This will be a series of tips/suggestions for those who are interested in commuting. Commuting by bike in Decorah is very popular, these tips will help you to feel confident and secure with commuting around town.
1. Bikes on the street follow the same rules as drivers of motor vehicles. There is always going to be controversy “well, the moment I pretend I’m a car, I’ll get hit.” Fact of the matter is we have to ride defensively; while maintaining respect and a positive image of cyclists. If I ride in the street, I do my best to keep up with traffic flow. I feel more uncomfortable being closer to parked cars than I do riding fast. I always stop at stoplights if it’s red, and I wait. Just like a car. Some might say it’s overkill, but if a car sees me run a red light, then they have yet another thing to complain about in terms of cyclists.
2. If you commute at night you need lights. Minimum visibility of 300 feet; a white light on the front of your bike and a red light or reflector on the back. Lights are important at night-you may go so far as to wear something reflective as well. Even with lights, I’ve almost been hit by a car…so at night, especially, I go with the mentality of “they can’t see me.”
3. A bike lock is important, tho there are some that use them infrequently. However, I value my commuter bike and wish to keep it secure. Invest in a decent lock-the more expensive your bike or components are the better/more expensive lock you should get. Small town or not, people have had bikes stolen.
4. Wear a helmet. Groan all you want, but you can have an accident minutes away from home. I will never believe someone is “too good” for a helmet. A cartoon I saw on Facebook awhile ago said “Deciding to ride without a helmet is a beacon of hope for those who need new organs.” My other justification is my dad having had a motorcycle accident in ’05-you’ll say “it was a motorcycle!” He was a very good and safe rider, and he wasn’t wearing a helmet. A mechanical issue happened with his motorcycle- he was darn lucky. If nothing else, set a good example for the future bike riders-the kids.
5. Be mindful of parked cars, especially if you feel more comfortable being closer to the side of the road vs. riding in the middle with traffic. Parked cars could potentially have people in them who are about to exit. This means you could make new friends with a car door; it’s not easy to pay attention and look ahead to see what vehicle may or may not have people in them. You also need to watch for cars pulling into traffic.
Commuting is fun, but can also be a challenge! It’s truly not impossible to do, and once you get your bearings-you’ll love it. Believe me, the challenge of commuting is what kept me from getting a bike for almost 3 years. If I can do it, so can you!