A high-vis jacket may not mean you’ll get more room from passing cars

Cycle Outfits Ian Walker research

Outfits used in this study

One constant you’ll find in any discussion about commuting by bike is to “be visible”.  While this is certainly great advice to any commuter, you may be surprised to learn that your bright yellow reflective high-vis jacket may not be making you any less vulnerable to close passing.

A study out of University of Bath and Brunel University found that you could be wearing a fully lit Christmas tree on your back and you’d still be passed too closely by 1-2% of drivers.  This is roughly the same odds you’ll have if you’re wearing non high-vis clothing.

So if you’re wearing a high-vis jacket in hopes of getting more space when being passed by cars, you wardrobe choice may be in vain.

Personally I still recommend being as visible as possible with a combination of lighting and clothing choice.  Quite honestly I’m less worried about close passes and more worried about not being seen at intersections and having a car left cross or right hook me.

Details of the study are available at bath.ac.uk

Boston upgrades traditional “sharrows”

sharrowI’m not a huge fan of sharrows, mainly because they are typically poorly planned (start and stop with no real logic) and most drivers don’t even know what they mean.  Beyond that, the idea of “sharing” with bikers only continues to marginalize cyclists as less than legitimate users of the roadways.

But that’s a story for a different time. Looks like Boston has done some improving on the sharrows idea by making it pretty clear what they mean. Basically they’ve embedded a bike lane into a normal travel lane while keeping the bikes out of the door zone.  That’s pretty badass, but I suspect this is only going to make drivers more annoyed that cyclists are “taking” away “their” roads.

Read More on: Boston.com.

How to Fix America’s Bad Bike Infrastructure

Chicago Magazine has published a very interesting article regarding potential licensing and taxing of cyclists and how this mindset is rooted in a long standing flawed approach to mixing cars and bikes.

How to Fix America’s Bad Bike Infrastructure

Personally I’ve never been a fan of separated bike infrastructure because of the implementation drawbacks of retrofitting such a system into a car-centric transportation grid.  The comparisons to the Dutch system don’t quite hold up when you consider how the systems in the US evolved over the last 40 years vs. the Dutch.

If only we had a time machine …

Insurance and your daily bike commute

UrbanVelo.org has put together a good article with a Chicago based injury lawyer regarding whether you should carry insurance specific to your daily bike commute.

The key points seem to be that chances are good that you’ll already have some sort of insurance that will cover you in case of an accident.  However, it’s important to understand the gaps your current coverage may have.

If you are commuting by bike as your main form of transportation to and from work and living car-free, you should be paying close attention to your coverage.  Something as simple as having your wheel stolen can really put you in a bad spot if you’re relying on your bike to get to and from work.

Be sure to check out the article if you are unsure about what insurance you should carry when cycle commuting and let us know in the comments if you have any tips about insurance for your daily commute.

[This is not legal advice.  For legal questions, you should consult an attorney.]

Great guide for the Tour de France this weekend

20130623-232252.jpgWhile we are primarily a bike commuting blog, we know that often times those bitten by the cycling commuter bug also take an interest in organized racing events. None are larger than the Tour de France.

The Inner Ring has put together the go-to guide for the 2013 tour. If you need motivation to keep the cranks spinning through July, following the Tour is a great start!

NY Times Biking Map

NYT biking wisdomThe New York Times has put together an interesting reader driven map of cities in the US to allow cyclists to share knowledge of the roads in their area.  It’s a pretty great idea for sure.

Sixteen major cities are highlighted including New York, LA, Seattle and Chicago but you can also type in your location to pull up a map for that area as well.

You can check out their map here, and even add some tips of your own if you have some knowledge to share.

Being able to leverage this type of information is critical to being a well informed and effective two wheel commuter!

Preparing for your first bike commute

One of the biggest problems we’ve seen with aspiring new bike commuters is the anxiety around the route they plan to take to work.  For many this is where the process breaks down and can often times lead to the rider not biking at all.  This is a real shame because much of the fun of bike commuting is exploring and learning new and interesting routes to work!

Here are a few tips on how you can go about planning your route.

Understand your limitations

If you are new to biking as well as bike commuting, don’t expect to come out of the blocks with a 20mi ride.  The goal on your first few bike commutes is to get to work safely and refreshed from the ride.  Take it as slow as you need to so you can remain comfortable.  One of the best things about biking to work is that if you do it right, you arrive full of energy to start your day.  Doing it wrong means you show up dead tired with legs made of Jello.  You want to avoid that.  Save the hardcore workout for your ride home or when you’re more acclimated to your commute routine.

Talk to your co-workers

Depending on where you work, there may be a few or a lot of bike commuters around and you don’t even know it.  Getting info from an experienced commuter at work can be a valuable addition to your route planning.  In addition this may give you an opportunity to pick up a riding buddy or two.  Riding buddies are great for a few reasons.  First there is safety in numbers so having more than one bike on the road for drivers to see is a good thing.  Second they can be a great motivator.  If someone else is depending on you to ride to work with them, you’re much less likely to blow it off and drive to work on the days when you aren’t quite feeling it.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect

Use the internet

And by use the internet I don’t mean in the generic sense, I mean use the existing internet services that help you plan and track rides. One site that I’ve had really good luck with is the Garmin Connect site.  It is free to use and you don’t need a Garmin GPS to take advantage of their course creation system. The reason I really like the Garmin system is because it uses a heat map overlay to help you know where other people are riding.  This is critical to finding the best roads and paths for your commute.

Another great internet resource is Google Street View.  Even if a route planning site says a road is good for biking, it may not be good for how YOU like to bike.  For instance, a road with a wide shoulder is great and will likely be shown on most maps as suitable for biking.  However if that road is ultra-busy and frequently has cars parked on the street, you’ve now led yourself into a hazardous situation.  Using Google street view to scout for trouble spots on a route is very helpful.

Consider driving partway

One of the best ways I’ve found to help ease new commuters into a routine is to do multi-modal commutes at first.  This means planning to drive to a predetermined start position and riding your bike the rest of the way.  You can also choose to use the bus as well but driving will give you the most flexibility for picking a start spot that you prefer.  Make sure that if you plan to drive, you park l

Expect the Unexpected

The alternative to this is to simply be prepared.  Bike commuting is very enjoyable and with a little preparation the vast majority of your commutes will go problem free.  However no matter how much you plan, sometimes things will go wrong.  Being mindful of this and expecting bad things to happen from time to time will help you cope with them when they do.  Expect flat tires, dropped chains, road construction, close calls with inattentive drivers, pedestrians/runners who are in a zombie like state, etc. The more you’re planning for the unexpected, the better you’ll be at handling it when it happens.

Where are you safest on the road?

Crash dataiamtraffic.org has an interesting article discussing lane positioning and how it can determine your safety on the road.  Since the vast majority of accidents are in crossing situations, it’s best to be keenly aware of how you traverse a crossing and how you’re being seen (or not being seen) by other traffic.

The core principle seems to be the more you act like a car on the road, the less likely you are to be victim of the most common accident types.