Workshop Prepares New Commuters for Bike to Work Day

Thanh -- May 13th, 2010

This is a continuation of a series of posts for Bike Month.

In the basement of Clementine Cafe, Anne Lorimer and Carl Droms led a workshop to help prepare people for Bike to Work Day on Friday May 21st and for commuting by bicycle any and every day. The workshop was titled “Rules of the Road Workshop: All you need to know about how to be a good bicycle commuter and have a great time” and they covered a lot of information and answered lots of questions from the audience.

Rules of the road were covered during which Lorimer presented how to “get respect from cars by being a proper bicyclist.” There was discussion amongst the presenters and audience members that when a bicyclist does not obey traffic signals and does not ride predictably, they not only create unsafe conditions for themselves and others, but that there is also a danger of upsetting motorists and making bicyclists in general “look bad”. Stopping at a red light was reinforced as being very important and illegal if you do not stop. If a bicyclist (or motorist) experiences problems with a traffic signal not sensoring them, not turning green, and believes the signal’s sensors need to be adjusted, in Harrisonburg they should contact the Public Works Department by phone or online service request form.

Anne Lorimer presenting "Be Predictable"

Anne Lorimer presenting "Be Predictable"

As part of the discussion about “how to carry stuff”, it became apparent that for a rear bike rack is very, very helpful for someone who commutes by bicycle. Store bought saddle bags were demonstrated and economical examples were shown – attaching a milk crate using cable ties to the bike rack and even old kitty litter bins with a little hardware are great for carrying your stuff on a bicycle. (Link for instructions on how to make your own kitty litter saddle bags.) Backpacks also work well.

Tips for riding in the rain were also shared. Wearing wicking fabric, which draws water away from your body and stashing a plastic grocery bag under your saddle (bike seat) were suggestions made. The plastic bag can be used to cover your saddle when you are parking your bike to protect it from rain, or if its rained on your bike already, you can use the plastic bag to cover your seat and keep your bottom dry.

During Bike Month participating area bike shops are offering a 10% discount on bike tune ups for Bike to Work Day participants.  Tune ups are important to keep your bike running comfortably and smoothly, as well as helping to avoid major bike repairs by catching problems early.

During the morning of Bike to Work Day on May 21st between about 7am-10pm refreshments and light breakfast will be provided to participants on Court Square in Downtown Harrisonburg. At the end of the work day there will be an “Evening Refuel” at Blue Nile at which bicyclists wearing their bike helmet can receive discounts on food.  These will be great opportunities to meet up with other people who are having fun with bikes.

Route-mapping and commuting assistance provided by experienced commuters is still available for anyone who wants it. To get connected to a bike mentor, e-mail  bike.ped.challenge [at] gmail [dot] com .

Other tips covered by Lorimer and Droms can be found on the League of American Bicyclists’ website:

Additional Bike Month information:

9 Responses to “Workshop Prepares New Commuters for Bike to Work Day”

  1. Thanh says:

    If you commute by bicycle frequently or even occasionally, what tips do you have for other bicycle commuters?

    If you are new to bicycle commuting, what questions do you have?

    Please post your questions and responses below.

  2. kuato says:

    Most days, it is a lot more fun to leave your house and get onto a bicycle than it is to leave your house and get into a car. Just saying….

  3. elle says:

    I’ve been a bike commuter for about seven years now, and I very much agree with the part about obeying traffic laws, though after sitting through one or two full red lights, I’ll usually look carefully and go. One of the more helpful tips I’ve heard is to always bike in as straight a line as possible–not weaving in and out of parked cars–so that drivers can easily predict your path and are more confident, too. Riding with traffic may seem basic to most folks but it’s important–accidents tend to go up when bicyclists ride against traffic. Watch out for car doors when passing parked cars; and take up the space you need to feel comfortable on the road, because most cars won’t give it to you (and that’s no excuse to hog or ride in a pack blocking traffic, just a point to say that if you have a high curb beside you or a bunch of parked cars, use what space you need to bike safely).

    I’m curious how others feel about biking on sidewalks. I usually try not to do it anywhere there are a lot of pedestrians, but if there’s an empty sidewalk along a narrow or busy road, I sometimes jump on there. I believe that’s illegal in most cities, though.

    And kudos to whoever switched the street grates downtown–I nearly went over my handlebars a few years back and it’s really nice not to have to watch for those now.

  4. Dan says:

    I always try to make eye contact with drivers at intersections. If someone looks at you in the eyes, they know that you are there and probably won’t pull out and hit you. If I can’t make eye contact with a driver who could potentially pull out and hit me, I’ll put my hands on the breaks and prepare to get out of their way, just in case. This has saved me from a couple of collisions with inattentive drivers.

  5. Anne Lorimer says:

    Elle: you’re totally right about riding in a straight line so drivers can predict your movements. Lack of predictability is also a danger of sidewalk-riding: drivers don’t expect anything traveling as fast as a bike to be moving on the crosswalk between one stretch of sidewalk and the next. That’s a common way bicyclists get killed (sadly including Matt King (RIP) on Monday April 19th in Charlottesville).

    If you’re sitting through red lights because they don’t recognize a bicyclist as a vehicle, good news: the city official in charge of that issue is a bicyclist! So he’ll be especially happy to help. Note down all the relevant information (date? day or night? which intersection, going in which direction?) and alert the City!

    A couple more tips for getting recognized by signals:
    (1) The city traffic signal website advises you to approach the intersection in the middle of the lane. (This can also help you not get hit by drivers turning right — the infamous ‘right hook’.)
    (2) if you’re waiting and it’s not noticing you, try turning your bike sideways to make yourself look bigger. (You may have seen this technique used by wild animals (and housecats) standing at bay.)

  6. MB Green says:

    My concern about riding in the rain isn’t me getting wet – it’s my bicycle slipping. I guess the only way to really learn how to deal with that is to do it, but it scares the bejeebers out of me.

    A tip for commuters who might be worried about getting sweaty and stinky riding to work – I carry my work clothes in my backpack and keep a tube of deodorant in my desk at work. I do a quick sponge bath in the bathroom, put on deodorant, and change my clothes. This will become more of an issue as the weather gets hotter, but even in the dead of winter *I* sweat when I ride.

  7. Renee says:

    I ride my bike in my neighborhood for exercise sometimes, but the thing that prohibits me from riding into town instead of driving more often is the gigantic hill between me and my main destinations. Any tips for handling the large long hill stretches in the ‘burg? I guess the first thing I need to learn is how to properly use all of the gears.

    Does anyone here drive part of the way, park, then bike the rest? I’ve considered doing that. For instance, I could drive to a downtown parking garage, then bike to my office, the post office, restaurants, or the farmer’s market (but the biking would then be replacing most of my walking and not much of my driving, defeating some of the purpose).

    Another reason I don’t bike more often is that none of my destinations are very close to my house, all are generally in the same direction, and when I run errands I like to do all of them at once, so it wouldn’t make sense to bike to the closer ones, bike home, then drive out to the stuff that’s further away, passing by the closer destinations again.

  8. Jeff says:

    Renee – which hill?

  9. Anne Lorimer says:

    I bike in the rain a lot, but haven’t noticed much scary slipping/skidding. Maybe I slow down a bit, start braking sooner, and try to take turns gently, i.e. without tilting at a rakish angle. Also, my tires aren’t kept super pumped up — mildly slack tires grip the road a bit better.

    Driving partway is definitely a valid approach.

    My best solutions to serious hills have been:

    (a) find alternate routes. (Including by asking people who bike that territory regularly.) A longer but happier ride is a dandy trade-off.

    (b) treat the hill as a daily or weekly challenge. It’s pretty satisfying, especially for a non-athlete like me, to notice how a hill that used to be exhausting (so bad I’d wind up walking my bike) becomes a confident routine.

    And yes, low gears are your friend.

    I love doing a ton of errands at once on a bike. (All that stopping and starting is bad for both the planet and the car; plus bikes are easy to park.) If you can’t do this, is it because you need more cargo-carrying capacity?

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