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Five Tips for Urban Bike Commuters

CyclingWith gas prices climbing higher every day, people are looking for ways to escape the pinch at the pump. To help reintroduce bicycling as a viable alternative to driving or riding public transportation, the League of American Bicyclists has established May as National Bike Month. During this month-long celebration, which includes Bike to Work Week from May 16-20 and Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 20, commuters are encouraged to bike to work, school, or other destinations instead of driving.

Although it may seem unfamiliar, biking can have a profoundly positive impact on the environment, your health and the economy.

  • When bicycling is substituted for short auto trips, 3.6 pounds of pollutants per mile are not emitted into the atmosphere.
  • Bicycle commuting is a great way to squeeze regular exercise into a hectic schedule. Commuting time can be used to stay in shape instead of sitting frustrated in traffic.
  • Bicycle commuting saves on parking fees, parking tickets, fuel costs, auto maintenance costs and transit fares. In some large urban areas, it is possible to save over $200 per month on parking alone. 

If it's been a while since you rode a bike in an urban setting, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Follow the Rules of the Road

Always ride with the flow of traffic on the right side of the road, and obey the same laws as motorists (that means no riding on the sidewalk!). Obey all traffic control devices, such as stop signs, lights, and lane markings. Always look behind you (or use a helmet mirror) and use hand and arm signals to indicate your intention to stop, merge or turn.

2. Be Visible

It's important to ride where drivers can see you (usually in the rightmost lane) and get off and walk your bike if visibility becomes a problem. Wear brightly colored clothing at all times, and at night, use a white front light and red rear light or reflector. In some cities, it is illegal to bike on the road without this equipment, so be sure to check local laws before your first trip.

3. Be Predictable

Ride in a straight line and don't swerve between parked cars, even if it's faster. Make eye contact with motorists to let them know you are there (this is especially important at busy intersections or in areas where motorists might not be used to bikers).

4. Anticipate Conflicts

Be aware of traffic around you and be prepared to take evasive action. Learn braking and turning techniques to avoid crashes.

5. Wear a Helmet

Make sure that the helmet fits snugly on top of your head, and does not slide backward or forward. If you ever crash or have any impact that affects your helmet, visible or not, replace it immediately.

If you'd rather have company on your ride, find out what Bike Month events are going on in your community. Also, post your area, club, business or school's Bike Month events on the League of American Bicyclists' web site for free!

Are you a bike commuter? Why or why not? Share your questions or experiences in a comment!

Beth Buczynski is a freelance copy writer and environmental blogger. She holds a Master's in Public Communication and Technology with specialization in Environmental Communication from Colorado State University, and is passionate about leaving this planet in better shape than she found it.

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