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Tag Archive: Bike Commuters

D-Tour Safety Flag Update

Last month, we posted a first impression of the D-Tour Bicycle Safety Flag. For those of you who missed the article, the flag itself is made of highly reflective nylon — fluorescent yellow-green for the body and silver for the stripes and trim. This fabric flag and “sock? fit over a springy metal arm. The flag “arm? appears to be made of stainless steel, and the attachment bracket is machined aluminum with plastic frame clamps. The flag comes with two pairs of two different sizes of Cateye plastic frame clamps and very clear and concise instructions for mounting the assembly. Once assembled and deployed, the flag device sticks out about 24″ to the side of the bike. It then folds straight back when not in use.

It’s really a clever and simple device. Better yet, it seems to work! We’ve ridden with these flags on the streets of California and Florida, and can honestly say that it seems motorists WILL give you a bit of extra room when you have this flag deployed. Another phenomenon I noticed while riding around the mean streets of Tampa is that motorists seemed to be less likely to turn left in front of me when the flag is extended. Apparently, the bright yellow flag captures more motorists’ attentions than a cyclist rolling full-tilt towards them! It was certainly a nice phenomenon to experience…I don’t know if it was the “placebo effect? or something, but I did notice it.

I must admit — intially, this is not something I would have bought for my bike. To be honest, I prefer less hardware and gadgets on my “fast commuter? bike…a couple of lights and a rear reflector are the only safety equipment it has on it. But, now that I have experienced the benefits of this flag, I am forced to reconsider. The flag retails at $20.00 + shipping — is that worth a couple extra feet of passing room from motorists? I think so!

Overall, this seems to be a great product — solidly constructed, reasonably priced, and surprisingly effective at its job. For more information or to purchase a D-Tour Safety Flag for yourself, please email developer Glenn Hanson at dtourltd(at)aol(dot)com.

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.