Commute by Bicycle
How to Commute by Bicycle
The first question to ask yourself is, "How fast can I ride?" If you can easily average 20 mph over the course of your commute, a 20-mile commute will take you an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes depending on conditions. This question is kindred to the question, "How much time can I devote to my commute?" If you are an accomplished triathlete or bicycle racer and can easily average 25 mph in a headwind and pouring rain, and you can spend 2 hours each way on your commute, then it is okay if you live 50 miles or so away from work.
The next question you want to ask yourself is, "How afraid am I of being run over?" If your answer is, "Very," then you might want to stick to a vehicle in which you are surrounded by lots of metal. A bicycle is the opposite of this. If your answer is, "Not at all," you should seek professional counseling. A healthy respect for the behemoths that share the road with bicyclists may save you broken bones and even perhaps your life.
I have been commuting by bicycle for about 11 years now. I have bounced off the door of a Mercedes and done a shoulder roll across the trunk of a Chevy, and I have had other automotive confrontations, and I have suffered only temporary bruising. Knock on wood, I haven't had such a confrontation in several years. If you would like to be like me in this regard, I have a few pointers for you.
- Think about what you are doing. Do not use your i-Pod. Do not think about work, or the fight you just had with your wife. Instead, listen for cars and live to have another fight with your wife another day.
- Wear bright-colored clothing, reflective material, and lights, and take it for granted that many drivers still will not see you. That's why you should stay alert instead of listening to your i-Pod. Remember, too, that even if you make eye contact with a driver, that doesn't necessarily mean they actually see you.
- Wear a helmet. A helmet is a brain hat. Those who have a brain should wear one. If you don't have a brain you can prove it by not wearing a helmet.
- You're usually better off not running a red light. There are exceptions, but probably you do not have the acceleration that might be necessary to save you should the assumption that you made when you decided to run the light prove suddenly false.
- If you overtake a line of cars that is stopped, proceed with caution. They are stopped for a reason, and you do not want to find out too abruptly what that reason is.
- Stay out of the way of traffic. Use speed and intelligence to keep yourself from being an obstruction and from becoming a speed bump.
- When cars yield the right of way to you, move in a predictable way so that everyone knows what you are doing. You come up to a stop light and you want to take a left. Use a left turn hand signal, and when the light changes, proceed out into the middle of the intersection in the same way you would if you were a car. In this case you speak the body language of a car so that the cars know what you are going to do.
Other than safety, speed and endurance, you will need a change of clothes. I have alternate transportation, so I bring clothes to work and return home with laundry on the days that I don't ride my bicycle. I have also used various arrangements to bring clothes with me - backpack, panniers, or luggage rack. All in all I liked the panniers the best. I have used both front and rear panniers and found the front panniers to detract the least from the quality of the ride.
Incorporating your workout into your commute is a great way to convert that wasted time into something that will truly make your life more fun and the world a better place. Just use a little care so that you don't get yourself killed or maimed in the process.