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Be Safe Out There

A Bike Commuting Primer
By Altrec.com staff - December 18th, 2002

Biking to work can be a great way of starting and ending your workday. In addition to the obvious workout benefits, riding to work helps you avoid rush-hour traffic, sheds stress and provides a transition between work and home, and it saves on gas. If you are thinking about commuting to work, consider the following tips for a successful start.

Getting Started

Plan your route. Consult bike and city maps. Estimate the number of miles and how long your ride will take.

Try a practice run on the weekend. Take it slow, and note the grades, road conditions, and traffic loads. Keep track of how much time the ride takes.

Commute with a friend or a co-worker. Riding with a friend and making a mutual commitment to ride is a great motivator.

Start slow. Try commuting just one day a week, such as on a Friday or a designated casual dress day at your workplace.

Secure your bike. Make sure there is a secure place to lock up your bike at work. Leave your heavy lock at work instead of hauling it back and forth with you.

Preventative Rx. If you are unfamiliar with bike maintenance, take your bike to a mechanic for an overhaul before getting started. A simple tune-up can be an inexpensive step to preventing an en route mishap.

Riding in Traffic

State vehicle laws. Bicyclists have the same responsibilities of vehicle drivers. Obey traffic laws, signs, and signals. DonÕt cut corners.

Be alert. Ride so drivers can see you and predict your movements. Watch out for cars - assume they donÕt see you until you are sure they do, or have made eye contact with the driver.

Be predictable. Use hand signals. Ride in a straight line. DonÕt ride against traffic. Ride on the right in the slowest lane. DonÕt weave in and out of cars.

Be seen. Wear brightly colored clothes. Consider clothing with reflector material. Wear a bike helmet. A headlight and red rear reflector light are required by law when riding at dusk or in the dark. Consider additional lights and reflectors.

Be aware. Watch for street hazards such as parallel-slatted sewer gates, slippery manhole covers, oily pavement, gravel, potholes, and ice. Cross railroad tracks carefully at right angles. For better control, stand up on your pedals when moving over hazards and bumps.

Be ready to brake. Keep both hands ready to brake. Remember that brakes are less efficient in the rain.

Trail Etiquette

  • Stay to the right except when passing.
  • Travel at a reasonable speed in a consistent and predictable manner.
  • Always look ahead and behind before passing.
  • Pass slower traffic on the left; yield to oncoming traffic when passing.
  • Give a clear warning signal before passingÑring your bell or say Òon your left!Ó
  • Yield to other users when entering and crossing the trail.
  • Use a light and reflectors after dusk and before dawn; most trails are not lit.

(Adapted from ÒBiking to Work in the Washington Area: A Guide for EmployeesÓ by Commuter Connections www.mwcog.org/commuter/ccindex.html


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