Search results for 'bike commuter journal'

Bike Commuter Journal – Commuting Strategies

29 Apr

Zagster bikes at Forrestal Campus Princeton UHow many different ways are there to bike commute? Let’s review the experiences shared by our guest bike commuters.

Ted bike commutes most days that aren’t icy or snowy.  

Robert learned to bike commute in rain, floods and snow.  Then he moved to Idaho – nice!

Brian bike commutes from home to train, and changes from bike clothes to work clothes at the station. He makes good use of a bike locker at Princeton Junction. Melinda is another year-round bike to the train station commuter with a bike locker, and her 1.5 mile commute is on an el-cheapo bike.

Carol drives to work with her bike and work clothes for the next day, then bikes back home in the evening and back to work next morning.

Jenny takes the bus with the bike on the front rack to work, then bikes back home after work.

Kiyomi rides seven hilly miles on good days, in bike clothes with her work clothes carried on the bike.

Jim rides to work directly on CR518, but takes the long way home, as the mood suits him.

Mike commutes year-round, 25 miles round trip between Allentown (NJ) and Trenton.

Steve bike commuted from Princeton to Plainsboro for years.

Twice a week, Don bikes 35 miles to work in Mt. Laurel, but coming home rides 8 miles, hops on the River Line to Trenton, then bikes another 8 miles home.

Whit bikes 4 or 5 times per week year-round, from Hopewell to Plainsboro on CR518 and next to the D&R Canal, and enjoys the bike locker provided by his employer.

Other strategies – another Jim carpools with his wife to her work, then bikes to his work and back home afterwards – 2 miles biking there, 8 miles back to home. I’ve seen bike commuters who’ve gotten off the train in Princeton Jct and biked to their office in Carnegie Center, one had a folding bike with him on the train, another kept a bike locked to the racks near the Dinky.  Folding bikes are allowed at all times on NJ Transit, unlike full size bikes, which are subject to rush hour restrictions.

Bike commuting with children adds other possible strategies – Curt bikes with his son to Hopewell elementary, then continues on to work in Skillman. Denis’s child is too small to bike, so rides on the bikeseat to daycare before he continues on to work. Georgette somehow lives car-free with her 4 children under the age of four – maybe someday she’ll post her strategies.

Have we covered all the possibilities? Not at all – we’d love to hear from someone who uses Princeton University’s Tiger Transit and bikes, and/or the new Zagster bike share for commuting!

Please contact jfoster@gmtma.org if you’d like to share your bike commuting experiences.

 

 

 

Bike Commuter Journal – Where Did 2015 Go?

1 Apr

Bike Commuting RainSomehow it’s been since May of 2015 since my last Bike Commuter Journal entry – I’d say it’s become a ho-hum dull routine, but I’d be lying – just got really busy! So here’s the catch-up in brief.

Commuter Bike Mar 31 2016

Regarding the bike itself, only 3 minor changes – an extender for the handlebar bag attachment so the cables aren’t so crunched, a fixed mirror off the left end of the handlebar and a more solid video camera mounting near the left hand grip. The bike also sports a backup (to the always-on dyno-generated light not visible under the trunk box) rear blinky light on the back rack support strut, but that’s removable. The mirror replaces the old glasses-mounted mirror, which I kept losing.

Reflective Shirt Pics TogetherI’ve been experimenting with bike commuter fashion this year, though calling it fashion seems strange, as the goal is to blend unseen into the Dilbertian officescape, only to be revealed under the glare of headlights (or the paparazzi’s flash).

Anyway, gearing up for this year’s Bike To Work month in May, hope everyone will consider sending in your bike commuter blog post! (jfoster@gmtma.org)

 

 

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.

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

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.

 

 

Bike Commuter Journal – Cost of Bike vs Car Commuting

20 Feb

Laura Torchio Rainy Day Bike CommuterSo, how much money do you save by bike commuting? Probably a lot, but let’s run the numbers.

First, the car expense – according to the AAA’s Your Driving Costs 2014 report, operating a small sedan costs $7930/year, while a SUV runs $12,446/year, including gas, maintenance, depreciation, insurance, loan interest, etc.

What about biking expenses? Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics, refers us in her blog post on the subject to transportation economist Todd Littman’s 2011 research, which gives a range of $100-$300 per year for operating costs, which is comparable to AAA’s $7930 for a small sedan, since it includes depreciated cost of the bike, etc.

Like the variation between the cost for a small sedan and a SUV, bike costs can vary a lot, too. Here’s hypothetical cases for a high quality and an economical setup, based on online prices from the same national outdoor recreation equipment company:

High Quality – $2153

  1. New commuter bike, including fenders, rack, front/rear lights – $1400
  2. Commuter Helmet, including attachment for front/rear lights – $65
  3. Front/rear helmet lights – $100
  4. U-lock plus cable – $100
  5. Multitool ($50), spare tube ($10) , flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($45), lube ($10) – $118
  6. Rainwear – jacket ($100), pants ($75), gloves ($45), helmet cover ($30) – $250
  7. Pannier, handlebar bag or backpack – $120

Economical – $543

  1. New hybrid bike – $400
  2. Rack ($25), front/rear lights (to be seen, not to light the road, $20) – $45
  3. Helmet – $25
  4. U-lock – $20
  5. Multitool ($10), flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($10), lube ($5) – $28
  6. Rain poncho w hood – $5
  7. Backpack – $20

Typical bike maintenance is easy enough to learn that many people do it themselves – fixing a flat tire, lubing a chain, adjusting brakes – a web search shows numerous how-to videos that are very instructive. Blogger James Schwartz assumed $50 per year for maintaining a $1500 commuter bike.

Clearly, bike commuting saves a lot of money if you can actually reduce the number of cars you own, since you can buy multiple high quality new bikes and gear every year for much less than the operating costs of even a small sedan. But it is very difficult in the suburbs to go car free, so what if you only have one car? Then the savings will only be based on reduced miles driven, which saves on gas, maintenance, tires and depreciation.

According to the AAA report, the operating costs (gas, maintenance, tires) for a small sedan is 16.3 cents/mile, and 23.8 cents/mile for a SUV. If your commute is 2 miles each way, like mine, then 4 miles roundtrip x  240 working days/year equals 960 miles biked each year.

The 960 mile reduction in driving would save $156.48 (operating costs) plus $33.60 (reduced depreciation), totaling $190.08 for a small sedan, and $228.48 (operating costs) plus $48.96 for (reduced depreciation), totaling $277.44 for an SUV. This is in the range for paying for the annual bike costs, but hardly a killer incentive by itself. It will help if your employer offers you the IRS Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit – you can be reimbursed up to $240 each year for bike commuting expenses.

Of course you might choose to use the commuter bike for other errands, such as small grocery runs, to the bank, post office, etc. Since only 15% of our trips are for commuting, that leaves a lot of other trips that could be done by bike – e.g. 40% of all trips are 2 miles or less, and if you take the bike/walk trips out of the denominator, 69% of car trips are 2 miles or less.

Of course, you’ll save more in indirect costs, for example if you substitute biking for a gym membership, that could save about $1000/year. And the potential for saving money on health care is huge, since you may be much healthier with regular activity.

Last but perhaps most important, you’ll be saving the world by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since car exhaust is the single largest contributor in our area to CO2 emissions.

 

Bike Commuter Journal – the Commuter Bike a Year Later

6 Feb

Commuter Bike After 1 Year Made a few changes to the commuter bike in the year it’s been flogged every day 2 miles to the office and back – for reference, see last year’s post Accessorizing the Commuter Bike

There were two main issues – pain in the shoulder, caused by the straight handlebar, and pain in the neck, caused by dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes (mental pain, not physical).

Swapping the straight handlebar for a mustache bar provided the hand position that prevented shoulder pain (yep, even on a ten minute ride). Tried new grips, which didn’t help, then swapped the grips from my mountain bike to this bike – when that didn’t help it had to be the bar, because those grips are very comfortable on the mountain bike’s straight handlebar.

The next, more obviously self-inflicted issue, was that some idiot overloaded the light duty rack on grocery runs. The rack uses the fender as support, and the rivet-nut holding it to the frame pulled out (not just once, either), so the guys at the shop drilled and through bolted it to the frame – problem solved. (Also, bought a cargo bike so don’t need to overload the commuter bike anymore – an expensive fix, you might say, and my spouse would certainly agree – more in another post.)

The less obviously self-inflicted issue was dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes. One time, some idiot took off the wheel to put on the winter tires and closed the brake lever. You probably know that if you don’t have something for the brake to grab (disc, credit card, cardboard, etc.) it will not open back up, and the wheel will not go back on. Anyway, back to the shop to have the brake lines bled, and not for the 1st time.

The first time back to the shop was after a few months of winter riding and the lever went all the way to the handle without stopping much. Another time was to get the brakes to stop screeching, and to put some silicone around the fender rivets so they stopped rattling. The last straw was when some road gook got into the front brake on a ride to Hopewell, and I fought and listened to the tick from the brake all the way back to West Windsor, because there’s no way to loosen the calipers on hydraulic brakes in the field. I’d had enough – they were simply not idiot-proof enough for this idiot. The new mechanical disc brakes not only have ways to loosen them, they have dials for making adjustments and a fancy way to automatically align the calipers.  It sure sounds good.

On the sound advice from the good folks at the shop, let’s talk about bike maintenance and keeping your bike clean. If (like a certain someone) you just ride it and occasionally lube the chain (sometimes after wiping the main gook off), you will have a much harder time pedaling by the end of the year – maybe because the derailleur pulleys rust into place. Really, it’s a wonder I could pedal at all.  You might think this would encourage better bike cleaning, but instead it has me thinking about belt drives – anyone have experience to share?

 

Bike Commuter Journal – IRS Bicycle Commuter Benefit

30 Jan

Bike Commuter Tax Benefit CheckAttention bike commuters – contact your employer to get your IRS Bike Commuter Tax Benefit! You can be reimbursed up to $20/month in which you bike commute at least 10 days.

How does it work? You have to get your employer to agree to the program, which involves tracking your bike commuting days and documenting your bike commuting expenses, such as for a new bike, helmet, bike lights, fixing brakes, winter tires, new chain, etc.

See the picture for a sample form to document which days you commute by bike. For expenses, just keep your receipts and submit them to your employer before you lose them (maybe you’re more organized about paper than I). At least for GMTMA’s program, receipts and the commuter tracking log are collected at the end of the year, and a reimbursement check is then issued – it’s that simple. Theoretically, your employer may choose to reimburse you each month.

For more information, contact jfoster@gmtma.org and/or see: http://bikeleague.org/content/bicycle-commuter-benefit

Bike Commuter Journal – Lessons Learned After 1 Year

27 Jan

After a year of bike commuting from Princeton Junction to Carnegie Center in West Windsor, I’ve learned a very important lesson – timing is everything. This morning, my timing was perfect – in two miles I was only passed by 3 cars! See the video and skip to the times in parentheses referring to each lesson.

Lesson 1 (0:00) – Start after 9am (or before 8am) to avoid serious rush hour craziness. I pedaled through the neighborhood using the sidewalk shortcut that brings you to the back driveway of RiteAid on Rt 571.

Lesson 2 (0:20) – Congestion is a bike commuter’s friend. Wait at the driveway until the cars queue up, stopped for the light at Cranbury/Wallace, then proceed through the line to the left turn lane toward the station.

Lesson 3 (1:30) – Time the train schedule, and arrive at the station when people aren’t rushing to catch the train, or have just disembarked and are rushing toward the offices along Alexander and Rt 1. This morning the station was quiet, only met one pedestrian going the other way in the tunnel.

Lesson 4 (5:00) – Follow the traffic platoon. Turning right from the station (Vaughn Drive) and riding on Alexander Road is the most stressful part of the commute, since there is not enough congestion to slow traffic – it’s a 5 lane race course. I ride in the middle of the right lane, so cars pass in the left, which is very safe and as low stress as possible, given the conditions, but still not low stress. If you wait until the burst of traffic heads west on Alexander and then follow it, you’re rewarded with as much no-traffic time as possible – this morning only 3 cars passed by on this stretch.

Lesson 5 (6:00) – Watch the gap in your mirror. When you see the next traffic platoon approaching, evaluate your options for moving to the middle turn lane to make a left into any of 3 places – 2 office driveways or Roszel Road.

Lesson 6 (6:30) – The secret sidepath. On this wet and snowy morning, I went for the first office driveway and used the connecting multi-use path to the 2nd driveway and around back through the parking lot to make the left onto Roszel.

And that’s it! Somehow nobody passed me on Roszel (8:20), which is 4 lanes but very lightly traveled even between 8-9am – again I ride in the middle of the right lane.

Please contact me at jfoster@gmtma.org to share your low stress bike commuting tips.

Bike Commuter Journal – High Gear to Happiness

14 Nov

Lifebycycle_Commuter Journal

Our guest blogger this week, Robert Stasio, is sharing some thoughts about cycling.

I’ve been commuting to work in the Plainsboro and West Windsor area on and off for 8 years, and bikes were always a central focus of my life. Post-college, the bike was replaced with the car, shuttling from one commitment to the next. With increasing work responsibilities, I lost sight of what matters most. I started focusing on convenience over happiness and status over health. After a few years the longer car commutes, office lunches, and stress started taking a mental and physical toll. Gym memberships collected dust, and bigger pants couldn’t solve the problems any longer. Suddenly I didn’t recognize myself. A year ago I had an “awakening” and realized it was time for a number of changes, including a commitment to consistently commute by bike no matter what.

Today, it’s going well. As it turns out, this area is actually amazing for biking to work, to the store, or just for fun. Often it’s actually EASIER than driving. You have your choice of bike lanes, bike paths, or even roads, and it’s getting even better thanks to the hard work of many people.  More importantly, there is a growing tolerance on the roads, and most drivers are also closet bicyclists just waiting to start bike commuting as well. You can even expand your biking with a simple bus or train excursion.

My commute brings me past the beautiful fields of Stult’s Farm, down the boulevard-esque bike lanes of Southfield Road, and even through Mercer County Park, where I routinely pass dozens of deer. I’ve also rode in rain, floods, and snow, and enjoyed every minute. I take in the beautiful scenery and admire the changing seasons, all from the seat of my bike.

Riding a bike is more than just exercise or cost savings; it’s fun too. It’s the high gear to happiness!

Thank you Robert!

If you have a commuting story you would like to share, please contact us.