(**props to you who figure out where the title came from and why I chose it for this post**)
So if the weather here lately is any indication, summer is sadly already on its way out of Vancouver, which means the cycle-commuter season is also wrapping up. For most people anyhow.
So how did my first season biking to work go?
Well enough that I’d still rather ride in the rain than take the bus. I am a bit of a pretty princess, so that says a lot. It’s a lot faster than taking the bus, and I feel better doing it. I’m going to be seriously crabby once the show comes and/or it gets too icy to ride.
Riding in the bike lanes and along bike routes is a lot less harrowing than one would initially think. They’re definitely wide enough to feel comfortable in, and are generally pretty well-respected by the rest of traffic. I wish there were more of them, since cyclists outside bike lanes are generally NOT well-respected by the rest of traffic, and it feels a lot more dangerous.
Bike maintenance is important! I’m not really used to using my bike as a regular mode of transportation, so I’ve been treating it like every other bike I’ve owned: annual tune-ups. My tires were feeling a bit squishy last week, so I finally went and inflated them. They were at 20 psi. They should be around 80 for optimal traffic riding. My brake cables are so loose the levers actually wobble. The bike’s going into the shop today for a bit of love. Commuter cyclists: weekly maintenance should be your mantra!
Secure bike parking and comfortable shower facilities at work are HUGE perks for cyclists. If I didn’t have both of these at my office, there’s no way I’d keep riding in. And now that I really enjoy biking to work it’s going to be a hard sell for me to take any job in the future that doesn’t have these things. It’s like going back to regimented hours once you’ve gotten used to flex time.
The pack you choose will make or break you. I have a backpack that’s got a mesh back and some stiff framing to keep the bulk of the pack away from my body. It works pretty darned well, but is still a thing on my back. Which is hot and sweaty-making – especially on the days I haul my computer back and forth. For my birthday I got a rack and set of panniers – I far prefer them to the backpack. I have to be careful, since I can cram a lot of heavy crap into them, but they make the ride a lot more pleasant. I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to bike to work on a regular basis (and doesn’t just keep an entire wardrobe at the office like my colleague Jeff).
When I drive now, I am much more aware of cyclists on the road. I think everyone who drives in Vancouver should have to bike through the city a few times (and drive in Europe, and on major US Highways) – if that were a licensing requirement, I think we’d have a lot fewer accidents.
HOWEVER, there are as many jackass cyclists as there are jackass drivers, and I fully understand why auto drivers get so antsy about the “psycholist” breed of cyclist. I can not stress enough the importance of riding defensively while asserting one’s space on the road. I notice I’ve gotten a lot more respect on the road by being respectful of all traffic (cars, pedestrians, hoverboarders, whatever) by just following the rules of traffic (signalling, staying in the correct place on the road, stopping at stop-signs, etc.). I think if more cyclists would ride the way they wish cars would drive, it would be much more effective than the generally disruptive and traffic-blocking Critical Mass rides, which seems unlikely to draw much, if any, sympathy to the cyclist cause.
Any questions from would-be bikers? Other feedback from cyclists out there? Tips I haven’t figured out yet?