a sidewalk is shown as a shared path.

* Don't ride too close to the kerb - drivers will be tempted to squeeze by and cause you danger. Ride one pace away from the kerb. Rear-end collisions are quite rare.

* Act like a vehicle - drivers will expect that sort of behaviour and respond safely to it.

* Obey all traffic laws.

* Don't be timid to take the entire lane for yourself. Especially at intersections or roundabouts. All you are is just a slow vehicle.

* Don't ride in parked cars' door zone - drivers suddenly open their doors without looking and this is the most common serious crash reason. If you have to squeeze by, check to see if there is a driver in a parked car.

* Expect P-platers to shout obscenities ("Get off the f- road!!). These soon become ridiculous. Ignore or wave friendly.

* Don't give drivers the bird - that merely tends to escalate. Rather wave thanks if a driver saw you and let you go through, or is riding patiently behind you when you have to take the lane.

* Don't use headphones - listening to traffic is quite important.

* Conversely, bikes are silent so drivers & pedestrians can't hear you. On shared paths, use the bell to alert peds. Peds will walk all over paths, not keep left and won't know how to react when you warn them, so be ready for just about anything. Peds often wear headphones so won't hear you - you may have to shout, I often do. Occasionally peds don't realise that you are warning them and nothing works. They often thank me for ringing the bell as warning. As often they get a big fright if you suddenly race past.

* Be on the lookout for dogs which are completely unpredictable.

* Magpies are a particular pest for cyclists in Sept, Oct & Nov. The season appears to be past now. I have suffered many many attacks until I put some cable ties on the helmet.



4. How to tackle difficulties

* Always select the right gear. Practice to switch gears and be able to use all of them.

* Don't pedal too slow - this is a common mistake for beginners and is hard on the knees. Pedalling faster is like light aerobic exercise - you can keep it up for longer. Pedalling slow is like lifting heavy weights - you can only do a few and then you must head for the shower. Knees may give problems later on if pedalling too slowly.

* Combining the above 2 rules, try to select a gear which makes the pedals go around as fast as your legs would during brisk walking or a light jog, no matter what the conditions.

* If you do this, uphills and headwinds will completely disappear in difficulty. Both these will simply be like riding a bit longer distance. Your legs won't know the difference.

* don't be discouraged if you get tired. In the first few weeks your fitness will dramatically improve and soon you will be able to do stuff that you could not even dream about. And you'll feel absolutely great. Not to mention excess body fat will melt away like magic.


5. How to prepare for work after a ride

* Wait a few minutes to cool down. Do some stretching exercises in this time.

* Wipe sweat from body with a damp synthetic cloth, or use the shower.

* Don't ride in work clothes - bring clothes for the day. It is a good idea to bring some spare stuff and keep it at work for those times that you forget to.



6. What to carry along with every ride

* full water bottle. It is a good idea to use sports mix - replacing lost salts is vital to avoid dehydration especially on hot days. Water is absorbed faster if potassium and sodium salts are in the water. Salts and plenty water keeps cramps away. Adding glucose gives you quick energy. I mix my own stuff - gatorade is too expensive and it's just sugars, salts, flavour. Sip every 10 minutes - not when you feel thirsty - that's already a bit late. One bottle per hour on a warm (not hot) summer day. More in high heat, less in winter.

* patch kit - glue, patches, tyre levers, scuffing pad, pump. Check glue is not dried out and that pump fits the valve type. Know how to use the stuff. Especially find and remove the cause of the punctue or you'll be stopped again after 10 minutes. Happened to me once in the rain.

* Spare tube in case of a blowout. In fact changing a tube is faster than patching a puncture. Just change tubes and do patching at home. Make sure tube is right size.

* light nylon jacket in case of heavy rain. For light rain, just get wet. You're hot from riding so won't get cold, except maybe on the coldest winter days.

* pain killers (I get mega-headaches)

There you have some of the stuff I learned the past year.
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Old 02-18-06, 04:05 PM
  #171  
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When I started I was surprised the very first day (after digesting large amounts of advice) when I did everything wrong. I rode too close to parked cars, did not take the lane, bullied my way into/through intersections, weaved - I admit guiltily - joyfuly through traffic jams etc.

I think I had to unlearn my car culture habits or assumptions and truly become a cyclist.

Riding trails won't do that.
Taking the paths or sanctioned routes probably won't either.
You've got to take back the roads to do that.

I also had to remind myself to stop attempting new land speed records and to enjoy myself - look around at everything that the cars are missing. I get to work in under an hour whether at 22mph or 15mph.

So,

1) stay safe and take the lane (don't get doored)
2) use the laws and regs - and have fun doing it
3) enjoy the ride and explore someplace new everyday if you can

As for gear - I'm a minimalist. Road bike, battery op lights front and back, empty bottle cage, helmet, messenger bag, ~16 year old avocet computer, minidisc player.

New for me this week - riding clipless.
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Old 02-18-06, 09:02 PM
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Hang in there Hyperion and soon it'll become like driving...mostly reflex.

Tip: New commuters, be aware that your acceleration varies esp toward the end of the ride. So allow extra room when turning left in front of oncoming traffic.

Tip: Notice when you start makng mistakes that you normally wouldn't do. Like misjudging and blowing a red light. It could be that you're running low on energy and need to stop and rest, drink, or snack.
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Old 02-19-06, 01:02 PM
  #173  
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Originally Posted by vrkelley
. . . Tip: Notice when you start makng mistakes that you normally wouldn't do. Like misjudging and blowing a red light. It could be that you're running low on energy and need to stop and rest, drink, or snack.
This is probably one of the most important safety tips for commuters, especially for the ride home. That ride can be particularly dangerous because it's usually long after lunch and just before dinner.

I keep a powdered sports drink at work for my trip home. That little bit of sugar is usually enough when I'm low on energy. Every now and then (maybe once a month), I'll go for the Powerbar in my seat bag. That tends to ruin my dinner, but I'd rather ruin my dinner than get in an accident because I was too low on energy to pay proper attention.
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Old 02-23-06, 08:52 PM
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Re: Headphones/Music: I rely very heavily on my hearing when I ride; since cars inevitably make noise, this is usually my first tip that a car may be nearby. I would advise using headphones with extreme caution. At least here in Michigan, cars do not respect your right to use the road, since the drivers all work for the auto industry and believe you should be driving one, so full awareness of all cars in the vicinity is absolutely crucial. (Plus, you get to hear some fairly creative insults). I would assume this holds true in most other places as well.

Which brings me to my question: Michigan has very few bike lanes, fairly fast roads, and incredibly rude drivers. Most of the time, with my MTB, I can at least hold my own on the roads, but there is one stretch of my commute where I am going on a fairly steep uphill into the wind, so I am usually topping out at around 8mph while pedaling as hard as I can in the lowest gear, of course in a 35mph zone. There are few other options, since this road crosses a river about a block away from this stretch and there are only 2 other roads in town that cross it. Riding on the sidewalks in Michigan is legal (and the sidewalks on this street are even specially marked "sidewalk bike path", so this is always an appealing option, though these sidewalks get moderate pedestrian traffic. What would you recommend doing?
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Old 02-24-06, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by n00b_62
Which brings me to my question: Michigan has very few bike lanes, fairly fast roads, and incredibly rude drivers. Most of the time, with my MTB, I can at least hold my own on the roads, but there is one stretch of my commute where I am going on a fairly steep uphill into the wind, so I am usually topping out at around 8mph while pedaling as hard as I can in the lowest gear, of course in a 35mph zone. There are few other options, since this road crosses a river about a block away from this stretch and there are only 2 other roads in town that cross it. Riding on the sidewalks in Michigan is legal (and the sidewalks on this street are even specially marked "sidewalk bike path", so this is always an appealing option, though these sidewalks get moderate pedestrian traffic. What would you recommend doing?
I googled MICHIGAN BIKE ROUTE MAPS and found some good stuff on the D.O.T. site. Rivers in Lansing, ann Arbor, Flint, south Detroit. When there is a "sidewalk bike path" do you have to use it? I do not mean the police want you there and tell you to go there. By law MUST you? Find out because if you hit a pedestrian using one and the law has not forced you to be there their lawyer could claim you were operating a vehicle on a pedestrian right of way and have you crucified. Given it is OK I'd use it when traffic was heavy. Just get a bike/tire combo that lets you onto and off of curbs. Recommend? Find the local bike club and ask how their riders handle that area. Take one of the safe cycling classes the League of American Cyclists run and ask the instructor what to do. Bring a big map of your route to the class.
Sometimes I just take the right wheel lane position and force the cars to choose between hitting me or passing safely. Works here but this area is a cycling nirvana.
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