Guest Articles

Guest article: Interactive commuter data

The following article was written by Luke Clum of Distilled Creative. Take a look — the interactive data linked to the image below is a handy “one stop” resource for stats on your location.

How Pedal Friendly Is Your State?

Let’s be honest, we all like to have a few bragging rights. Well, if you’re a bike commuter in Washington DC, you get those rights. As of a recent study by the Alliance for Biking and Walking DC ranks first as having the highest number of bike commuters according to population. The study compiled important information from state and city rankings about commuters who walk, bike, the number of fatalities, and the amount of government aid allocated for alternative transportation. In sum they found a sharp rise in the total number of bike commuters – in some cases almost doubling.

But besides the urban sprawl of DC, many other states compared really well in their biking behaviors. Coming in at second was, you guessed it, those fixie-loving Oregonians. While this state, renowned for its expressive bikers, fell behind DC with only 2.25% or bike commuters, it excelled compared with the rest of the more expansive states.

One of the major benefits to this large scale rise in bike commuting is an increase in safety developments. Many cities are renovating their streets to include larger shoulders and more prominent bike lanes. My hometown of Seattle (a respectable 8th on the list) has been making substantial changes both inside the city limits and within the smaller sub-city districts. With traffic lanes being narrowed and bike lanes growing, I’m also noticing a lot more bikers on the road – which is a great thing. Hopefully with biking becoming more and more prominent we’ll see a sharper awareness of car drivers and a limit in the amount of accidents.

With gas prices continuing to rise and a greater environmental awareness, I’m hopeful that bike commuting will continue to blossom. In the meantime, look up your state and celebrate, or grovel in your respective ranking. For more info on the study itself check out the 2012 Alliance Benchmarking Report.

The State Stats – Find Out How You Rank

Click image to open interactive version (via BikeGuard).

Author Bio
Luke Clum is a Seattle based graphic designer, cyclist and outdoorsman. While he loves creating unique designs, he’s most content hiking or alpine climbing in the North Cascades. You can follow him on Twitter @lukeclum

Guest Article: “Birth of a Bike Mama”

Editor’s note: The following article is by Suzanne Sheridan, a woman I met 20 years ago in Sarasota, Florida under the strangest of circumstances. Suzanne is a dedicated transportational cyclist, and has some unique insights into traveling with a young one. If any of our other readers would like to submit guest articles, please drop us a line at info[at]bikecommuters[dot]com

The Birth of a Bike Mama

It didn’t take much. We were on vacation, visiting friends and family in Florida, and I had brought our jogging stroller/bike trailer with the intent of getting back into bike action. With the help of a Floridian bike mechanic friend showing me how to hook it up, I started using our SUV baby stroller as a bike trailer. One of our first rides was on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail-to-Trail. This was always one of my favorite rides before the birth of my daughter, so it was natural to start anew with this trail. What wasn’t natural was taking a 30-mile ride after a two-year hiatus from bicycling! When I started out riding again, I couldn’t resist the temptation to bike this whole trail. We made it to Hawthorne OK and had the requisite small-town BBQ. On the return I started to feel my lack of leg muscles. Unable to pedal any further I walked the last few miles of the return trip. This was one of the first challenges I would face as I grew into being a new bike mama.

Before my daughter, Wayra, was born I used to bike everywhere- for transportation, for fun, for exercise- for all of the above and more. Now, I still bike for all of these reasons. Overall the transition has been easy yet there have been a few challenges along the way.

(photo by Suzanne Sheridan)

One of the hardest aspects of biking with a babe has been getting used to riding like a civilized and law-abiding citizen. I used to be one of those cyclists that raced the public transit system. “I bet I can beat you there!” I’d say as you were walking down the stairs, to take the nearest el train, and I was unlocking my bike. And I would do it. I’d run stop signs, red lights, and have near-collisions with cars all in the name of going fast and making good time. Now, wanting to set a good example for my trailer-riding daughter, I don’t run stop signs or red lights- even if there are no other vehicles or pedestrians around us.

Another related challenge is I still have a bit of an immortal complex. I have made obvious changes out of regard for the safety of my daughter. I don’t ride with her in the trailer at night, in icy weather, on roads with fast cars or where there’s a risk of getting doored. While my daughter always wears her helmet, I still do not wear a helmet. This is where I’ve refused to budge in my immortality yet I know that my helmet-free time is probably limited. My daughter has always loved her helmet – sometimes refusing to take it off when we arrive at our destination. And she sometimes says to me “Where’s your helmet? You need a helmet Mama!” I respond always with something along the lines of “Yeah, I should get that.” which satisfies her for now. The moment is in sight though when she’ll be refusing to wear a helmet unless I do too and, at that time, I will give in to being the good bicycle-safety role model and don a helmet.

A recent close call brought home that, with Wayra, I must always be the defensive cyclist. At a 4-way stop, crossing a busy road, I had made eye contact with all the stopped drivers and started crossing the intersection. A car, that I wrongly assumed would yield, almost plowed into us as I yelled “Stop!” and another driver yelled “Bicycle!” This driver braked within about 2 feet of Wayra’s bike trailer. This chilling incident lead to Wayra yelling “Stop!” at cars at intersections for weeks after!

One of the mundane hassles of biking with a babe in a trailer, has been racking myself, and jerking Wayra’s trailer, when I’ve misjudged the space of a turn and got the trailer caught on things. I have caught the trailer on the blind corner of our apartment complex more than once. And there was that one incident where I tried to squeeze us by a man with a walker on the sidewalk. I caught the trailer on a cement planter. While I racked myself good I could not logically be mad at the guy with the walker as I was completely in the wrong biking on the sidewalk, endangering a fragile senior citizen, etc. The moral of the story here is to give yourself plenty of room for turns, take your trailer turns wide, and steer clear of pedestrians.

There are many advantages to pulling a tot in a trailer. At first, it can be daunting going slower. However, even with the babe trailer, I find we often still arrive faster or in the same amount of time as we would in a bus or a car, when it comes to local jaunts. When it comes to destinations within 5-10 miles, it’s also quicker and easier for me to hook-up the bike trailer than it is to lug a child car seat up and down from our apartment & install it so that a friend/taxi can give us a ride. The bike-jock factor makes me happy as well. My legs are certainly getting stronger with the extra resistance of pulling the tot in a trailer and I can feel the gradual return of my super-biker thighs. Another little joy is the silent glee I feel when I occasionally get to pass another bicyclist who is not pulling a trailer. Beyond all of these perks, the biggest joy of all is raising a girl with a budding case of bicycle-love. Wayra can’t wait to ride on her own and I’m excited to be with her every revolution- I mean step- of the way.

(photo by Suzanne Sheridan)

About the author: Suzanne Sheridan lives in Chicago-land. Her bike-love involves going fast, day-trippin’ on Rail-to-Trails, and rehabbing old Schwinns. When not riding, she is busy running after her toddler daughter Wayra.

Bike To Work Week: Rookie Commuter Resources

I love my Bike in all the months.

Hello enthusiastic readers – year-round cyclists, beginner cyclists, or future bike commuters!  Like the title above says, next week is Bike to Work Week! May is also the only month where you can cycle to work and get loads of freebies – safety tuneups, swag, blinkie lights, bike maps, and bike buddies.  Check out Jack’s article for handy links. For the bike-commuters-to-be and fledgling velodactyls, the staff writers at Bike Commuters wanted to share some tips, inspiration, and motivation to make May’s Bike to Work Week the best. week. ever. Everyone remembers the first time they rode a bike, and our readers have told us how they got started pedaling to work, and it turns out Bike to Work Week is a great starting point!

Here’s a list of some great articles I call the Rookie Commuter Resources. Hand selected and gleaned by yours truly… and don’t forget to read the comments, sometimes you guys are the ones with the best tips for bike commuting!  Enjoy:

  1. Let’s Bike – This year, Elizabeth presented the basics on bike commuting at her job.  She asked our readers to give their advice to newbie commuters.  As Ghost Rider says, “the comments are GOLD” in this one.
  2. 10 Bike Commuting Myths Dispelled Jack’s buddy Alan Snel shines truth on all myths related to bike commuting.
  3. My Conversation with a Cop about Bikes, Traffic, and Safety TipsRL hashes it out with his friend “Officer Ben” to discuss the legal stuff and how to bike commute safely within the law!
  4. Out of My Way, Boys!This article is by Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike.  A funny read for Cycle Ladies getting pumped to tear up the streets!
  5. Commuting in Style (Pint-Sized Edition) Matt gives some tips on how to bike commute with tiny humans (a.k.a. children).
  6. Friday Musings – Top 3 Must-Have Bike Commuting AccessoriesReaders share their thoughts on their favorite commuter accessories.

We know there are more out there, on our site and others, so please share more links in the comments box for any Rookie Commuter Readers out there getting pumped for Bike to Work Week: May 14th through 18th!  Pedal Forward, Cycle Ladies and Gents!

Lookin' fly, Priscilla! Bike to Work Week with your DOG!

Guest Article – The Best Bike Commuter Apps for your Smartphone

Hello Smartphone-using Bike Commuters of the world! For all of you who have data plans and phones with fun-fun apps for bike commuting, check out this guest article submitted by reader, Jane Johnson .  Read on!

somewhat relevant photoshop madness presented by Mir.I.Am

Great apps to make your commute safer and more enjoyable

Bike commuting is a great way to be self-reliant, get in shape, and help the environment; and with music, GPS, and bike computer apps, smartphones can offer the “modern conveniences” of a car without the headache and expense. Whether you commute for ethics, exercise, or economics, these apps for Android and iPhone can make it easier and more fun.

1)  Endomondo (Android, iPhone)

This is a general fitness tracker app, but the cycling functionality is superb.  In addition to the basics that all the above apps track, Endomondo also monitors calories based on your reported fitness information. It also has support for external heart rate monitors, if you want to go crazy with it. Where this app really shines, though, is the social support to which it connects you. If you’re not competitive, it might not have much to offer you—but if the chance to beat your friends in endurance or speed challenges excites you, Endomondo’s a great way to get motivated. Get a couple buddies signed up, and compete to be the Champion of a given route or trail (sort of like being Mayor of a location on Foursquare), or try to top each other’s personal best. Like Cyclemeter, it also offers voice feedback as you reach milestones, and it tops this list because it’s comprehensive, attractive, and free.

2)  Bike Doctor (Android, iPhone)

This is a great repair primer for any bike commuter. If you depend on your bike to get to and from work, you’ll wear out parts faster than the average weekend warrior, and obviously you’ll be in a tougher spot if you have a breakdown. Fortunately, repairs on a typical workhorse road bike are relatively simple and inexpensive. With this app and a good multi-tool handy, you can walk through 24 of the most common repairs your bike might need, with step-by-step written instructions and a video tutorial. If you like the independence and affordability of commuting, this app can help you be even more self-reliant.

3)  Cyclemeter (iPhone)

If you commute for the fitness benefits, this app will help you better track and record your performance. It monitors your distance, elevation, and speed, with charts that map your performance over time. As your strength increases, you can watch your progress in speed and endurance—a powerful motivator to continue improving. Similar apps are abundant, but the kicker here is Cyclemeter’s safety feature: to keep your eyes on the road, you can set the app to make periodic voice announcements for anything you want to track—for instance, you might set it to report every mile traveled, or every five, or let you know when you’ve hit your target speed. If you’re not too out of breath, you can also request an update on the fly.

4)  Move! Bike Computer (Android)

This app is designed to make your smartphone a handlebar-mounted bike computer, with GPS, odometer, and speedometer in large, bold text so you can easily keep track at a glance (here’s an example of a cheap handlebar mount for LG phones). With your phone snapped into the mount, you’ve got constant access to the basics (speed, trip duration, distance traveled, etc.) as well as more specific readings like pace (in minutes per mile), idle time, total uphills and downhills, bearing, maximum speed, and more. It has attractive virtual gauges and an easy to use interface. The only real concern for this one is safety—it’s loaded with features, but wait till you’ve arrived to play around with it.

Bio: Jane Johnson is a writer for GoingCellular, a popular site that provides cell phone related news, commentary, reviews on popular providers like T-Mobile.

Thanks for submitting your article, Jane.  And to our readers, if you have used any of these apps, tell us what you think!  Any other Bike Commuter specific apps that are helpful, fun, or an absolute necessity on your daily rides?  Let us know in the comments box below.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Guest Article: Struck by a City Bus in Jacksonville

Here’s a harrowing tale submitted by longtime reader and friend Abishek Mukherjee. Luckily, the story has a (mostly) happy ending…Shek escaped with only minor injuries and the Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA) did the right thing by agreeing to buy him a replacement for his Xtracycle. Things could have been much worse, as you will see by the video feed from the JTA bus. Anyhow, read on:

On the 7th of September 2011 at 5:30 PM, a city bus hit me while I was riding my bicycle.

I was riding my Xtracycle to a North Florida Transportation Planning Organizaton meeting. Eastbound, I was riding on Riverside Ave. A Jacksonville Transit Authority bus was behind me. The city bus tried to pass me within inches and side-swiped me. If the bus was going to pass me, it had to give me at least 3 feet from the side of the bus during the pass. This is the law. This law is meant to protect me. But the bus driver failed to follow the law. The bus driver failed to be safe. I was thrown off my bike. The bike fell. The rear wheels of the bus ran over the bike.

As I picked myself up with pain in my lower-back and hip area and a bloody elbow, I noticed that the bus had stopped. As I hobbled towards the bus, the door opened. The driver said, “Rescue is coming. I called everyone.” As it turns out, he had called only his supervisor who called Rescue. When the police arrived on the scene with Fire Rescue, I gave them my story. The bus driver was not truthful. He tried to blame me. He gave them a different story, something like him going along merrily and me swerving into the bus hitting him. The city busses are equipped with cameras. Upon hearing from me what happened and viewing the video, the police officer assigned blame to the bus driver. The police officer disregarded the bus driver’s excuse for causing the crash. At the same time, the police officer did not ticket the bus driver for violating the 3 foot passing law. I worry that most police officers don’t even know about the law.

Rescue escorted me to the hospital close by. The pains in my hip area were excruciating. My left knee was swelling up and my left foot was aching. After a bucket-load of x-rays, the doctor announced that he could not find anything broken. He wrote me a prescription for pain killers and sent me home. Recovery has been slow. Between swellings, sore-points, ice packs and pain killers, I can only find relief in the fact that this could have been a lot worse. I am currently seeing a specialist about the residual pains that show no signs of going away three weeks after the accident.

(Editor’s note…look away if you get squeamish by pics of crushed bicycles):


Image courtesy Matt Uhrig of

The Xtracycle had a worse fate. It was built as a freeradical attached to a steel-framed Specialized Rockhopper. The bus ran over the freeradical and crumpled the frame which in turn twisted the rear triangle of the bike. The entire bike is totaled. My attorney, Chris Burns, an avid cyclist himself, insisted that the JTA replace my bicycle. They have given me a check for a new Xtracycle. It is a tremendous benefit to have an attorney on your side who is more than familiar with bicycling law.

It is frustrating that I was hit when I was riding safely and legally and correctly. I have been advocating for bicycles as transportation for over four years and I am intimately familiar with the law. I stop at every stop light and stop sign, even when riding in a group. I have always maintained that the law is insufficient to protect cyclists and the enforcement of the law is often lazy. It is a mere thin blanket of laws which allows bicycles on the road but fails to protect cyclists adequately. Most bicyclists own cars and/or property and are tax paying members of community. I am sure there is a lack of education to motorists about bicycle laws and better educated motorists may be more alert and accommodating on the road. On the other hand, education does not stop motorists from crashing into each other either.

Editor’s note: here’s the video feed from the cameras installed on JTA buses. As you can see, Shek was visible and in good lane position; the bus driver didn’t even try to comply with Florida’s 3-Foot Law, at least in my opinion:

September JTA Accident from Abhishek Mukherjee on Vimeo.

Matt Uhrig of Bike Jax has an excellent “companion article” that offers more detail and commentary. Take a look at it by clicking here. I will offer my own brief commentary, however; not on this incident but on the 3-Foot Law on Florida’s books. As good as this law is on paper, it is incredibly difficult to enforce. And, I am convinced that not enough people (including motorists, many cyclists, and law enforcement officials) are aware of the requirement to give a safe 3-foot passing “buffer” to cyclists on the roads. As you can read from Shek’s account, even though there was clear evidence of a violation of this 3-Foot Law, the bus driver wasn’t charged with that violation. Ironically, JTA buses have been running a “3-Foot Law Awareness Campaign” since 2008, when the law went into effect.