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Bike Commuting Tips

March 22, 2010

In case you missed my weekend posts, I started triathlon training with a bike ride and a swim.

Today was my first day in 2010 commuting to work by bike. I started biking to work at the end of summer 2008 and haven’t looked back.

I used to live farther from my office so the ride would take me about 45 minutes each way. It was obviously a great work out, plus it saved me some cash I would have spent on the Metro.

Now the bike ride is an easy 15 minutes, but I often do it 4 times a day (to work, home and back for lunch, home for the day). I always start the day in a better mood after getting my heart rate up and enjoying the outdoors first thing.

However, you have to be careful riding in the city. There are plenty of crazy drivers and during rush hour people are cranky and in a hurry. My general thinking is to pretend that you are driving a smartcar and everyone else is driving a Hummer and they are drunk! In other words, assume people are unsafe/don’t see you/won’t stop…better safe than sorry!

Here are a few tips that have kept me safe on the road:

Be alert
I wouldn’t recommend commuting by bike on a few hours of sleep. You have to pay attention to so many things: cars parked on the side of the road (that could open their doors and hit you), pedestrians jaywalking, cars going through red lights, etc. Make sure you are well-rested before hitting the road.

Get the right equipment
First and foremost, I think anyone who rides on city streets without a helmet is making a terrible choice. There is no reason not to. It can save your life. Second, wear bright colored clothing so the drivers will see you loud and clear. At night, you should have a flashing light on your bike or on your clothes.
I also have this little rear view mirror attachment that has been a big help so cars can’t “sneak up” behind me:

Have a plan
If possible, ride on a bike lane, trail or route. When I lived further from the office, I actually took an even longer ride so I could be on a designated bike route the whole ride. Drivers are more aware of you if there are plenty of other riders on the road. On my ride now I go slightly out of the way so I can ride on a bike lane most of the time.
It’s also a good idea to do some weekend “research” before you go out during rush hour. You can scout out roads that are more spacious, have fewer potholes, etc.

Avoid blind spots!
Most of the accidents I hear about are bikers being sideswiped by cars. While I’m sure often times it’s the driver’s fault, bikers can try to avoid this situation. I never go through an intersection next to a car. People can turn without signaling or decide to turn at the last minute without seeing you. Better safe than sorry.

Traffic lights are there for a reason
People complain about bike riders that fly through lights without even looking, and I have to agree that’s a bad idea! I treat traffic lights like I would as a walker. If I check and no cars are coming, then I will cross (like jaywalking). But I will always slow down (and most of the time stop completely) to make sure the road is clear. It’s not worth the risk to get to your destination one minute earlier!

Commuting by bike is great for your body, your wallet, and the environment. The first few times are scary but once you adjust it’s a wonderful experience. I highly recommend it if it’s an option for you.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2010 2:04 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’m thinking of investing in a bike soon and want to ride it to work when the weather’s nice. This post gave me some really helpful insite!

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