Thursday, June 20, 2013

How bike commuting makes you smarter

Converting to a weekend bike commuter has been more of a challenge than I anticipated. The first few weekends consisted of enthusiastic trips to the beach with the family. I even made a run to the grocery with one kid in the trailer and one on their own bike. Now that the "new bike smell" is wearing off I realize I have to be smarter about the entire process.

Initially cars seduce us with independence and power. Later they lull us to sleep with convenience. We just jump in, turn a key or push a button, and go. For city cyclists to maximize the "less is more" benefits of biking they have to invest in some thought and planning.

Things to consider before, during, and after running errands by bike:

Is your bike equipped for the types of errands you are running? Make sure you have the necessary space for kids or cargo. Your options run from baskets, racks, and panniers to a variety of trailers. My personal favorite is the cargo bike.


Helmets are given, even if there is a debate about their effectiveness. A bell is the one that I have wiffed on thus far. I can't yell at every car and person that posses a danger to me on the road. Making yourself known in a given space is the best safety measure you can take. Get one.

Lighting options are plentiful. You can run a simple battery powered strobe LED or lights powered by a hub dynamo. I've even seen riders use them as day time running lights. You can also leverage the light of cars in the evening with reflective gear. To give you one less thing to remember try some reflective rims for increased side visibility.

Ok, so you can do more than just rims.
Don't forget locks and general maintenance. Security has so much to offer I'll tackle that another day. The same for bike care. The good thing is that it doesn't take much. I am currently riding a 20 year old MB-6 from Bridgestone that hasn't seen the a wrench or oil since the day I bought it (that has got to change).

All in all, cycling around town requires more engagement with your transportation tool that cars do. That increase interaction with the bike make you use your brain. As the saying goes use it or loose it. Score one for cycling as transportation.

How has cycling around town changed your thinking?

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