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Tag Archive: bicycle commuting

How to keep riding if you work from home

As you may know, life tends to throw us a few changes here and there. One of the major changes I’ve had to deal with was having to work out of my home. My office used to be about 8 miles away and I’d commute there with my bike. But now that my commute is literally a few steps away from my bedroom, I surprisingly get more riding done now than I did in the last 4 years.

Not sure if you know what it’s like to work from home, but you can get a bit of cabin fever. I know for myself I need to get out once in a while, interact with people, breath fresh air and get some sun. If you can relate to any of those, then here’s some things that I do to help me get my bike “fix” on.

1. I often have meetings at Starbucks about 2 miles away. I’ll hop on my bicycle and ride there. In fact I once took the sidecar to my meeting and my client was so impressed by this machine. However, I couldn’t convince him to go for a ride with it.
bicycle sidecar on bikecommuters.com

2. I go out for lunch. I’m in between Downtown Brea and Downtown Fullerton, so that means I’ve got plenty of choices to eat at. I also will arrange lunch dates with various friends who work or live in the area.

3. I run errands with my bicycle. If I’m out of ink for my printer or need more coffee beans or have to run to the bank, the bicycle is much easier than having to use my motorcycle or car. I actually use my motorcycle quite a bit. I do so when I have to run longer errands. But doing so poses it’s own challenges. With a motorcycle, I have to get on all my riding gear, get it out of the garage, make sure there’s gas and by the end of it, I smell like fumes…but it’s still better than having to take the car around town.

4. Just get out. Sometimes you don’t need any other reason to get out there and ride. Many times I find myself stuck…you know like writer’s block. So to get my mind flowing again, I get on the bike and ride around for about 10-15 minutes. It’s kinda like how dryer sheets help Tina Fey’s writing…

So if you work from home, you can still be a bike commuter. Just find ways to use your bicycle when you have to get out of your home.

Bike safety to the extreme: Laser lights, vibrating handlebars and more

This morning I was zipping down a six block descent on my way to work, eyeing a sporty black car that was creeping suspiciously down the hill. As a good defensive bicyclist, I slowed my roll, covering the brakes as I gained on the car and an approaching intersection. The light was green; I was headed straight through the intersection and so was the car until it made an unexpected, unsignaled right turn, cutting me off. Luckily, I had slowed significantly and changed my trajectory, turning right alongside the car. Not sure if the driver even noticed me.

I was lucky. Sometimes defensive biking isn’t enough to avoid a collision.

This was not my first near miss, not even the first one of the week, so when a friend told me about the BLAZE Laserlight, my first thought was, “I could definitely use a little green bicycle fairy.” Because that’s what the BLAZE light is: a high-powered LED that projects a green bicycle shape onto the roadway about 16 feet in front of a cyclist, warning drivers of an approaching rider. Hopefully, the green bike will alert space-cadet drivers and make cyclists less vulnerable to blind spots and other potential dangers.

A little green friend.

It’s true, BLAZE Laserlight is just the newest iteration of an idea that’s been around for several years—check out these laser beam bike buffers—but I have yet to see this concept in action on the street. Maybe it seems like overkill to have little green bikes (or laser beams) announcing a cyclist’s every turn.

On the other hand, maybe laser beams are just the beginning. A group of engineering students at Northeastern have taken bike safety to the extreme, creating the Interactive Bicyclist Accident Prevention System (iBAPS). The “smart bike” prototype incorporates a plethora of safety features.

Extreme safety measures.

Smarter than your average cyclist? The iBAPS features:

  • Sensors to detect cars impinging on a cyclists space
  • Laser beams (of course) that project a 3-foot wide virtual bike lane
  • If a car comes too close, the bike “emits a loud message, telling drivers to move further away.” (I think we’re all wondering the same thing, what is this message and is it customizable?)
  • When approaching an intersection at high speed, the handlebars vibrate as a warning to slow down. (Frightening.)
  • Using Bluetooth tech, the bike can sync up with a rider’s smartphone leading to all kinds of excessive data extrapolation. Like tracking riding trends to inform the biker how likely it is that their riding behavior will lead to a crash.
  • With the smartphone GPS, the bike can vibrate the handlebars, alerting the rider to make the correct turns to reach a destination. (I just can’t get over the vibrating thing. It would scare the crap outta me.)
  • As cars get smarter too, eventually the bike will be able to communicate with vehicles on the road. (Where’s  my self-riding bicycle, Google?)

Read more about the iBAPS smart bike from the Boston.com.

All these features make my measly helmet & flashing lights seem antiquated. I’m all for bike safety measures and, although some of these seem a bit extreme, to ensure I arrive to my destination unscathed, nothing may be too extreme.

How far would you go to ensure your safety while bike commuting? Is it possible that the iBAPS is missing any features?

 

Free bike registration program aims to safeguard San Francisco bikes

I was more than a little alarmed to read the statistics for stolen bikes in San Francisco. In 2012, one bike was stolen every three hours. Over 4,000 bikes were stolen in that year alone. And of the bikes that were recovered (about 850), less than 17% of bikes found their way back home. So many lonely bikes and wheel-less bikers!

safebike_sf-statistics

Thankfully a new and free bike registry — SAFE Bikes — aims to improve those numbers. According to a recent update from the SF Examiner, a San Francisco police advisory board and safe-streets advocates are launching the free registration program this month to help reunite bikers with stolen bikes. The SAFE Bikes program allows riders to register a bicycle’s serial number, make/model, and color into a secure database that’s connected to the police department. The owner will receive a unique and permanent ID tag to place on the frame. If a registered bike is ever stolen and recovered, SAFE will identify the bike and contact the owner.

SAFE Bike SF

A quick survey of some of my fellow San Francisco bike commuters (ok, a group of friends at a dinner party) reveals that not a-one has registered his or her bike. That goes for me, too. This particular group of riders use bikes as a main form of transportation around the city, and we’re not naive—we are well aware of the dangers, even of just leaving your beloved bike locked up in front of a bar while you run inside for a quick pint of Pliny the Younger.

When I asked my cycling cohorts why they had never registered their bikes, the most cited obstacles included “hassle,” “cost,” and the belief that registering a bike “wouldn’t make a difference.”

But I believe SAFE bikes will go a long way to overcome these registration issues. In fact, I’m leading the way––I’ve registered my bike. And it was easy!

Is your bike registered? If so, what program have you registered with? Does it provide you peace of mind?

Also, side note, SAFE has a great graphic showing the best method for locking up your bike. Check it out.

Merry Xmas Bike Commuters: DIY Bike Rack Just for YOU!

My office has a plethora of bikes that live full– or part–time in the warehouse. This small fleet of communal cruisers and commuter bicycles needed an organized home rather than randomly strewn about the room.

Luckily, we have a couple of industrious fellas who took on the task of building a bike rack with limited funds, two wooden pallets, and an hour to spare. Now we’re sharing with you the step-by-step guide on how to build your own hanging bike rack.

Build Your Own Bike Rack

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

Materials

  • Two ~6’ tall wooden pallets (or five 6′ 2x4s, plus one 8′ 1×6 and one 8′ 1×4)
  • Wood screws (We used Grabber screws #8 x 2.5” and #9 x 3”)
  • Bicycle or storage hooks

Tools

  • Power drill
  • Power saw
  • Hammer

BYOBR Equipment

Building buddy!
Grab a friend or two. The building will be easier, safer, and more fun with a friend.

BYOBR Parker & Will

STEP ONE
Carefully disassemble the two pallets and remove all nails––this is where the hammer comes in handy. Group the pallet lumber into similarly sized pieces. All the longest, sturdiest pieces (the 2x4s) will form the frame of the bike rack.

BYOBR Wood Pallet Parts

BYOBR Pallet Pieces

STEP TWO
Construct the frame using five of the 2x4s. You may need to trim some of the lumber to size as Will & Parker did for our bike rack.

BYOBR Frame

Secure each corner with two long wood screws.

BYOBR Building Frame

The bottom beam usually needs to be the flattest, least likely to wobble; however, the bottom beam on the rack built by Parker & Will was warped. Gotta work with what you have.

STEP THREE
You should now have a large rectangle. Place the third and remaining 2×4 directly in the middle between the two outer columns. You can see how carefully Will measures the distance using the highly-scientific “counting-his-steps” method.

BYOBR Measuring Frame copy

You may need to trim the lumber to size. Secure the middle column with two screws at either end.

BYOBR Building Frame 2

BYOBR Frame Raised

STEP FOUR
Give this rack some feet to stand on! Secure a 1×6 to the base of the outer columns with four screws each.

BYOBR Adding Feet

BYOBR Adding Feet 2

STEP FIVE
Bracer. Create a stabilizer for each foot––’cause you know triangles are the strongest shape (I learned that in 3rd Grade).

BYOBR Feet Added

Parker identified the angle for the cut by holding the 1×6 in place and marking with his favorite mechanical pencil. Super sophisticated stuff here.

BYOBR Measuring Cuts

Trim each stabilizing piece along the identified angles, so that the edges are flush with the frame.

BYOBR Preparing Cuts

Secure each brace with a couple screws.

BYOBR Adding Stabilizers

BYOBR Stabilizers

STEP SIX
More stabilizers! Add a small 1×4 stabilizer at each corner of frame for added stability. That’s four in total, if you’re counting.

BYOBR Top Stabilizers

Measure and cut the smaller stabilizers using the same method in Step Five. IMPORTANT: Don’t place your stabilizers too far into the frame or they may obstruct how your bikes hang. Secure with the smaller length screws.

BYOBR Parker Drilling

Lookin’ good! You’re almost there.

STEP SEVEN
Evenly space four bicycle hooks into the frame. Leave plenty of elbowroom for your bikes’ handlebars. Hint: it helps if you drill a starter hole before screwing the hooks into place. (Look at the teamwork happening!)

BYOBR Will & Parker Adding Hooks

STEP EIGHT
Hang up yo’ bikes! Stand back and admire a job well (and economically) done.

BYOBR Will hanging up bikes

BYOBR Completed Bike Rack

BYOBR Completed Bike Rack 2

National Bike Month is here!

Welcome to another edition of National Bike Month! Bike Month may not feel particularly special to those of us who are year-round commuters…however, this is a great time to encourage folks “on the fence” to give bike commuting a try.

Here’s a cute little video from the People For Bikes group to share:

You HAVE signed the People For Bikes pledge, haven’t you? If not, click here to add your name.

NBM_Facebook_header2

And, as always, the League of American Bicyclists has provided a handy web app to help you find bikey events in your area. Simply visit this page and fill in the form to find some great things going on this month.

Finally, if you’re new to commuting and new to this site, welcome! Please take a look around; we’ve got over seven years of articles to wade through in our archives…including tips and advice on just about anything you can imagine.

Happy two-wheeling, everyone!