Bike Commuter Journal – Blinking Winter Bicyclist

22 Apr

Our guest commuter this week is Mike McCormick – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

Since July, 2007 I’ve commuted just about 25,000 miles by bicycle from my home in Allentown (NJ) into Trenton – about a 25 mile round trip each day.  I’ve found it to be a great way to begin and end each day, with a few notable exceptions due to bad weather, and/or worse drivers.  For the most part, I’ve remained unscathed, thanks to some brightly colored clothing and a lot of lights.

During the winter months, it’s been said that I’m a cross between a Christmas tree and a Las Vegas casino, blinking and flashing my way down the street.   I do draw the line at ice or snow covered pavement, of which there has been plenty this past winter.  I’ve been reminded of how much I dislike traffic, interstate highways and parking lots that seem to be a mile away from my office door.

There are many instances when my bicycle is the fastest vehicle on the streets of Trenton, and to date, no one has taken my indoor parking spot:  a sewage pipe in the basement of the Hughes Justice Complex, to which I chain my bike each day.  After almost seven years, it is hard to imagine how – or why – others insist on driving to work each day!

2014 Bike and Walk Report Released

16 Apr

The Alliance for Biking and Walking recently released their 2014 Benchmarking Report, so let’s look at how New Jersey stacks up against the rest of the country. Most interesting is that NJ ranked 2nd highest median income but the 2nd lowest per capita spending on biking and walking.

Biking and Walking

  • 23rd in commuter bicycling and walking levels
  • 49th in per capita spending on bike/ped projects
  • 30th in cyclist/pedestrian fatality rates
  • 17th in % getting recommended physical activity
  • 32nd in biking to work
  • 17th in walking to work
  • 80% male / 20% female bike to work vs 73 / 27 US
  • 53% male / 47% female walk to work vs 54 / 46 US

Demographics

  • 11th largest population – 8,792,116
  • 4.5% population growth 2000-2010 vs 9.7% US
  • 1185.3 people/square mile vs 88.1 US – most densely populated
  • 38.9 median age vs 37.3 US
  • $69,911 median income vs $50,502 US – 2nd highest income
  • 10% population below poverty level vs 15.9% US – 4th fewest % poor

 

 

Bike Commuter Journal – Where to Ride

15 Apr

Alexander Road Bike CommutersLet’s say you’re tired of winter, especially this winter, and you can’t wait to get back into shape for the beach (or whatever). Maybe you want to ride your bike to work to start working off the winter weight, but there’s a dicey road section, perhaps a 5 lane arterial, between your house and work. What are some of the strategies to ride safely?

Strategy 1 – avoidance – do some exploring and you might find a quieter road section, a trail, or a series of linked driveways and/or parking lots. Be aware that driveways and parking lots require 360 degree vigilance, but are generally low speed so you have decent reaction time. Like sidewalks, trails require vigilance at intersections.

Strategy 2 – the sidewalk – it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk in New Jersey, unless the municipality has an ordinance restricting riding on a specific section, typically in downtown areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic.  The sidewalk can be more comfortable if pedestrian traffic is minimal, but care must be taken at driveways and intersections since motorists do not usually look for bikes on sidewalks.

Strategy 3 – the road – New Jersey law grants cyclists the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of a motor vehicle.  Experienced cyclists prefer the road for predictability and getting there faster, but care must be taken to actively manage the traffic around you. This means being aware of the road and whether there are safe places for motorists to pass, and positioning yourself so that you are visible to motorists, both those approaching from behind and those at intersections looking for gaps in traffic.

It’s worth quoting the New Jersey Statute verbatim:

“39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; provided, however, that any person may move to the left under any of the following situations:

(a) to make a left turn from a left-turn lane or pocket;

(b) to avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway;

(c) to pass a slower moving vehicle;

(d) to occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic;

(e) to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise shall ride in single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.”

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has an excellent website for bike commuters – see the Frequently Asked Questions for good advice regarding riding on the road safely.

Bike Commuter Journal – Cycling Rekindles Your Youth

8 Apr

Don Rekindles his YouthGuest commuter Don Pillsbury joins us again – if you’d like to share your bike commuter experiences, please contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

Most people assume as a bike commuter I’m some sort of “eco-warrior.” While there might be some merit to that, my reason for riding is much more personal. When I first started cycling to work 16 years ago, the original intent was to build activity into my otherwise sedentary life. My very first trip to work was just a couple of miles – and it took me exactly 1 hour. I drove to a park near the office, pulled the bike out of the car, left the car behind for the day, and pedaled a very short distance. Over time, and as the park commission improved the conditions of the D&R Canal tow path, I was able to eventually do the full 35 miles from Trenton to New Brunswick. For the round trip I developed the habit of driving to work (with the bike), leaving the car there overnight (the building had security), riding home, and cycling in the next day – after a restful night of sleep.

While my original goal was to combat a bulging waistline, other health benefits quickly became apparent. I didn’t fully comprehend the chemistry behind it until I read an article in Bicycling magazine entitled “Riding is my Ritalin.” I’ve since seen other scientific articles demonstrating a link between cycling and happiness. So, as I like to say: “Rekindle your youth; hop on a bicycle.”

http://www.bicycling.com/news/featured-stories/riding-my-ritalin

Green Commuters Win at the Living Local Expo

1 Apr

 

photo 2

Green Commuters beat out the Gray Commuters this past Saturday at the Living Local Expo at the National Guard Armory in Lawrence.

GMTMA was an exhibitor at the event which drew almost 900 people and was sponsored by Sustainable Lawrence,  the municipal Green Teams of Lawrence, Ewing and Hopewell, and the Mercer County office of Business Development and Sustainability.

We conducted an informal survey that measured how many people had Green Commutes  or Gray Commutes.

      • Green Commute involves sharing a ride - carpool, vanpool, or taking the bus or train
      • Super Green Commute  does not directly give off any pollution – Telecommute, Walking or Biking, (scooter, roller blades, etc)
      • Gray Commute creates the most traffic congestion and air pollution by driving alone in a single occupancy vehicle.

For a bit in the beginning of the event it looked like the Gray commuters were going to prevail, but the rain didn’t keep the Green commuters down in the long run. There were 50 peanuts in the jar for the Gray commuters who drive alone to work or students that are dropped off at school by a special trip. But 92 peanuts in the jar for the Green Commuters! Super Green Commuters were a big help allowing the commuters who don’t create any air pollution (walk, bike, telecommute, etc) to add 2 peanuts to the jar. Because adults and kids alike who choose a travel mode that does not create air pollution, are helping themselves, their community and the air that everyone breathes.

photo 1

If you are interested in learning more about pollution in our air and which days have higher air pollution levels, sign up for AirNow Alerts to get an email the day before a predicted bad air quality day. These alerts allow you to change your travel mode to a Greener one when the air pollution levels are going to be high.

Bike Commuter Journal – Cycling, a Moving Experience

1 Apr

Blessing the Bikes NYCPlease welcome back guest commuter Don Pillsbury – if you’d like to share your commuting experiences, please email jfoster@gmtma.org.

I have to admit, some cyclists hold a lofty self-image of their noble pursuit to reduce their carbon footprint. But could cycling ever be a religious experience?

Spurred by a challenge from a friend, two years ago for Lent I “gave up my car.” Truth be told, I was not “car-free” but I did make a concerted effort to rely more on the bike and less on the auto. Before hopping in the car to run an errand I developed the habit of evaluating whether the bike could be used. As a result I rode in conditions I would normally avoid. At the end of the 46 day period I pedaled 700 miles.

In the spirit of Lent, the cost savings of almost $200 were donated to a disaster relief charity. But more than the financial benefits, the experience was priceless. Time spent in the saddle had an increased focus on my faith and what it means to me. Would you believe me if I said it was a very moving experience?

Photo from “Blessing of the Bikes” at St John the Divine in NYC on April 30, 2011.

It’s Bike Rodeo Season

26 Mar

Police Bike RodeoMercer municipalities are sponsoring bike rodeos this spring – bring your kids to improve their bike handling skills.

The St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center’s bike rodeo is being held Saturday, May 10 from 9-1. To register e-mail (preferred) to bikerodeo@slrc.org with kid’s names, ages, phone number and requested time of arrival, or call (609) 896-9500, ext. 2212. For kids ages 3-12.

Princeton’s bike rodeo is being held Saturday, May 17 from 10-2 at the municipal center. Details to be provided in a later post.

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