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Alternatives to the Safety Flag

A few weeks back, we posted a review of a safety flag…and while the device worked well, a number of our readers commented that it might be too dorky or ineffective for their uses.

The safety flag in question:
D-Tour safety flag

Those comments got us thinking: what could be some good alternatives to this flag? We came up with a couple novel ideas that we wanted to share. Let’s head to the Bikecommuters.com Secret Laboratory, located in the hooker-infested wastelands of central Tampa, to see what we came up with!

The secret lab

Mad scientist and all-around great guy Noah came up with our first alternative. It is still a flag, but we GUARANTEE that this will draw far more attention than some puny, fluorescent flag — here it is:
Noah's pirate flag
This flag creates a tremendous racket when flown — the flag flaps in the breeze, the pole clanks and rattles. It sounds, well, like a pirate ship! We’ve found that this flag is most effective if some verbal invective is used simultaneously…you know, “Avast, ye scallywags, give me some space or I’ll SWAB THE DECK with ya!!!”

Our next alternative was created just after Florida passed their “step in the right direction, but unenforced” 3-foot passing rule. This alternative provides both a visual passing distance indicator as well as a text-based indicator. Here it is:

Friendly side

Had a rough day and don’t feel so charitable? Well, this alternative is reversible…just unscrew the two bolts and flip this badboy over to let motorists know how you REALLY feel:
Not so friendly

There you have it — two alternatives that might make you feel a bit less dorky and keep you VERY visible to motorists. That’s how we roll at the Bikecommuters.com Secret Laboratory…coming up with great solutions to all your commuting problems!!!

Thanks to my homie, Terry, for allowing me to plunder his collection of yardsticks.

Commuter Choices Week in Tampa Bay

Commuter choices week header

All this week, Bay Area Commuter Services is having their annual “Commuter Choices Week“, with festivities and bike rides throughout the Tampa Bay area. On October 1st, I attended their “Party on Poe Plaza”. There were representatives from local bike shops, bicycle/pedestrian planning organizations, the area’s two municipal bus services and many others in attendance.

part of the crowd

Even better, this event was attended by folks from the national, state and local governments. It was a veritable “who’s who” of Senatorial staff, Congresspeople, County Commissioners and planning chiefs — someone from U.S. Senator Mel Martinez’s office came and made a speech, our U.S. Congressional Representative Kathy Castor said a few words, and Hillsborough County Commissioner and all-around great lady Rose Ferlita gave the keynote address to the gathering.

Here’s Rose Ferlita (behind the podium at left) addressing the folks in attendance:
Rose Ferlita

Everyone in attendance seemed to agree that more work is needed in the Tampa Bay area to get people to use alternative forms of transportation. Although there was a lot of talk about “light rail” solutions, plenty was said about building bicycling infrastructure throughout the area. As this is the event’s 11th anniversary, it is apparent that the Tampa Bay area is really looking to change for the better — the event is better-attended every year and with all the politicians and planning professionals mingling with the crowd, good things CAN happen if we’re patient (and vocal!).

Oh, did I mention that Thunderbug, the mascot of NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning (2003 Stanley Cup Champions) also came to the event on his custom-made trike? Here he is:
Thunderbug

Going to this event also gave me the opportunity to talk with the organizer of Tampa Bay’s upcoming Bicycle Bash By the Bay, which the Bikecommuters.com team will be participating in. Stay tuned for more info on that event, which will take place on November 4th at the Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg.

Mistakes commuters make

Here’s a list of ‘DUH’ moments that I’ve had over 2 years of commuting to work on a bike.

* Forgetting my water bottle. -luckily I have a park mid-route so I was able to replenish.
* Not carrying a mini-pump and carrying empty C02 cartridges and getting a flat. – I ended up walking my bike home for 1/2 mile.
* Not carrying lights -One day I had to stay at work until it got dark outside, luckily, most of my commute was lit.
* Forgetting my helmet – It happened once, I felt naked riding without it
* Daydreaming while riding – I spaced out, hit the sidewalk with my pedal almost eating it. Luckily my MTB skills saved my ass.
* Leaving my pannier attachment on another bike – I was lucky that I had a bunch of bungee cords on my truck and strapped my pannier to the rack.
* Forgetting my truck keys at work – Let’s just say that my wife was not too happy.

Feel free to share your ‘DUH’ moments, it’s OK, nobody is perfect.

A Bike Lane Runs To It

If you live in or near the city of Tampa, Florida, you will know that the car rules around here. While there are plenty of quiet streets to bicycle upon, there are not very many useful bike lanes in the area. Where bike lanes do exist, they have a tendency to start and stop at random, not linking up with other lanes or providing an unbroken route for cyclists to take advantage of.

But, things are changing — just a couple weeks ago, the city put the finishing touches on a bike lane that actually goes somewhere!

Tampa's newest bike lane

This is the new bike lane, running from just north of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd all the way down to and INTO the heart of downtown Tampa. The lane runs down the right side of a busy one-way called Tampa Street. This street is the main surface road into downtown, and can be quite busy early in the morning as folks rush to work in the urban core. Before the lane was constructed, I had found a quiet residential street a few blocks east that served my purposes for a fairly direct commuting route. Now, though, I can take this bike lane to within a couple blocks of the library where I work!

Here’s another shot with the downtown skyline visible:
the lane with skyline in the distance

Even though my previous route was peaceful, scenic and quiet, I feel compelled to use this new bike lane, even though there are a LOT of cars out there with me. And that brings up a few questions — do you readers try to use bike lanes where available, even if there is a quieter or better route at your disposal? Should I feel compelled to use this lane (I mean, what if transportation officials are watching? Will they build more?)?

This is a step in the right direction for Tampa — let’s hope there are more lanes in the works! The new lane is smooth and fast. My only gripe is that there is not a corresponding northbound bike lane to take me back out of downtown toward home, and according to Florida DOT officials and the Mayor of Tampa, there is no plan to create one in the near future, even though there is a perfect northbound, one-way, multi-lane road only 3 blocks from this new lane. Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, but I WILL step up my letters and emails to the transportation planners in the area!

A bike is an excellent piece of exercise equipment as well as a perfect means of transportation. Biking is better exercise than a home gym can provide, and you’ll feel better about yourself when you’re conserving energy. No other sport, not even golf equipment, can make you feel so good about the environment!

Commuter Profile: Elizabeth Adamczyk

Meet Elizabeth Adamczyk — Elizabeth is a circulation supervisor for Northwestern University Library’s Chicago campus branch and is also a dedicated bike commuter. Here is her profile:

Elizabeth Adamczyk

Why do you bike commute?
Living in Chicago, it’s just so much easier to hop on my bike in the morning and go. I never looked forward to the crowded bus or EL ride (or the long wait for public transit). Riding my bike is my favorite part of the day, plus it has cut my commute time almost in half.

How long have you been bike commuting?
My commute started as something of convenience on “nice” days a few years ago. I was a fair-weather cyclist for a while. But once I got the right gear and fenders, I now opt to commute year round. (Last year was my first Bike Winter.)

Chicago skyline

What kind of bikes do you have?
I have a Jamis Nova cyclocross that I now primarily ride on weekends. My commuter bike is my old Schwinn Sprint from the early 90s. It’s “the tank” or “the purple demon?.

How long is your commute?
My commute usually takes me close to 5 miles each way, around 25 minutes.

Any funny or interesting story that you may want to share.
First off, in the winter I wear a screaming yellow color jacket. The guy
driving the garbage truck in my alley waved and smiled at me as I trudged my bike past him and his truck through the unplowed alley to the street. He thought I was nuts for riding in such weather. Then he told me he wished more bikers stood out as much as I do with my lights and bright clothing. He also told me to be safe out there. I asked him to watch out for me and fellow bikers on the road. From that day on, he has always nodded at me when we pass each other. What a great way to start that day.

Last winter I struggled with keeping my fingers and toes warm. I remember being almost to work one morning and my fingers were SOOO cold that I could barely use them to apply my brakes. When I finally got indoors, my only thoughts were not that ‘it’s too cold to ride’ but rather ‘what more can I do to keep my fingers warm? I don’t want to stop riding because of my cold fingers!!!’ I was feeling desperate for a solution. Somehow I made it through — mittens and hand warmers (on the coldest of days) helped. Thank goodness… and I’m still riding.

Lincoln Ave.

What do people say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
Most people first ask me where I live that I commute by bike. Usually they’re more surprised when they find out I ride year-round and don’t plan to garage my bike for the winter.

Do you have an ‘advanced commuter tip’?
Stay alert. It’s not really an advanced tip, but it’s one that even I need
to remember. All it takes is a moment of daydreaming to get into a really bad situation — like running into a pothole or getting doored or carelessly crossing an intersection.

Lincoln Ave. southbound

Anything that you may want to add?
Bicycling has completely changed my life — for the better. I truly believe that the world just looks better from the saddle. To quote the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, “The more you bike, the better your world.”

Also, I advocate sharing the road. The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event that takes place in May to recognize fallen cyclists and the legal sharing of the road. Look for your local Ride of Silence or organize one in your community. Let the silence roar(http://www.rideofsilence.org).

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Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing your profile and insights and your excellent pictures of Chicago!

If you want to be profiled on Bikecommuters.com, just send us an email!