Do you wince when you fill up your gas tank? Don’t expect the pain at the pump to end anytime soon. That makes it the right time to grab your bike and use it to get to work and run errands. You’ll save money and help the planet at the same time. To make sure you have everything you need to get started, I’m collaborating with Ellen Stoune, former president of the Rock Hill Bicycle Club in South Carolina, to share tips for commuting by bike.
• Ride the right bike: The right bike will make all the difference in the world. There are simple mountain bikes or ones made with commuting in mind. You can find ones that will have everything from chain guards to fenders to hard-wired lights. There are even bikes with skirt guards so you can wear your favorite dress or skirt without worry.
• Ride responsibly: In places where there are no designated bike lanes, position yourself as far to the right as is practical. And be on the watch for the so-called “door zone” with cars parked on the street. That’s the space where drivers open up their doors, which can cause serious injury to cyclists. Don’t ride on sidewalks – they are for pedestrians – or on the left side of the street where drivers may not see you.
• Select safety accessories: A mirror mounted on your handlebar or helmet will allow you to scan traffic behind you. Another good idea is a set of lights for the front and rear. If you’re going to be riding early in the morning, at dusk or at night, lights are mandatory. You’ll also want a bike lock.
• Research your route: Your usual way of getting someplace by car may not be the safest way to go by bike. Google Maps offers a fantastic tool for this that factors in your mode of transportation and will filter out routes that are unfriendly to cyclists.
• Stash your stuff: Backpacks or messenger bags are good options, especially ones with a waist strap. You could also use a basket or rear racks. You might be surprised to see how much you can transport with the right equipment.
• Use a helmet: Make sure your helmet fits properly. It should be snug but comfortable and the bottom edge of the helmet should be two finger widths above your eyebrow.
• Stay strong: At some point, somebody is going to tell you that you are crazy for using a bike to get around. Keep in mind that they are the ones paying those shocking gas prices