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Thread: Biking to work in middle-America

  1. #1
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Biking to work in middle-America

    I live in a typical Midwest city of 80,000 where I only know of maybe 10 people that avidly use a bike to get to work. I got to thinking “What keeps me from riding to work on my bicycle?” Here is what I came up with:

    1. Weather: Plains states have four seasons. There are some times you just can't ride.

    2. Safety: I don't feel safe because there is no real barrier between me and Billy Bob's F950 Dually and no real threat of punishment for anyone killing a cyclist. Most juries in the Midwest would say something like “He knew biking was dangerous.” People are generally not good drivers and I don't want to take what I perceive as an elevated level of risk. Our roads just are not designed and maintained in a manner that encourages sharing space.

    3. Sweat: When I get to work there are no facilities to shower and dress. A small shower room is expensive for an employer and offers additional liability.

    4. Expectations: Other people you work with expect you to have a car to jet to this meeting, office depot, city hall, the building site… Not all of us have access to an official vehicle. Thus, people plan on other professionals using a car.

    Society can do something about items 2, 3, and 4. and I can adapt to the limitation imposed by #1.

    Note that the following are not there: Length of the journey. Topography. What co-workers think about my using an “unconventional” mode of transportation. Reliability – patches are cheap.

    Just thinking out loud. Care to share your thoughts?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Ditto to everything you said, especially the correlation between the weather and lack of shower facilities. No one wants to work with the "smelly" planner.

  3. #3
    I would like to bike to work in the warmer months, but ElGuapo hit on all the reasons that I don't. The biggest reason is because I often use my car during the course of a day to do site visits and go to meetings.

    The thing that sucks is that I am in an ideal situation as the bike path that goes behind my apartment goes almost to the doorstep of where I work.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  4. #4

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    cycling in the midwest

    #1. If you can adapt the ice and snow in the winters, EXCELLENT!! better still if you can handle the freezing rain and hail.

    #2. I used to ride on a fast street with lots of big rig trucks going 50 MPH and almost no shoulder. I did it for an entire summer and never got in an accident. Or you can find a nice route through residential areas. many midwest cities are so widespread with streets that you can almost always find a route with no cars.

    #3. I would say you could use alcohol wipes to clean up after a ride, and bring deoderant and have lots of spare clothes.

    #4. a Bike can go faster than cars in midtown traffic jams. And you don't always have to ride to work every day. Its OK to drive a car on days when you know it will be needed. If you don't want to drive at all, lets hope your coworkers understand and help with other transportation needs.

    Hope any of this helps.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Re: cycling in the midwest

    Originally posted by CyclingBuddy
    #1. If you can adapt the ice and snow in the winters, EXCELLENT!! better still if you can handle the freezing rain and hail.

    #2. I used to ride on a fast street with lots of big rig trucks going 50 MPH and almost no shoulder. I did it for an entire summer and never got in an accident. Or you can find a nice route through residential areas. many midwest cities are so widespread with streets that you can almost always find a route with no cars.

    #3. I would say you could use alcohol wipes to clean up after a ride, and bring deoderant and have lots of spare clothes.

    #4. a Bike can go faster than cars in midtown traffic jams. And you don't always have to ride to work every day. Its OK to drive a car on days when you know it will be needed. If you don't want to drive at all, lets hope your coworkers understand and help with other transportation needs.

    Hope any of this helps.
    Thanks.

    #1 True -One gets used to the weather and learns to plan by keeping tabs on the forecast.

    #2 I really had not given much tought to alternate routes - Good point. I have one major dangerous road barrier that I will have to give much thought to. However, because you didn't die one summer is not a rationalizion for me taking that risk IMHO.

    #3 Nada - I sweat like a Kennedy in court. I need a 5 minute stream of warm water and soap or I'm funkadellic all day..

    #4 I never know ahead of time when I will need a car. Things pop up. I could keep a car here, but that defeats many of the advantages of riding - lower costs and less maintenace. Plus - I believe it is my employer's job to provide work related transportation. My job is to get here on time. Also, we don't have traffic jams here.

  6. #6

    bike commuting should be thought of as war

    the weather and alternative routes are the best part of commuting by bike. I love to ride any chance I get. El Guapo hits on the issue about sweating -I sweat profusely and my face is beet red for an good while when I'm done riding. At work I try to aviod any embarassment by getting in early and cooling off and cleaning myself up. and yes I'm vain



    However, because you didn't die one summer is not a rationalizion for me taking that risk IMHO.
    ok you're totally right to have this opinion, but it seems more like a logical rationalization- you know just being cautious and you should. I will just say I have been riding in circumstances similar to yours (traffic wise, not weather) for 12 years round and I have had a few close calls. I cringe when I even think about it. Riding is basically dangerous. If and when you decide to take that commute the greates tool is to be as defensive and protective as a mofo get your rear view mirrors reflector helmet, on your route just figure out why it's dangerous and how you can avoid being hit by a semi.

    On a sort of related note.

    I toured on my bike this last summer from Vancouver, Canada to San Luis Obispo, Ca and I have never seen more truck traffic in my life- and I had one close call in the last stretch of redwoods at mendocino and humboldt county line. I nearly lost my life- there was no shoulder big logging truck driving to fast around a curve,

  7. #7
    also practice your route on a sunday morning a few times. no traffic, find out where the rabbid dogs are, sketchy intersections . Biking is very exciting and requires lots of PLANNING, I love that word

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Bicycling to Work

    Ditto to all of the above. At my previous job I walked the 1/2 mile and rode my bike to the shops (1 to 2 miles) on the weekends.

  9. #9
    maudit anglais
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    The lack of showers would be a big consideration for me. The last job I had where I cycled to work I was a labourer, so it didn't really matter if I arrived stinky.

    How far is your commute? Maybe you can cruise to work, slowly. Start out doing it maybe once a week (on days when you know you don't need the car), in temperate weather. You don't have to cycle every day. And yeah, plan your route.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    OK here goes the official response

    Weather:

    Rain sucks, and you gotta clean your bike. Plus roads are slippery and the painted lines are even worse. I'd drive on the rainy days.

    Safety:

    I prefer to ride on busy roads, except for country roads if available. The busier the better. Reason being is they usually have better shoulders.

    I would suggest using a tactic I always use on the road when shoulders are scarce. Make vehicles PASS you. Don't let them drive by you. Meaining, position yourself on the road so they need to go in the oncoming travel lane to get around you. You will greatly reduce your risk of getting forced of the road, getting clipped, or getting doored (someone opens a car door into you (hurts)). Remember, you are a vehicle and have every right to use the road.

    Sweat:

    Invest in a heart rate monitor and learn how to use it. If I ride at less than 130 bpm I will never break a sweat.

    Expectations:

    These expectations will reduce when people realize you don't use and automobile to commute. Is there anything in your job description requiring you to have a car, or is it just a driver's license?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono
    Plus roads are slippery and the painted lines are even worse.
    We're doing some research at the moment involving ride-over trials to test some of the different paint marking materials available, for cyclist safety. Some of the textured lines that are better at retaining visibility in the wet may also benefit cyclists. This research was partly motivated by a high-profile case in which a competitive cyclist fell off his bike after slipping on a newly applied thermoplastic line and was hit and killed by a passing vehicle (travelling at 100 km/h).

  12. #12
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Originally posted by Tranplanner
    The lack of showers would be a big consideration for me.
    We have a shower at my work. But it's located in the men's bathroom!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    We have a shower at my work. But it's located in the men's bathroom!
    Yah, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind!

  14. #14
    INACTIVE
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    biking

    I was a messenger in Manhattan until the end of December, I used to ride the subway train to work with my fold up. I hated riding in heavy rain. I'm temporarily in Ottawa and see people riding in the snow and brown salt getting messy. Here's an extreme case of cycling in cold and snow and mess. Toronto's high yesterday was -19c or -4f. Toronto Star Article:


    JIM WILKES
    STAFF REPORTER

    Four words to avoid when meeting a bicycle courier these days:

    "Cold enough for ya?"

    If the frost on their faces doesn't give you an answer, their icy stares will.

    "It does get a little annoying sometimes," said 29-year-old courier Glen Hofman, who's working his ninth winter zipping through snowbound city streets.

    Painfully cold temperatures and cutting wind chills can make it tough for bicycle couriers to do their job.

    "It's brutal," said Hofman. "It's pretty hard on the body and on the mind, too.

    "When your concentration factor goes down, you just have to keep on moving, keep warm, take lots of fluids, lots of fruit."

    On days like yesterday, when the mercury didn't climb any higher than minus 12C, the metal ring piercing his lower lip doesn't help, either.

    "Yeah," he said, knowingly. "Like any jewelry, it can get kinda cold."

    After a short break at downtown's Temperance Society cafe, Kevin Brady was ready to hit the road again yesterday.

    He was layered to the extreme — a balaclava, two shirts and two sweaters beneath a windproof jacket, two sets of pants, two pairs of socks and shoes covered in neoprene booties.

    His cotton cycling cap was just window-dressing.

    "It's the face where you feel it most," said Brady who, at 48, admits he's one of the oldest bike couriers on the circuit.

    "On days like these, the wind feels like razor blades slashing your face.

    "But we've gotta do it. That's what we get paid for."

    Despite the conditions, Brady actually chooses to work as a courier in winter. In the summer, he's a pro golf caddy.

    "I can't stand it down here in the summertime. There's too much of everything I don't like — cars, people, cycle cops, heat, humidity and pollution."

    He said the key to keeping his body and $1,000 bike going is the same: maintenance. "A lot of guys don't look after their bikes," he said. "They ride them into the ground.

    "I keep mine immaculate. It's like any machine; keep it clean, keep the salt off, the crud off and it will last a lot longer."

    In just his second winter on wheels, Anthony Coucoularis, 20, is a comparative rookie.

    But he quickly learned the secret to keeping warm in the saddle.

    "You've just gotta put your mind somewhere else and focus on your work, not your body," he said.

    "It's difficult, especially when out for long runs. After 15 or 20 minutes on your bike, that's when your body — your toes, especially — start to break down.

    "I don't care how many pairs of socks you're wearing, you're going to get cold.

    "But you've got to suck it up," he said. "We're not the only ones out there in the cold. City workers and construction workers gotta deal with it, too."

    Making a delivery can recharge him for the rest of the ride.

    "Even if it's only for a couple of minutes, when you go into a building, you come out a little toasty again. That helps keep you going."

  15. #15
    that's a great story.

    El Guapo this site/email list might help you with any information or relations with midwestern bike commuting. www.phred.org

    I use this site email list for gear comparison and general tips.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I was in Halifax last week and saaw people riding in - 40 including wind chill. I like to ride my bike, but that is foolish.

    I have to agree with Mike on riding in traffic, you have to ride like you belong there, and not be timid. On occaision I have knocked on peoples windows as they have tried to turn right, into me.

    Another hint/thing you should do, when making a left turn get over to the left side of the lane and turn like a car, if you don't like that feeling then cross as a pedestrian.

    I don't commute by bike to work because I need my car at the office. When I moved closer to teh office I did a few times and got in trouble. (even though i live 8 blocks from work and could get my car in less then 10 minutes)

    Another hint for railroad tracks is to always try to cross them perpendicular, even if that means going into traffic a bit. RR tracks at an angle are wheel catchers, and tend to be slippery when wet.

    Final sugestion is to check how the Public Works guys have laid out the man hole covers and catch basin covers and be careful of ones with slots running in a direction that can catch your wheel. I had one man hole cover in my neighbourhood that I asked to have the direction changed on how the lid was closed and they did, helps to know the PW director and foremen.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    In my previous job I rode my bike twice. Twenty miles of hills, each way, made it a little difficult.

    When I first moved here I had a 1/2 mile trip, so I walked once or twice a week. The problem was that I will often get called to meet with someone, and would have to walk home for my car all the time. I guess that continues to be the big issue.

    After that, the other concern is time. I would need twenty minutes to ride what I can now drive in five. When I am putting in at least nine, and as many as 12 hours a day, that extra half hour means too much.

  18. #18
    Final sugestion is to check how the Public Works guys have laid out the man hole covers and catch basin covers and be careful of ones with slots running in a direction that can catch your wheel.
    In Newport, Oregon the traffic, small streets and slots running in a direction that can catch your wheel were a nightmare and this is on the bikecentenial path, why they can't change the direction of the drainage holes is beyond me.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Originally posted by donk


    Final sugestion is to check how the Public Works guys have laid out the man hole covers and catch basin covers and be careful of ones with slots running in a direction that can catch your wheel. I had one man hole cover in my neighbourhood that I asked to have the direction changed on how the lid was closed and they did, helps to know the PW director and foremen.
    In the US, it is now illegal? (is that the right word) for inlet grates to run parallel to the flow of traffic. They need to go perpendicular. I know of one that is noncompliant in Philly. I'm keeping the location a secret until I need some money

  20. #20
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Gotta pay for that C40 somehow.

    just make sure that your good race wheels are nearby, after you wreck a training wheel. I see it now, officer my CK or zipp or mavic wheels are destoyed too, that will be $1000. The frame don't know, but teh rear triangle looks out of alignment - $3000, the group, I may be able to salvage the brakes, everything else? Thats another $2500 on a good day.

  21. #21
    Member Injunplanna's avatar
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    its a social thing

    the human race constantly is trying to make its existance easier. that's why we started farming, invented the wheel, discovered fire. Hence the reason why we choose automobiles in spread out midwestern communities....its easier/flexible/convenient to drive than to ride. Have you heard of anyone excercise because its convenient??....
    The only way to encourage biking is to make it easier than driving....that is the case in cities with high density/mixed use down towns. Or make excercising mandatory for all citizens(americas need that)...then maybe we'll see more people on bikes.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Re: its a social thing

    Originally posted by Injunplanna
    Or make excercising mandatory for all citizens(americas need that)...then maybe we'll see more people on bikes.
    You're following the Dear Leader a little too closely my friend.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Re: its a social thing

    Originally posted by Injunplanna
    Have you heard of anyone excercise because its convenient??....
    Yes. Me. I live across the street from my health club. I go more often becasue its convenient.

    The only way to encourage biking is to make it easier than driving....that is the case in cities with high density/mixed use down towns. Or make excercising mandatory for all citizens(americas need that)...then maybe we'll see more people on bikes. [/B]
    No, the only way to encourage biking rather than driving is to alter 80 years of history, outlaw motor vehicles, and tax based on % of body fat. My friend, you will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Ve half vays of making you talk, meine freiund!

    Off-topic:
    Back in college I put down on the end of the semester teacher evaluation form "Congratulations - You have been identified as someone needing time in our re-education facilities when the new Right gains power. I look forward to instructing you myself."

    This lib teacher went wacko. The TVALS I guess are not anonymous. You'd have thought I denied the Holocaust or said something bad about Marx. The administration asked me what I meant and when I told them they got all puffy about bringing in the police and practically called me a counterrevolutionary.. I said I had sat thought a semester of her personal politics and diatribes and if the opportunity arose I felt turn about was only fair play. Eventually they gave up the "this will go on your permanent record" routine.

  25. #25

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    E. G., were you a Young Republican during your youth?

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