Biking to Work Tips and Bike Hand Turn Signals
30 Day Bike to Work Challenge
I embarked on a personal quest to bike to work, and everywhere else, as often as possible for a full month. Keeping track of my trips and times was for the first two weeks, but chronicling the second half of my personal bike to work challenge was difficult for me for several reasons. Mostly, I began to accept biking to work as normal, so I kept forgetting to write down notes about my ride or how long it took. I guess that means my bike everywhere challenge worked! These are the most important lessons I learned during this month on how to stay safe and enjoy a bike commute.
Inexpensive ways to stay safe
Visibility on a Bike
First and foremost, biking to work has taught me the importance of visibility and vigilance. As I wrote in my how to bike to work hub, I assume that every car could kill me at any time. Every day, I see drivers that clearly have not noticed my presence on the road. I rely on constant vigilance, staying as visible as possible and frequently use my breaks to keep myself safe and sound. If I see a car with its turn signal on, I slow down or stop for it until the driver visibly acknowledges me. If I insisted on biking on, I would have been hit by turning cars several times by now!
To increase my visibility, I always turn on my flashing LED lights. Also, my bag has strips of reflective material. For added safety, you can purchase bicycling clothing with reflective strips, or items like a bright orange, reflective belt to wear over your normal clothes. If you want to bike in all types of weather, consider investing in high-quality rain gear with built-in reflective strips to make you more visible in cloudy conditions. If you bike in the rain without protective gear, be prepared to not only drive wet, but also covered in road grime. It is not a pleasant experience!
Bike Hand Signals
Traffic Signals on a Bike
I also advocate always following traffic signs and signals. Sometimes I feel goofy sitting at a red light without a car in sight, but most places, including Charleston, legally consider bicycles as vehicles and one must act accordingly. I stop at stop signs and red lights, no matter what. Not only could the practice keep you from getting a traffic ticket, but it could also save your life.
Using Hand Signals on a Bike
An important part of bicycle safety is using hand turn signals. To signify a left turn, extend your left arm strait out to the side, as pictured. To signal a right turn, hold your left arm to the side with a 90 degree bend in your elbow with your hand up and about the same height as your shoulder. To signal a stop, rotate the right turn signal so your elbow is bent, but your hand facing down with palm to your rear. I have seen people signal right by extending their right arm straight to the side, but I prefer to use my back breaks instead of my front breaks, so I like to keep my right hand on the breaks while signaling with my left as I approach a turn. A bad experience years ago with applying the front breaks too quickly left me with a dislike of using only the front breaks (and a nice bruise across my stomach where I rocketed into the handlebars). Lastly, since the driver is on the left side of a car, your left arm is usually more visible to divers on the road.
Biking the Ravenel Bridge
The crowning achievement of my 30 day bike to work challenge was biking nearly 10 miles each way to hang out at the beach. This trip involved biking the Ravenel Bridge's several miles of 3-4% grade. Needless to say, making it to the top of the bridge - twice - felt like like one of the biggest accomplishments in my life! If you ever visit Charleston and do not bring your own bicycle, there are several shops that rent bikes. There is also a water taxi, so you are not forced to bike both ways. Standing on one of the viewing decks, feet almost almost 200 feet above the water, is an amazing experience and well worth the effort to get to the top.
More on Biking to Work and Bike Safety
Thoughts on Biking to Work
At the time or writing, I am now six weeks out from the beginning of challenge to bike to work, and everywhere else, as much as possible. I plan to continue biking to work, as frequently as I an, because I love saving money on gas and how accomplished biking makes me feel. After biking about 40 miles a week for the past month and a half, I feel great and cannot wait to continue cycling.
So - is anyone convinced? Ready to bike to work? How about ready to take a trip to Charleston to bike the Ravenel?