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Bike Commuting – A "newbie" Hits the Streets (not literally)September 29th, 2008 Noyes Hall & Allen
I recently bought my first new bike since I was in junior high (I know, that term gives away my age), and have been trying to commute to work one day a week. It's good exercise, lots of fun, saves gas, and takes one more car off the road – at least briefly.
- Did I have the stamina? My job is mostly sedentary. I walk more than most people, but that's the extent of my regular exercise. To build endurance, I took longer and longer rides, culminating with a Sunday night "dry run" to the office. It's only 6 miles, but there are some pretty big hills. It was surprisingly easy. Within a week or two, I felt ready.
- How would I manage traffic? Sharing the road with cars and trucks was a bit intimidating at first. I went to a discussion about bike safety sponsored by the Portland Bike Commuters Meetup Group. It was great! I learned how to ride in traffic and to increase my safety while on the bike.
The main idea is to dress "bright and tight" and behave like a slow vehicle on the roads – which makes perfect sense. In other words, stay on the street (sidewalks are for pedestrians), "take the lane" when necessary and appropriate, and behave in a predictable manner – using the rules of the road that I already know from driving a car. I also bought a blinky red light for the rear of my bike – only $2.00! A bargain!
I joined the online Meetup Group that night, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were over 200 members who were commuting in Greater Portland!
- How would I "clean up" at work? Our office doesn't have a shower. I found that the cool temperatures in the morning prevented me from getting too sweaty. I also paced myself to avoid getting overheated, and dressed in layers I could peel off if necessary (it wasn't). I found some great beginner's tips at a web site called Commuting 101 where people shared practical ideas about bike commuting.
- What if I had an unexpected appointment during the day? This one hasn't come up yet. I have been able to arrange my schedule for one "office day" a week. If I really needed to get someplace in a hurry, I could probably borrow a co-worker's car.
I don't think I'll become a hard-core year-round bike commuter like some of the people I see on the road every day, but I've enjoyed my "alternate commute" the few times I've done it.
- It doesn't take much longer than commuting by car. About 30 minutes vs. 15 by car.
In the next post, we'll talk about how cyclists can protect themselves and their bikes from other types of accidents.