Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some Thoughts On Commuting

Commuter time
Recently I read a nice, entertaining article on commuting in "Bicycle Times" latest issue # 20. It was written by Thom Parsons, and is well worth seeking out. (Plus- there is a great article by Eric Benjamin on Gravel Worlds in it as well.) Anyway, it got me to thinking about my own commuting experiences. there were a few things Mr. Parsons hit on that had me wagging my head up and down in agreement. Then there were a few places I was smiling wryly as I read his sarcastic remarks about cars. But there were a few things I thought he missed that I find integral to my commuting experience.

So, here are a few things I thought I could bring to the table in regards to commuting. I hope that someone out there finds these useable. But first, I should explain where I am coming from here....

My commute is about 4-5 miles one way. depends on how I have to roll- (more on that in a minute)- and sometimes I even extend the route. I have leeway with regard to timing some days, so maybe that doesn't work for you. I also have been doing the same basic route for over ten years. I commute all winter as well, so some of this will touch on what I do with my cold weather commuting.

  • Research More Than One Route: I feel that it is a good thing to mix up your route sometimes. It keeps things fresh, and you learn more things about where you live and ride. I also have to use a different route for snowy, icy conditions than I do in clearer weather where there is no snow. I actually found that a slightly longer route is faster then, since the road ways and bike paths I use then are maintained. 
  • Be Consistent With Your Commute To Breed Familiarity: I know- it kind of works against my first tip, but when you use a similar route at similar times the "regulars" out on the road will learn to accept you as part of "traffic". That will help cut down on the bad encounters, but it won't totally get rid of them either. But I've found that folks have said that they have seen me on my bicycle at regular times, so I know it helps. 
  • Learn The Lights: It's funny, but every traffic light on my commute has its own "personality", or way that it works. I had to learn how to work them to my advantage and best safety. Some I can trigger easily, others I can not. Some allow cars to turn while holding back straight on traffic, some do not. It will behoove you to figure out the lights and how to make things work to your best advantage. Like me, you may even have to swing over and hit the cross walk button at some lights. Whatever makes it work best for you. Do that. 
  • It's not every day that you see a dead deer on your commute!
  • Be Extra Vigilant In Winter: I've found that car drivers and "non-cyclists" instinctively think cycling ends when school starts in the Fall, and doesn't start back up again until Spring, or maybe even summer. Winter is the worst for commuting and cars being dumb to your presence, or just being down right evil to cyclists, because they "shouldn't be out there that time of the year". Put some snow on the roads and it gets even worse. I think some of these folks think that by hitting you and killing you they would be putting you out of your misery and ridding society of one more dumb person. Whatever. Just be really careful riding the streets in Winter! 
  • Use Different Bikes: I know this isn't reality or maybe practical for many, but having specific bikes for specific tasks makes commuting easier and more fun. I use a fat bike in winter, and sometimes in summer! I use a cargo bike for times I need to carry stuff I can not put in my messenger bag or backpack. I have a "townie" for errands too. It helps keep things fresh, and you have a "back up plan" in case one rig needs maintenance or breaks down.
Okay, a short list, and not meant to be a complete one. Get that story I mentioned above and read it. Good stuff, and maybe my little additions here will flesh it out for you. 


Jon said...

Oddly enough, here in Denver, I find that the automobile drivers are more courteous to me on the snowy days. I always figured it was that same thing that causes people to be extra polite to the mentally deficient. ;-)

Steve said...

That was a good piece (in BT),I found myself nodding in agreement as well as laughing out loud. Godo additions,Mark.

Before moving out of town a few months ago,I found that here (like Jon mentioned in Denver) drivers are a bit more cautious for the most part,if not more courteous,towards cyclists. A fatbike sounds like an awesome winetr commuting addition. BTW,if I was blessed enough to have a commute here (at the new place,out further in the sticks),then I would see deer everyday on my commute (sadly,sometimes dead too) :P

The DC