Category: Basic Commuter Skills

Based on some comments in our recent Torker Interurban bike review, I wanted to put something up…a “pop quiz”, of sorts, to address some points made.

This is a multiple-choice quiz. Let’s begin:

Which is the “commuter bike”? Is it

a) the fixed gear machine
DSC04722s

b) the cargo bike
DSC02796s

c) the fully-dressed urban bike
DSC05564s

d) the high-end touring rig
kgs

or e) All of the above?

If you’ve been reading our site for a while, you know that “E” is the correct answer. All of these bikes have their place in bicycle commuting, and in fact all but “D” are actual “commuter bikes” that I ride on a regular basis to and from work or to run errands around town. The point is, there is no “one” solution for bike commuters. We all have different needs and terrain, different ideas about what we like or don’t like, different distances or places to secure our rides once we get to our destinations. A bike that works for me may not work for you (and vice versa), and it is foolhardy to think otherwise.

If you’re newer to this site, I have a couple of tidbits for you, too: This is a good time to link back to a couple of our articles from the past, such as “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” and “What Bike Do I Buy?”

Bike commuters are still but a tiny minority here in the U.S. Divisive attitudes, elitism and snobbery serve to tear us apart, not bring us together. As far as we’re concerned here, if you’re on two wheels you’re ok with us.

Needless to say, everyday for me is bike to work day and every week is bike to work week.

But here in Chicago, the Active Transportation Alliance puts together a fun line-up of Bike to Work activities – purposely in June when the “iffy” May weather is behind us and we hopefully have sunnier skies and warmer temperatures to brighten up our daily bike commutes.

b2ww

This week is the Bike Commuter Challenge in which businesses “compete with other businesses to get the most employees biking to work during the Bike Commuter Challenge, June 11-17.” Active Trans is behind this challenge and the concept has grown over the years; this year more than 400 teams are signed up as of this posting. For more info about registering your Chicago area company / school / nonprofit for the challenge, go to the registration page.

Winners are determined by the percentage of team members who biked to work during the Bike Commuter Challenge at least once. Participation is scored when someone bikes part or all of the way to work. Even if your officemates bike to the closest train stop, that counts as participation.

You can likely find me this week helping out at one of the many bike pit stops organized for morning commuters throughout the city and suburbs. In fact, my own company hosted its own bike commuter stations this morning to rally employees to bike to work.

Go Team — of all Bike Commuters!

Here’s something to share — our site was featured on the excellent “The Greenists” online magazine. I was able to answer some general bike-commuting questions for the author, Jacob Johnston, and his article “Pedal Power to the Rescue”. Jacob is a new commuter, and seems very excited by the prospects of riding two wheels instead of four.

Spin on over to The Greenists to take a look at the article…a nice roundup of tips and observations for the first-time or newish bicycle commuter. You can read the full article by clicking here.

Thanks to Jacob for a very pleasant interviewing experience and for being eager to learn and share tips with his readers at The Greenist. Enjoy yourself out there; get on that bike and ride!

A few months ago I was reading an issue of  Bicycle Paper, a Pacific NW regional cycling publication covering all aspects of cycling in Washington & Oregon. I found an article about a gentleman by the name of Kiel Johnson. Kiel is a local advocate of cycling. When I say advocate, I MEAN ADVOCATE! He is involved!

This particular article was centered around a movement aimed at our cycling future. KIDS! (and their supportive parents)

Imagine… instead of big, yellow, diesel smoke spewing school buses there were ‘trains’ of bicycle riders following a set route to school. Picking up riders along the way, growing in numbers along the way to school! This is what Kiel has started here in Portland.

I conducted an ’email interview’ with Kiel, shown below:

BC: Kiel, tell our readers about Bike Trains, What are they and what is this about?

KJ: Bike trains are about creating communities of people who bike to school. They are a group of parents and students that bike together to school on a prearranged route. The bike trains in Portland run one morning every week.

There are lots of other positive things that have resulted from helping organize this community. The streets around schools are safer for all users. There is a study that found that 20% of all morning commute traffic comes from parents driving to drop their kid off at school. We should be doing things around schools that make them safe places to be. Kids are our most valuable investment and when we design a school so that everyone uses a car you are creating a dangerous situation. Last year two students in Portland were sadly struck in a hit and run crash while crossing the street to their school. (http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/two_students_hurt_in_hit-and-r.html)

We need to understand these tragedies and make sure that we are contributing to a system that prevents them from happening to anyone else. Bike trains are part of finding a solution to this problem. They create a visible, fun, and comfortable alternative. They also draw in a lot of people who are more cautious about biking to school and wouldn’t do it on their own. It is about making biking to school an event, something that people can talk about and feel a part of.

BC:  How many trains exist in Portland today?

KJ: There are seven schools in Portland that have a bike train. A few of them have stopped running during the winter but there is still a lot of participation. I had one parent tell me that last year, before there was a bike train, she would be the only one locking up in the winter. Now there are about ten bikes parked everyday in all weather conditions.

Many schools have several trains that come in from different directions. For instance Beach, which started last year now has four routes.

There is also a bike train that started in Vermont.

BC: How many kids are participating?

KJ: So far there have been 1184 student and parent riders on a bike train this year. That is just counting the official bike train day at each school.

BC: How many adult volunteers does it take to make a successful Bike Train?

KJ: All it takes is one very enthusiastic parent willing to go for it.

BC: How is this type of program funded?

KJ: We just got a $5,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation. The goal with the grant is to disperse it to the different schools. Let each bike train leader spend it in ways that will improve their school.

BC: How would others go about securing funding for a Bike Train in their communities?

KJ: I wouldn’t worry about funding. I’d just go out and start it.

BC: Do you think business sponsorship might work for a program like this?

KJ: There is a lot of potential for local businesses to sponsor a bike train. There was a bike train in Portland a couple years ago that was sponsored by REI. On a couple occasions the bike train stopped by the REI and staff handed out energy bars and let the riders climb on the climbing rock. REI wins because they look like they are participating in the community and are helping establish future customers. The bike train wins because it makes the riders feel like they are a part of something.

BC: What are your expectations for 2011, in regards to the Bike Train program here in Portland?

KJ: I think April is going to see an explosion of families biking together to school. Everyone feels like we are at a tipping point. Biking to school is becoming “the thing to do”. It is exciting to be a part of this movement.

Kiel has put in tons of work to make biking to school a viable form of transportation for many kids here in Portland. I have done it for my own kids since moving here, now it’s time to move onto a much bigger stage. I have been talking with the PTA president at my kids’ school and Kiel. We are planning on starting our own Bike Train here in NE Portland. I will keep you posted!

If any reader(s) would like to contact Kiel to pursue a Bike Train in their area, the best ways to contact him are shown below:

Email: biketrainpdx@gmail.com

Check out the progress of the Portland area bike trains at http://www.biketrainpdx.org/