It's Bike to Work Week in BC, and many newbie cyclists will be taking to the streets
I recently became a bike commuter a few times per week. My main motivation to start riding again was to get more training, as it adds another three to four hours of aerobic exercise to my training program. But I also enjoy the different perspective of the city I get from travelling by bike. I feel a lot more connected to my surroundings than I do driving or taking transit.
To help other new or wannabe bike commuters, I reached out to my social media network to get some tips for a safe and enjoyable ride.
Bike Commuting Safety Tips
- Follow the rules of the road. Don't take unnecessary risks i.e. trying to ride through a yellow light. Download the Bike Sense manual if you don't know the the traffic laws as they apply to cyclists.
- Make eye contact and stay alert. Watch drivers' eyes to ensure they see you. Expect cars to make rolling stops and not see you. Don't wear headphones or keep the volume very low; your hearing is your second most important sense.
- Be seen. Have flashing lights on the front and rear and wear bright clothing. Signal and be very explicit when changing lanes or turning.
- Watch for parked cars. Be very careful when driving by parked cars and claim your lane.
- Be prepared for repairs. Carry a spare inner tube, pump and repair kit. Know how to change a tire and do minor repairs. Keep your bike tuned and your brakes in good working condition.
- Have a backup plan. Have a bus ticket handy or money for fare in case you need motor vehicle support.
- Be heard. Have a bike bell or be willing to use your voice, LOUDLY.
- Wear a brain bucket (helmet). Find one that fits comfortably and that you like.
- Plan your bike route in advance. If you plan on riding to work give yourself extra time the first few times you ride it. While cyclists can ride on any city streets, try to use dedicated bike routes. If you feel the urge to ride on the sidewalk because you find conditions dangerous, you're probably riding on the wrong street. Find a street you're more comfortable riding on.
- Get some training. Take a Can-Bike course.
- Help others. Smile and be courteous to other cyclists. Ask if a stranded rider needs help.
Tips to Enjoy Your Bike Commute
- Stay dry. Waterproof clothing (pants, jacket and booties) will make riding in winter and inclement weather much more enjoyable. Install bike fenders.
- Explore the city. Try different routes after you get comfortable with one.
- Switch it up. If you have more than one bike, switch between them. One of my friends regularly changes between his commuter and mountain bike.
- Get faster. Try to keep up to a faster cyclist, at least for a while. Make your ride home a time trial a la Ryder Hesjedal.
- Enjoy the scenery. Take in the details: cherry blossoms in the spring; light reflecting off the mountains; the city architecture.
- Play in the wind. When crossing the Lions Gate Bridge on windy days, open your mouth wide because the ripples the wind makes with your cheeks will make you laugh as you're making the climb.
- Get the right bike and supplies. Buy the right size bike for you and test ride before you buy. Get panniers if you don't like carrying a pack. Stash toiletries at work so you don't have to carry them every day.
- Start slowly. Start with one or two days of commuting per week and build from there.