Monday, June 06, 2011

Urban Commuter Biker Chick

Bike commuting in my town is not the easiest. It takes come courage and determination. Don't expect too many bike lanes. They are few and far between! Don't expect drivers to be looking for you. Bikers are few and far between! Here are a few things I've learned about bike commuting.

1. Your bike will set the mood. Getting a girl's bike is pretty important if you are a girl. You can decide what you want to pay for a bike. If you've got a short commute like me (about 2 miles), I wouldn't put too much money into the bike. I happen to have the greatest retro cruiser. It's a Puch. Love it! Love it! Love it! My bike has a basket, fenders, leather seat with springs underneath, and a wee bit of rust. It also happens to have a cup holder thanks to my sister. Be sure you let everyone know you're a cute commuter, not Lance Armstrong.

2. Dress to impress and maintain good posture! Slouching on a bike is bout as attractive as slouching any other time. I'm working really hard to have better posture and only slouch on the couch! There is no reason to buy an entire wardrobe of stuff from REI or Dick's Sporting Goods for your commute. Euro girls, particularly the uber cute girls in Amsterdam (city of bike!), don't sacrifice fashion just because they are biking around. Trust me, you can't wear a cute skirt if you're on a guy's bike. Today I wore a flowy silk skirt that caught in the wind a few times. Oops! Several people around here may have gotten to see more than is necessary! That might not have been the best. But anyway, I've biked in just about every summer dress and skirt I own and it's all just fine.

3. You do not have to race to work. It's a commute, not the Tour de France! Bike at a comfortable clip, but don't get nasty sweaty on your way to work.You might want to pick a nice evening to bike to work as a practice run. That way you know just how much time to allow to get there at a comfortable pace.

4. Follow the law. Did you know it is illegal to ride a bike without a bell or a horn in the state of Indiana? Bikes must follow all traffic laws. You must stop at stop signs and red lights. It is illegal to ride the wrong way on a one way street. You can get pulled over by the police and you must provide an ID such as a driver's license or a state issue ID. Bikers must stay in the far right lane and must pull over if the biker is holding up more than 3 cars behind it. I'm not sure how you could possible know that, but whatever...it's law. Bikes are not to be ridden on sidewalks or other pedestrian areas. I was once on Grafton Street in Dublin going about 1 mile per hour on my bike. I was kindly asked by the Garda to get off my bike. The Garda even said "please."  Now...it's my opinion that my town simply does not provide safe conditions for cyclists, and in situations where I feel completely uncomfortable on the street I will occasionally ride on the side walk. In this case I make sure pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way and I go slow. In a crowded situation I get off the bike and walk. You know...I would love to go for a ride with the mayors of Lafayette and West Lafayette and show them just how intimidating it can be to try to cycle to work. I wonder if they would have more bike lanes put in if they realized just how bad it can be.

5. Keep yourself safe! I'm all for looking cute while biking, but helmets are a must. Maybe in Amsterdam where there are plenty of bike baths and strictly enforced traffic laws to keep bikers safe, you can choose to go without a helmet. In Lafayette, Indiana helmets are MANDATORY, not optional! There are very few bike paths let alone bike lanes. Drivers are distracted and rarely expect a bike next to them. You can try to stay towards the curb, but you'll have an urban obstacle course of water drains, pot holes, gravel, etc. When I bought my helmet I chose one that would maximize my visibility! Hard to miss a giant pink helmet with flashing lights on the front and back! Which brings up another point. LIGHTS! Also mandatory. Actually, I'll have to double check, but I believe it's Indiana State Law that bikes have to have a front and back light of some sort if biking after dusk. In Ireland they sure take lights seriously. The back light should be a red flashing light. Doesn't hurt if the front light flashes too. My helmet has a flashing red light on back and a flashing white light on front. When I turn my head, the light will shine into whatever I'm looking at. Safety first. Better to look dumb than dead!

Notice the last 2 sections are the longest. Share bike laws with your non-biking friends. It will help them become more aware of you and your commuter friends. Mostly, just keep safe! I don't know many people who can afford a head injury. Besides the hospital bill, you may end up brain damaged for life. Not good. Helmet!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should take a look at these folding bikes. Especially if you have a fairly long commute and are hesitant to start biking because of it. Get a folder, drive part way and bike the rest. You can even take them on public transit or store them easily in a closet or under a desk.

TusaRebecca said...

Those might be good for some people, but not so much for me.