Summer Safety Travel Tips

22 May
Photo credit: pixshark.com

Photo credit: pixshark.com

 

Memorial Day weekend is here, which means it is the unofficial kickoff to summer! People start to head out on road trips and vacations, meaning that there are more drivers on the road during the summer months. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that there are higher fatalities during the summertime.

Before you get behind the wheel, read these safety tips to ensure a safe summer:

  1. Check the air pressure in your tires. Prevent flat tires or a blowout by checking the pressure in your tires at least once a month.
  1. Never leave children or pets unattended in a car. In only 10 minutes, a car’s temperature can rise over 20 degrees. Even if you are just running into a store for a few minutes, the car can heat up to dangerous and fatal temperatures. Always take your child or pet with you!
  1. Watch out for bicyclists! Warm weather can bring out many bike riders, both experienced and novice. When you are driving, be cautious of bicyclists by slowing down and moving into the next lane when it is safe to do so. Always be scanning the road for bicyclists and other pedestrians.
  1. Keep an eye out for children. During the summer, kids are out of school and are spending more time outside. Watch for children playing, walking, and riding bikes. Go slow through neighborhoods.
  1. Don’t drive distracted. Never talk or text on the phone while driving. If you are on a road trip, have someone else in the car use the phone to get directions. If need be pull over to the side of the road or find a rest stop to use your phone. Taking a life isn’t worth a text message! Keep your eyes on the road at all times.

These tips can help keep you and other drivers and pedestrians safe all summer long!

 

Bike Commuter Journal – Bright Bike Lights

15 May

Bike commuters can rejoice in the vast number of new choices to improve your visibility and to light up the road at night like never before. We’ll look at 5 options, including the lights that GMTMA uses as part of our Highway Traffic Safety grant. The Lights that we have at GMTMA are Planet Bike Blinky Safety, they are very lightweight, 2 LEDs, easily removable and run on nickel-sized CR2032 batteries.

Bike lights are useful in the day as well as required by law at night – for example, a rider close to the edge of the road on a tree-lined street is very difficult to see, so lights provide a big safety improvement.

Lights are of course white in front and red in back, and vary by strength, quality and source of power. Overall, there are lights to be seen by drivers and lights to see the road – we’ll concentrate on LED lights that are currently dominating the industry.

Pt Pleasant Boro Surf Taco 2 Yrs LaterThe free lights we give to bike commuters are Planet Bike Blinky Safety, they are very light, 2 LEDs, easily removable and run on nickel-sized CR2032 batteries that are claimed to give up to 100 hrs of runtime on the blinking setting. Click here to see a very useful visualization comparison tool. The lights pictured were still working 2 years after we gave them to the restaurant workers as part of our HTS program.

Another very lightweight offering uses 16 LEDs producing 80 lumens (much brighter than the lights using only 2 LEDs), are easily removable via a rubber strap, has multiple blinking modes, and are claimed to run up to 6 hours on pulse mode via USB-rechargeable lithium ion batteries (I get about 3.5 hrs).

At the upper end of the battery lights are those developed for mountain bike racing, where 24 hour events demand being able to see as if in daytime – this offering uses 6 LEDs that can produce an astounding 3600 lumens, but only for 1.5 hrs – lower settings allow for up to 16.5 hrs runtime, and software is provided so you can program your own settings.

The US doesn’t regulate bicycle lights, so if you’re a motorist approaching a cyclist sporting 3600 lumens in the opposite lane, be ready to be blinded. German regulations provide for not blinding oncoming traffic, so let’s look at 2 offerings that conform to German street regulations, both with power provided from a front hub dynamo.

Supernova E3 Pro 2 at walking speed

Supernova E3 Pro 2 at walking speed

This offering (beam pictured above in hall) provides 205 lumens, and can be paired with a 3-LED rear light – a capacitor stores enough energy for keeping lit while waiting for lights. The weight of the hub dynamo plus headlight is lighter than the high-powered mountain bike light, which has a lot of battery weight.

Busch Muller Luxos headlight and tail lightThis last offering (pictured above, see the beam pattern on the hedge) provides 70 or 90 lux (lux = lumens / square meter, this discussion compares 80 lux to a hallway, i.e. indoor lighting), and senses outside lighting conditions and adjusts the light level accordingly, plus offers the ability to charge your phone via USB. It uses an internal battery to mediate the charging capability, provide power while waiting for traffic lights and provide the 90 lux floodlight. It also senses your speed, and broadens the light beam at low speed, so you can make safer turns, for example, see the pics below to contrast the standing light, when the bike is not moving(top), with the low speed wide beam, when the bike is moving slowly (bottom).

Busch Muller Luxos U standing light in hall

Busch Muller Luxos U standing light in hall

Busch Muller Luxos U headlight beam slow moving in hall

Busch Muller Luxos U headlight beam slow moving in hall

Here’s a good illustration and discussion of different light patterns of various headlights – it’s not just brightness that matters.

And as always, contact us if you would like to be a guest blogger on the GMTMA blog.

How to Get Ready to Bike to Work  

8 May

cyclists-690644_1280

May is finally here and we are having such nice weather to enjoy the outdoors. For those of you who are planning to bike to work or thought about it and don’t know where to start, we put together a list of things you need.

You do not need a fancy high-end bike, but the bike you get has to be the right fit; bike shops are best able to fit your bike to you. The right fit increases your comfort and maximizes the efficiency of your pedaling.   A comfortable fit leads to a more enjoyable ride, which results in more riding! The saddle on your bike is worth some attention, the type of saddle you choose can make a big difference in comfort.

Pick a route you are comfortable with.  Choose roads with bike lanes and slower moving traffic when possible.  You can find biking maps on our website or Google bike maps.

Choice of clothing – if you have a short commute (under 5 miles) you could ride in your work clothes.  Just go at a reasonable speed, adjust your gears depending on the terrain (you can push yourself on the way back from work if you want a little workout). If you can, leave some clothes at the office to make sure you always look your best.  If not here are some tips:

If you do not have a shower at work you could get some Action Wipes, they will do the trick.

Invest in a panier you can put you bag/backpack in so you do not have to carry it.  This is both practical and important for your safety since your hands won’t be busy holding things.

There is significant progress in creating fashionable, bike to work clothing but if you don’t think you want to invest in this type of wardrobe check out what other people like you do.

What to carry with you just in case –Spare tubes and tools and know how to change a tire. You can learn here .

If your office does not have a safe storage spot for your bike, here’s some bike locking advice .

Bike safety tips:

  1. Be predictable and signal your intentions to others:
  • When you turn left, extend your left arm to your side
  • When you turn right, hold your arm up an “L” shape or extend your right arm
  • If you want to stop or slow down, hold your arm down in a “L” shape
  1. Go with the flow of traffic not against it
  2. Be ready to stop at driveways
  3. Make yourself visible, wear something reflective, have a white light in the front of you bike and a red light on the back, mirrors, and bell
  4. Wear a helmet

WHY ride?

Well, listen to some of the people that participated in last year’s bike to work week and had a great time:

“It was great.  I enjoy bicycle commuting.  It helps clear my head and lets me think clearly. And I enjoy seeing the world around me–the migratory birds that are arriving the leaves that are unfolding.  “

“It was nice! I wish I could have ridden more often but unfortunately my schedule that week did not allow for it.”

“I’m a newbie to riding. In fact I just bought my bike in April. I wasn’t sure this would be feasible but I was pleasantly surprised. It certainly wasn’t as bad as I anticipated! Weather was mostly great. I used Route 27 rather than Route 1 since it’s a little more biker-friendly (much hillier but less traffic and bike lanes almost the entire way).”

Be safe and have fun! And remember if you have questions or you need help choosing a route, you can always contact us.

If you want to share your experience, please consider being a guest blogger.

Greater Mercer TMA recognizes local students in Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design Contest

1 May

Greater Mercer TMA (GMTMA) sponsored a Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design Contest with the theme “My favorite place to walk/bike is…”. The contest was open to all 3rd through 5th graders in Ocean County, NJ. This year we had more than twenty schools participate in the contest and received 300 bookmark contest entries.

Creativity was abundant making it very difficult to pick the winners. Just look at some of their artwork on our Pinterest page! We would like to thank the schools, teachers, parents, libraries, and superintendents for such a great collaboration. Also, we would like to thank all the students that submitted artwork, the response was amazing.

Winning designs Mercer and Ocean counties

Winning designs Mercer and Ocean counties

The winning bookmarks will be printed and distributed at local libraries and schools. Congratulations to the winners!

MERCER COUNTY

  • 3 rd and 4 th grade category Angelika Gorecka, Slackwood Elementary School, Lawrenceville NJ
  • 5 th grade category Evenly Vasquez, Woodrow Wilson Elementary, Trenton NJ

Honorable mention, Shaila Sachder, 5th grade student at Littlebrook School, Princeton, NJ and Samantha Gunton,4th grade student at Lawrenceville Intermediate School, Lawrenceville.

OCEAN COUNTY

  • 3 rd and 4 th grade category Anna Claire Willmot, Ocean Road School, Point Pleasant, NJ
  • 5 thegrade category Isabella Wade, East Dover Elementary, Toms River, NJ

Honorable mention, Julie Lees a 5th grade student at East Dover Elementary, Toms River, NJ and Olivia L. Smith, 3rd Grade student at Lucy N. Holman Elementary, Jackson, NJ.

Honorable mention designs

Honorable mention designs

 

Honorable mention

Honorable mention

“The entries were terrific and really captured the essence of what makes walking and biking so wonderful.” said Cheryl Kastrenakes, Executive Director of GMTMA.   “When we walk and bike we get to use all of our senses, we enjoy our surroundings in a way that just doesn’t happen when we are in a car. The students reflected this in their entries with detailed pictures of such places as their neighborhood, the boardwalk, and parks.”

GMTMA serves as the NJ Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School coordinator for Mercer County and works with schools, communities and PTO’s to encourage more students to walk and bike to school safely and to improve the areas where it is not safe. If you would like more information about the Safe Routes to School Program please visit gmtma.org.

Bike Commuter Journal: The Cargo Bike

24 Apr

Want to participate in Bike to Work Week, but work from home, or live too far away to bike? You can still sign up (and get a free tshirt!) by swapping out car trips done on your bike. For example, let’s say you need to mail a few letters at the post office – just tuck the letters into your pocket or backpack, hop on the bike and ride over – you’ll find that many errands don’t require a lot of carrying capacity.

Even minor grocery shopping can be done on bike with just a backpack, handlebar bag or trunk box. For a bit more capacity, a rack and panniers enable you to fit all but the most bulky groceries, see below.

Bikes waiting ventura vonsFor the bulky stuff or a longer term grocery run, a bike trailer works well, the pic above shows a DIY bike trailer using a plastic storage box. Or you could go all out and buy a cargo bike, which can fit an entire grocery cart’s worth.

Shopping Cart Full Cargo Bike Empty 2 Cargo Bike Loaded Shopping Cart Empty

If You’re Driving Distracted Your Next Destination Could be the Courtroom 

17 Apr

This month is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and many organizations are doing their part to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.  Nationally, 2013 saw more than 3000 people killed and over 400,000 injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers. (distraction.gov)  In New Jersey alone, close to 750,000 car crashes since 2009 have involved distracted drivers and the police in our state are now calling this a “dangerous epidemic”.

To address the growing concern over distracted driving, the NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety launched the “U Drive.U Text.U Pay” campaign in an effort to combat the problem, and they are very serious about enforcing it!  Your first offense will cost you between $200 – $400 and a court appearance.  Your second offense will cost $400 – $600, and the third time, you pay $600 – $800 and you get stuck with three motor vehicle points and a possible 90 day license suspension! (nj.gov)

photo: njdot.gov

Photo: nj.gov

Texting isn’t the only culprit in driving distractions.  Common behaviors include, grooming, eating, drinking, using your smart phone for directions or other types of browsing, all of which will be monitored and ticketed.  The NJ campaign focuses on texting and driving because it is considered especially dangerous since it requires three types of attention: visual, manual, and cognitive. It’s becoming very clear now that taking your eyes and attention away from the road, and your hands off the wheel is dangerous in several ways!

Here are a few tips to help keep you and others on the road safe. Just pull over to a safe location when:

  • Taking a phone call or texting
  • Grooming (putting on make-up, fixing your hair, shaving, etc.)
  • Eating
  • When you’re looking for directions on your smart phone
  • Trying to get your favorite radio station
  • Checking your Facebook status (it can’t be that urgent)

Remember, it can all wait until you can safely pull over.  It’s just not worth risking your life, or the life of an innocent person.

To read about this campaign click here. 

Bike Commuter Journal: It’s About the Experience

10 Apr

Ted Borer Pic 1 Please welcome this year’s first guest Bike Commuter Journalist, Ted Borer, who’s been bike commuting for over three decades!

I have the nicest commute! My ride to and from work is something I look forward to and is often the most pleasant part of the day. About 35 minutes of uninterrupted fresh air and fitness twice a day.

Years ago I was living in West Philly and would ride a trolley to my office in Center City. But, one day SEPTA went on strike. I hopped on my bike and pedaled across the U. Penn campus and the Drexel campus and down Market Street to my office building.

Ted Borer SEPTA TrolleyIt ended up being faster than the trolley. And cheaper. And less hassle. And more fun. And I suddenly found myself experiencing the city, not just being transported through it. I would say hello to street vendors just setting up shop. I got to park right outside my office instead of blocks away.

Four offices, three house moves, and thirty years later, I’m still pedaling to work. I’ve got about 85,000 miles on the road and expect to break the 100,000 mile mark before retirement.

I’ve learned to avoid days when ice or snow are covering the white line on the road. There are times when family needs require that I drive. But over time I’ve sorted out all the issues about how to transport stuff, where to keep my bike securely, and where to take a shower and change, and how to deal with heat and cold and rainy weather, and how to fix what breaks. I own a car. But mostly it sits in the driveway. My bicycle offers much more joy.

Thanks Ted! You can find more of Ted’s commuting and other biking adventures at: http://c-note-book.blogspot.com/  If you have a story you’d like to share with Bike Commuter Journal, please contact Jerry Foster at jfoster@gmtma.org.

 

 

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