BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: Bike Commuters

Just Ask Jack — Still a Commuter?

One of our readers posted the following questions the other day:

“If you commute to work but bring all your work clothes on the Monday that you drive to work are you still considered a commuter? Lets say that you live oh…36 miles from you job and it takes about two hours to get there (one way) and you park your truck half way — is that still commuting to work?”

The way I see it, you are a bicycle commuter if you do even a portion of your commute via bicycle. I don’t care if you live 10 blocks or 20 miles from your job…as long as you bike, you qualify!!!

Bringing a load of work clothes on Monday (with the car) is a time-honored method many commuters use. It’s not cheating…merely a great way to make sure you look presentable at work. The other four days are on the bike, so don’t even feel guilty if you’re driving that one day…

Multi-modal commuting is quickly becoming a viable way for folks to reduce their impact on the environment, get some exercise and enjoy nature. Quite a few people bicycle to their nearest bus or train station, load themselves and their bikes onto said bus or train and get off at a station close to their jobs. Still others drive their cars partway and ride the remainder. I have a friend and coworker who takes the cross-Bay bus from St. Petersburg to Tampa (Hi David!) and rides his bike to work from the bus depot. He’s getting some fresh air, he’s reducing his impact on the environment and he is saving significant wear and tear (and expense) on his vehicle.

The bottom line is that there is no “one right way” to commute via bicycle. You’ve got to stick with what works for you and discard other methods. Now get out there and ride!

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

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.

Commuter Profile: Henry Hsieh

Meet Henry, he uses one of my favorite bikes to ride to work. Henry is also involved with the LACBC and he is a frequent indirect contributor to this site. Here’s his commuter profile:

Henry

How long have you been a bike commuter?
On and off since high school. I got more serious about it since I
started working. It’s 15 years from during high school.

What do you do and what city do you bike commute.
Ever since I started bicycle commuting, I have been a student,
computer programmer, student again, and now marketer. I have bike
commuted in: (most in CA unless noted) Torrance, Westwood, Pasadena,
Tucson AZ, La Habra, Long Beach, and now across the great city of Los
Angeles.

Henry

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?
During high school and college, I lived within walking distance from
school, but it was much faster by bike and parking was always an issue
(especially at UCLA). When I worked as a computer programmer, my
commute was 2.5 miles one way. I don’t know why I continued to
bicycle commute, but maybe because I just like riding. I saved a lot
of money on not having to buy parking permit every month and on fuel
cost that way. My commute now is way too long: 26 miles one way. I
just started this commute, but I am doing: bike 1/2 mi, take
920/720/20 bus, to Red Line, to Blue Line, then bike another 1 mi to
work from a Blue Line station. In summary, my bike portion is about 3
miles round trip, but there are a 2 steep hills to climb on the way
home.

What kind of bikes do you have?
I have a road bike (in Tucson), 2 folding bikes, and a mountain bike.
I would like to get a triathlon bike sometime in the near future.

Henry

Do you get teased about riding a ‘little bike’?
Not really. I get more of curious looks and questions, such as “is it
harder/slower to ride that?” or “what kinda bike is that?”

What are the advantages of riding a folding bike?
Advantages:
1) When taking public transport: According to Metro (LA county’s
transportation agency), you can take folding bike on any of the Metro
train or bus ANYTIME, as long as there is room. With the non-folding
bikes, there are time restrictions on the train and you are
out-of-luck if the bike racks on the buses are full.
2) When car commuting: you can easily fold the bike into the trunk of
your car and not have to worry about bike racks or leaving your car
with the bike on the outside. This allows for easier car/bike
commute, which I did for a while when I lived in La Habra where public
transport isn’t as accessible as Los Angeles.
3) Bumming a ride: if for any reason you need to bum a ride from a
friend, it’s very easy to do with a folding bike. All you need is
some room in the trunk. I have definitely benefited from this when I
was out late or it started pouring rain.
4) Storage: if you don’t have a lot of space, folding bike typically
takes up less space.
5) Air travel: Supposedly, you can pack a folding bike into some
slightly oversize suite cases check-in as luggage without additional
airline fees. I have done this only once.

Any experience that you can share with us about ‘learning the hard way’?
Lock your bike well with a good U-Lock. Like the video featured on
the BikeCommuter’s blog, thief can steal in the broad-daylight. Your
only protection is to have a good luck so that the thief will move on
to easier target. I have lost 2 bikes before with cable locks… You
would think I learned, but apparently not.

What do people say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
Most people are amazed and wonder how I do it. Some people think I am
“too healthy”, I don’t think I am even close to a term like that, but
given that most American are overweight, I guess I could qualify in
that respect.

Do you have an “advanced commuter tip”?
This is not really “advanced”, but I advocate for always wearing a
helmet while cycling. I have been saved by my helmet once from my own
stupidity and another time from a careless (possibly drunk) driver, so
you never know. Even if you think you are the best and safest rider
in the world, you can’t predict what other people are going to do.

Henry

Anything that you want to share with us
Besides commuting, I really enjoy bike touring. I have done a
California AIDS ride, and also a 6 day self-supported bike ride.
Those are the best days. However, my lower back had been injured and
are out of shape so any long distance riding isn’t too good for me…
until I recondition my back. In the last few years, I also enjoy
doing triathlon for fun, but I am a bit out of shape for that too now.
Before that, I also used to mountain bike, but my mountain bike now
just collects dust.

Check out his personal blog at: http://henrynote.wordpress.com

Thank you Henry for your time.

Commuter Profile: Russ Roca

Russ Roca
Meet Russ Roca, he calls himself the “Eco Friendly Bicycling Photographer”. Not only is Russ a Bike commuter, he uses his bikes as his method of transportation for work. He owns a Trek 520 with a Xtracycle Freeradical,

Trek 520 with a Xtracycle Freeradical

a sweet Surly Steamroller with orange deep V’s built by himself and a Bike Friday Tourist (which he is selling by the way).

Steamroller

I asked Russ a few questions regarding his method of transportation:

Why did you decide to ride a bike instead of a car?

Commuting by bike really started by accident. Six years ago I was
telecommuting from home, so didn’t really need a car. I used it mostly
for picking up groceries and shopping. One day my car broke down and
it would have cost way more to get it fixed than what it was worth. I
decided to see if I could get along without a car. It was a bit of an
experiment. Lots of things happened then. I was outside more walking
and taking the bus. I realized how much of the outside world I was
missing. I quit smoking at the time too. I actually started inline
skating at first to get around, but found I couldn’t carry enough on
skates. So one day my neighbor gave me a mountain bike and I tried
tooling around town. I felt like a kid again and I was hooked.

How long have you been using your bike to ride to work.
I’ve been a full time bike commuter for about 2 years.

What is the longest commute that you’ve done on your bike to a photo shoot?

The longest commute to date is about 70 miles round trip. It was a
food shoot for COAST Magazine. The woman’s restaurant was in Laguna
Beach, which is about 35 miles south of Long Beach. I took PCH all the
way. It was definitely a long day. About 5 hours total cycling with
a 3 hour photo shoot in between. I also carried a bit of equipment
with me.

What do people think when you show up on a bike to a photo shoot instead of a car?

It’s a mixed bag. Some people get it. They don’t need any
explanation. They understand why I do it and are supportive. Others
look at me as if I just stepped off of a spaceship. No matter how I
try to explain it they just can’t seem to get that look of horror off
their face. I’m pretty good at telling how my clients will react, so
if I think it will help get a job or break the ice I’ll mention it.


What is the heaviest load that you’ve carried on your xtracycle.

The heaviest load I’ve carried is probably around 125 lbs. It included
my camera, 3 light stands, softbox, umbrellas, reflectors and a box
with 2 portable strobes and batteries. Not to mention a spare set of
clothing, food, water and tools.


How has the Xtracycle made your job easier.

The Xtracycle has made my job possible. If it weren’t for the
Xtracycle, I don’t think I could be as car free as I am. I’ve used
single wheel trailers and double wheel trailers, but they don’t compare
to the versatility of the xtracycle. I’ve used it to go shopping, to
bring other bikes to a bike shop, to carry my equipment around and to
even advertise my business.

Do you have a funny or an interesting story about a ride?
Every ride is a mini adventure of some sort. Since I freelance, I’m
always going to different places. Today, I had an assignment that was
about 25 miles away. I almost ran into a horse. Part of the trail is
buy an area where people keep horses and they take them on walks on the
bike trail. I was exiting a tunnel under the freeway just as a guy on
a horse was coming in. On the ride back, I saw a falcon swoop down
and snatch up a little bird. It was something out of the Discovery
Channel.

There are also urban adventures. Battling through stop and go traffic,
getting honked at and navigating through streets where people have
never seen a bike before.

Any advance commuter tips that you may want to share?
As you approach an intersection or driveway, always assume the car you
hear behind you is going to turn in front of you. That has kept me out
of lots of accidents. Also, for me, I like to wear wool shirts when I
commute. The thin smartwool shirts are great because they breathe
well, dry quickly and don’t stink. I hardly touch my synthetics now.

Russ’s view on Bike commuting:
I think the bicycle will be a tool for change in the future. But for
it to take a big impact, we need more commuters. People have to see
the bike as a utilitarian object and not just a toy. Sadly, in the US,
bikes fall under expensive road bikes, expensive mountain bikes or
cheap knock offs of the two. The whole middle ground of utilitarian
cycling is missing in LA.

For me, every day I’m riding in the streets with all my gear, I’m
hoping that at least one person sees me and thinks, “wow, that’s
friggin cool. I want to try that.” I think as bike commuters, we’re
also ambassadors. We’re early adopters. Bike commuting can only go in
one direction in the US and that is up. The more people we can get to
try it, the bigger social network we can create around the bicycle, the
more successful we’ll be with increasing the number of bike commuters.

As you can see, being carfree IS possible in Los Angeles. Check out Russ’ website (www.russroca.com) for more information about his photo business and check out his blog to see what he is up to next.

We want to thank Russ for his time, pictures and contributions to the bike commuter community.