Bicycle Commuting: Is It Safe?

Commuting by bike has its ardent supporters, especially during National Bike to Work Week.

National  has a small hurdle. While it endorses endorphins, it doesn’t celebrate certain perks to be found in the car – such as hot coffee or trunk space.

So this week, The Hub chats with Mike Norris, founding editor of Stamford-based DIYBiking.com to find out what kinds of things make biking to work not only safer, but also more fun. And it also asks you, the reader, about your cycling preferences.

“I’m a very passionate cyclist,” Norris said. “But I also have an SUV that I’m not going to give up no matter what anybody says.”

So then how to convince people that trading in four wheels for two – even if only occasionally – makes sense? Norris who blogs about biking, said a little balance and perspective, and more practical information is needed to make Bike to Work Week a success.

Most people complain about gas when filling up, but quickly forget the $4 plus per gallon they pay after the drive away from the filling station. So the high cost of fuel won’t necessarily compel someone to hop on the bike. As for the health or environmental benefits, Norris said those reasons are often too abstract to attract new riders.

Jonesing for java

“It’s not always the easiest thing to bike to work,” Norris said. “There are a lot of little 99 cent things like cup holders. That’s why I rode around Stamford splashing myself with coffee.”

That’s right, Norris biked around Stamford, purchasing full cups of coffee from many places, including Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds. He then rode a mile and recorded and photographed the results.  In the end he decided more people might bike to work if they could get their daily dose of caffeine.

For want of a bike lane.

Another reason some people steer clear of biking to work is they either don’t know the rules of the road, or they worry about the region’s dearth of bike lanes.

It’s important for cyclists to learn how bit become one with the traffic, Norris said.

“I think how frustrated I’m driving and see cyclists running red lights and popping up and down. So I always use hand signals and ride in a straight line,” Norris said.

Norris also stressed the importance of seeing not just what’s in front of you, but what’s behind you as well. The cyclist prefers a helmet mounted rear-view mirror.

“I’m convinced that I’d be a chalk outline without it,” Norris said.

Other cyclists may prefer handlebar-mounted mirrors, but either way a mirror is a must. And for that matter so is a helmet, said the bike blogger.

Those interested in biking to work should stop by their local bike shop, Norris said.  There are many bike shops in the region. To name a few:  or Pacific Swim Bike Run in Stamford. in Westport and Connecticut Bicycle Shops in Shelton. Try  in Wilton, or  in Ridgefield.

“People will quickly find bikes are very different now than when they were young. They’re comfortable and well made. And you don’t have to bike far to realize your saving wear and tear on your car,” Norris said.

Now, some die-hard car fans don’t bike because they’ll miss listening to music or talk radio. And while some people bike with ear buds in place, Norris said that’s a no-no.

“I don’t encourage it,” Norris said. “It’s important to be able to pay attention to the sounds. And listening to the birds, to the early sounds the city makes,” Norris said. “That’s better than any playlist I have.”

Related Topics: , , and What perk about commuting by car would you miss if you biked? 


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