Just Ask Jack — No More Car?

Rick sent in the following question:

I want to ride full time – no more car. I bought a Randonee touring bike and have done a few 40 milers so I know I can do it. I am concerned about sweating and night riding. I need to wear a dress shirt and tie at work and have thought about buying a pannier bag for that. I am also worried about riding at night – I live in Southern Calif in a busy part of town. Any suggestions. I guess I just wish the roads were more bike friendly.

I just can’t seem to pull the trigger and go all bike.

Rick, we’ve written extensively on dealing with the heat, especially since most of us here at Bikecommuters.com live in areas that experience brutal summer heat. Here’s another article that has tips for you.

As for nighttime safety, I wrote an article in 2008 that covers some of the highlights of riding safely at night. We’ve also done several reviews of lights and a DIY article or two that may be helpful — simply click here to be taken to our archive on those subjects. Basically, nighttime safety means being visible and predictable: you can never have too many lights and reflective items, and maintaining your place on the road (no weaving, no blowing through stop signs, etc.) means that most motorists will do what they have to in order to share roadspace with you.

Overkill for nighttime visibility? There’s no such thing!

It can be daunting at first to ride at night, particularly on busy streets. I commuted late at night for the first three years of my current job and quickly realized that the street I took home was rather peaceful as compared to the gridlocked nightmare it was by day. You may also consider finding slightly more out-of-the-way routes if traffic is still heavy on your return trip home.

Really, going completely car-free is a growing process…some people can do it abruptly, but it is often better to “work up” to it. Do your commute and also try to incorporate as many errands as you can by bike. Before you know it, you’ll wonder why you ever owned a car!

Good luck, be safe and have FUN. If anyone else has tips for Rick, please leave them in the comments below.

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.


  1. Charles Duffy February 8, 2010 10:26 pm 

    With respect to lighting — I run two lights in the back and two in the front, and feel quite confident. On my backpack, a Flashbak (a local Austin product, see http://www.flashbakonline.com/), and on the tail of my bike the Planet Bike Superflash. On my helmet the Magicshine MJ-808 (it’s not 900 lumens as the manufacturer claims, but it’s far more than bright enough), and any old blinky lamp on the bars.

    If you’d like to be heard as well, it doesn’t hurt to have a bell (for pedestrians and fellow cyclists, if you’d rather not rely on your voice) and an airhorn (for cars with their windows up and/or radios blaring); I prefer the Incredibell and Airzound in those categories respectively. And for ${DEITY}’s sake, get a mirror. I prefer helmet mirrors myself, but it’s admittedly a very personal preference.

    When in comes to sweat, I can’t offer advice on avoiding it — I’m in Texas, and in the summer here there’s no option but to shower on arrival, even with electric assist. With respect to keeping your clothes pressed, I’ve heard some folks rave about these: http://www.eaglecreek.com/accessories/packing_folders/. There was a similar accessory my wife found some time back, but unfortunately I can’t recall the details presently.

    Finally — if you haven’t done so before, take Traffic Safety 101 from the League of American Bicyclists; the class is well worth the two days of time required.

    Best of luck!

  2. Logan February 8, 2010 11:54 pm 

    Hiya Rick,

    Here is a brief post on my partners blog about our favorite car free guide book: http://rowdykittens.com/2008/07/how-to-live-well-without-owning-a-car/

    It was exceptionally hard to give up my truck and for my partner to give up her new sports car but after reading a few books, blog articles and doing a cost benefit analysis we took the leap of faith and lost 2500 lbs overnight. Its been more than 2 years now and we love being car-free.

    The three most convincing ideas that we found for selling our cars were:

    1. We would save about $700/month
    2. We could always rent a car for travel.
    3. If car-free life sucked we could always buy another car. πŸ˜‰

    Cheers and good luck!

  3. Ghost Rider February 9, 2010 4:30 am 

    I also recommend Chris Balish’s book. We did a review of it here:

    One other you may want to read is Katie Alvord’s Divorce Your Car. We reviewed that one, too:

    Each of these books offer dozens of strategies to help someone become car-free or car-lite. They’re worth the time to read!

  4. meligrosa February 9, 2010 4:08 pm 

    wow that is awesome!! the more lights the merrier :DDD

  5. Brad February 9, 2010 11:21 pm 

    In reference to riding busy streets, Google Maps is a wonderful resource. Look at it and see if you can connect small streets to your destination I used to do a 15 mile commute each way in Tampa (a horrendous city to ride a bicycle in) and stayed on two lane 25mph-ish neighborhood roads for most of it. Personally, if you’re worried about safety I recommend looking into vehicular cycling stuff, just generally behaving like the rest of traffic and taking the lane when necessary. In all my ridingI’ve had a lot of people honk at me for having to wait 15 seconds to pass me (usually to stop at a red light 100 feet away) but never had anyone straight up rear end me. I have had MANY people however buzz past me too closely and almost cause me to crash/run me off the road. To each his own, though.

  6. Raiyn February 10, 2010 12:53 pm 

    Re: Riding at night.

    Reflective tape is your friend. It’s lighter than traditional CSPC plastic, gives you a far greater reflective surface, and won’t break and create litter like traditional bike reflectors. However, it has the potential to look kinda dorky during the day.

    A few years ago I came up with the idea of “Stealth Reflectors”, which is basically reflective tape that is color matched (as close as possible) to your frame with the exception of having red tape in the rear as required by the law in most areas (check your local laws I give a link several times in the thread.

    Also, and I can’t stress this enough, reflective tape, like the CSPC reflectors they replace is best used in conjunction with proper bicycle lights as required by law in your area and by common sense everywhere.

    There I think my butt is sufficiently covered as far as the legal stuff. You’re gonna love my nuts. πŸ˜€

  7. Reads from 2/7/2010 | Korner Talk February 13, 2010 5:24 pm 

    […] used to make clothes! 514000 – The number of hours the Saints spent on winning the Super Bowl How to commute safely on your bike @ night safely Provisional Patent/Trademark > Full Blown Patent – First heard of this on Shark Tank of […]

  8. Nicolas Nelson April 30, 2010 2:23 pm 

    I totally agree with Charles Duffy about the Incredibell and the AirZound. You need both: one for pedestrians/other cyclists, and the other for folks encased in steel & glass & stereophonic cacophony.

    I also agree with him about the mirror, although I prefer the Take-A-Look, which attaches to my glasses. I’d add that too: if you are in SoCal like me, it’s a very good idea to wear eye protection. I recommend AO Safety glasses, available at Lowe’s or Home Depot for about $6 per pair. At that price, I buy two or three clear-lens and two or three UVA/UVB tinted lens (they come in “smoke grey” and “iridescent blue”). These are cheap, strong, lightweight, form-fitting, they keep wind and dust and grit out of your eyes, and the tinted ones offer the glare protection you’ll appreciate. I wear the clear ones at night. Best of all, if you do scuff them or crush them or lose them, you have a spare, and can pick up another pair for $6…

    I agree about lights and visibility at night, too, but I would not recommend wrapping your ride in Christmas lights. Go with a Down Low Glow instead, or spoke-lights, if you want to create a large lighted area on or around your bike. I am considering getting a 12V hi-intensity LED pond/landscaping lamp, affixing it to my rear deck, and aiming it at MYSELF. Nothing like being in the spotlight to bring attention to a person, eh? πŸ˜‰

    Speaking of which, the one thing that tipped the scales for me and made me a regular bike commuter was converting my bike to an Xtracycle. You’ll see links about it over there in the right-hand gutter, near the bottom of the list “FRIENDS”.

    And the one thing (besides my mirror) which has saved my life in LA traffic these past six years is what I learned at this site: http://bicyclesafe.com/

    Learn it. Teach it. Live it. Ride wisely.

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