Commuting tips from our customers

Hey Louise!

Thanks for sharing your ideas on commuting!! Some good stuff. I bet you'd be a good cross country cycling partner 'cuz you sound innovative and adaptable. I'd like to add that, as with cars, I think bikes need to slow down when in tight traffic patterns. The tendency is to run like hell for most cyclists and I think that's a mistake. You are better off acting like a car driven by a little old lady. If you go faster, the cars start treating you like one, thinking you have the speed or expertise to keep up with them and when you naturally have to slow because of bumps, curbs, hills, etc., then they overpower you. The trick is to go slow on purpose, which many cyclists have a problem doing.

Also as far as riding on the sidewalk, I think it is totally safe for the pedestrian and the cyclist if you exercise restraint. Many times it makes more sense to use paths and walkways for safety. Leaving with plenty of time is the secret as far as I'm concerned. Then you tend to be more safety conscious because you can afford to--instead of racing and taking chances.

I was on a ride to Portland (STP) from Seattle, and this guy kept racing by us only to be caught at the next light. (This ordinarily is a two day trip. He was doing it in one day like many do.) We asked him to chill out because there were too many riders and traffic. He just looked at us and jumped off the saddle and shot up the road. At the next light he bolted out in front of a pickup truck that broadsided him hard and broke his femur!!! Ouch!! Fast bike, slow mind . . .

I've commuted in some of the worst spots in the nation and it all boils down to a few key points:

1. Plan your route—use a map.
2. Be courteous to drivers and always make eye contact.
3. Be visible—wear yellow.
4. Slow down in congestion.
5. Speed up when necessary.
6. Use turn lanes when turning left instead of cross walks.
7. Travel at off peak hours if you can. I think travelling at night can be much safer—contrary to popular belief.
8. Keep your bike properly balanced so you can maneuver easily and with finesse (important).

Enjoyed your article . . . keep up the good work at Arkel !!

--Jeff Mika

If you do find yourself on a narrow one way that isn't wide enough for you and a car, move into the right of way. Taking the right of way will discourage a motorist from attempting to squeeze by when that is undesirable.

--Rusty Navin

A few tips from commuting every day in Boston for three years. work clothes: I wore a shirt and tie each day. The key for keeping them wrinkle free was a can of spray starch! Ironing with the starch absolutely guaranteed they would be wrinkle free when arriving at work. Instead of carrying dress shoes, belts, and ties each day, I kep a pair of dress shoes, several belts and about a dozen ties in my office. lights: a decent front white light is more important than lights on back. Drivers entering or exiting driveways, or making left or right turns will not hit see you without a light on your bike. There are many rechargeable units for less than $100 and they are worth the money. I use two flashinng red lighst on the back of my bike. They end up alternating and are very visible. With front and rear lights and a cheap construction safety vest, I feel I am more visible when cycling at night than during the day. cycling in traffic: If there isn' enough room for a car and bike, move into the lane to slow drivers down and prevent them from trying to squeeze by Generally in heavy traffic, this won't even slow down drivers who will end up waiting in lines of cars at traffic lights. If vehicle traffic is very fast, say 40 to 50 mph on stretch of road with no shoulder, try looking for an alternate route. Bike commuting is different from commuting by car--you don't have to plot the fastest, most direct route to work to have the best ride! Don't pass every driver at each light and move to the front. Not only does this cause every driver to have to pass you over and over, it usually places the cyclist to the far right of traffic at the intersection, which increases the chances of being struck by turning vehicles. Instead, pull up behind the fourth or fifth car directly behind it. When the light changes, move forward with the traffic and then after crossing the intersection move to the right. This shows drivers that you intend to go straight and prevents drivers behind you from turning right into you at the intersection. Never, never ride closer than 4 feet to parked vehicles. If a door opens, one of two thinkgs will likely happen: the cyclist plows into the door injuring himself and possibly the driver, or the cyclist swerves into traffic where he or she can be struck by a vehicle.

--Chris Barker

For Louise and the commuting tips page, one word - cleaners! I once worked near a dry cleaners. I had shoes, two pairs of dress pants and five shirts that never went home - they only traveled between the office and the cleaners. Keeping at least one pair of pants and a couple of shirts at the job (with the rest being laundered) assured I always had an outfit ready for my morning Clark Kent routine. From home, I only had to carry socks and underwear.

--Jeff Kwapil