Search results for 'bike commuter journal'

Bike Commuter Journal: Bike Commuting to REI

17 May

Aaron is an REI Princeton Employee and he bike commutes very often. One of his colleagues told us that he “bikes more often than anyone I know, in all kinds of weather.” So we decided to ask Aaron to tell what his secret is and he kindly agreed to. From tips on how to be prepared and ride safely, to his nature encounters and racing with a blue heron, he has a lot to say. Here is Aaron’s bike commuting story:

Aaron is pictured here first on the right

  1. Tell us a little about yourself

My biking revival started one day after work staring at a Chick-Fil-A sign at the mall for the MS Coast the Coast Bike Ride. Being active with the MS Walks since I was in 5th grade, I thought it would be a cool way to get more involved. I hadn’t touched my bike since the day I got my driver’s license. After working your standard 9 to 5 job for a couple years I gained an astounding amount of weight to my dismay. I was able to finish the MS Coast to Coast 50 mile bike ride on my old Huffy Mountain Bike with high spirits despite its 40lbs of steel and poor shifting. I felt like I was a kid again and it renewed my love for biking. I was motivated to get a real road bike, complete multiple triathlons, and three cross country bike trips!

  1. How long have you been bike commuting?

I started bike commuting when I began working for the REI in East Hanover back in 2011. It was 23 miles one way so making the journey for every shift was time consuming so I would bike as time permitted.  With the opening of the REI in Princeton/Lawrenceville in 2015, I was now able to take the East Coast Greenway / Delaware & Raritan Canal Path from home to store but it was a longer but safer 30 mile commute. I made the move to Ewing over a year ago which shortened my bike commute to a mere 13 miles!

  1. Why did you choose to bike commute?

Before moving, my car commute was about an hour. After the move, I would still have an hour commute but I could swap out my car for my bike!  I was no longer stuck in route 1 traffic and trading it out for more canal paths and backcountry road time.

  1. How often do you bike commute?

I bike commute every chance I get. Rain, snow, cold, I feel like a mailman. I have only missed a handful of opportunities to bike into work in the past year and a half.

  1. What is one item that you can’t leave home without?

My bike! Besides my helmet, I cannot leave home without my lights. I bike with a minimum of two blinking red lights to shine my presence on the road, even in the daytime. Grabbing the attention of drivers is the name of the game and having them give you the room you need to ride safely lets me know it’s working!

  1. Do you have any tips for people who want to start bike commuting?

For first time riders, I suggest checking in with a local bike shop with popular bike routes in the area. This gives a rough outline for which roads are good for traveling and has a good bike presence as to not surprise motorists. Bike shops usually have good local maps marking which roads as well as the Greater Mercer TMA website (link) which grades roads by its safety factors. Google maps has a biking option but it should not be used as your primary route creating method. I have had Google lead me on roundabouts that were hiking trails, closed trails, and even busy roads. Next, drive the route (if not a pedestrian and bike path only route) to see if you are comfortable with the roads and neighborhoods. Find a free day to test bike the route to give you a sense of how long you would need to get to work on time then factor in extra time for packing your bags, the unexpected flat tire, and getting dressed for work. Bring a friend and make a day of it!

If your ride is long, just find a “Park and Ride” train station. You can also shorten your commute by finding safe public parking along the route or at a friend’s house and bike in from there. Driving to work with your bike so you bike home and back to work the next day can help split up the mileage as well. If all else fails, call a loved one for a pick up!

  1. What do you like most about bike commuting?

The scenery is one of the best things about bike commuting. There are many things to see on a bike commute doing it year round, from the flowers of spring to the frozen rivers in winter. The scenery changes almost on a daily basis to keep things interesting. The exercise I get from it also a big bonus so I don’t have to hit the gym after work all the time!

  1. How long is your commute?

My bike commute is 13.1 miles long. I jokingly tell my co-workers that I’ll run to work one day since I run half marathons as well.

  1. Do you have any advice or tips for people who are thinking about starting to bike to work?

Helmet, Helmet, Helmet! I grew up in a time where it wasn’t a requirement and wearing one is not the cool thing to wear. When I began riding again, I was encouraged by people to wear one and I’m glad I listened. During a group ride, I was able to test the usefulness of my helmet in a pile up. I flipped my bike and landed on my helmet which cracked in half leaving me virtually unharmed. I have also witnessed 2 friends whose life was saved as well. Working at REI, I have seen numerous other people come into the store with similar stories as mine even on what seemed like a “safe” canal ride. Riding with traffic and as far to the right as safely possible is also a requirement. Making your moves smooth and predictable around road hazards allow drivers to predict your direction easier, and looking at parked cars for occupants to prevent getting “doored”.

Saddlebags are a lifesaver as they take the weight off your back and don’t leave you sweaty. They also keep the added weight lower for minimal ride adjustment when properly secured. They also provide the extra room I need for rainy weather gear for that unexpected shower or cold front!

  1. Do you have any funny bike commuting stories?

I once helped 3 turtles cross the canal path on the same day. I was afraid I was going to be late for work helping these little guys and gals out! I had a good discussion with a family about turtles and how we should leave them in the wild and not make them into a pet. Blue Herons are a canal path local and find them all over the place. I once “chased” one down the path for over 2 miles as he would fly down every hundred yards, rest, and fly again! He was definitely going at least 15mph as I wasn’t able to catch up with him.

Thank you Aaron!

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Bike Commuter Journal – Getting Ready for Bike Month and Bike to Work Week

5 May

Bike Month is here and so far we have enjoyed really nice weather. Let’s hope the weather will be nice during Bike to Work Week as well. 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.

  • A bike that fits right and has a comfortable saddle; bike shops are best able to fit your bike to you.
  • A route you are comfortable with.  Choose roads with bike lanes and slower moving traffic when possible.  You can find biking maps on our websiteor Google bike maps.
  • Comfortable 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 pannier 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.
  • Plan ahead and learn 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 somebike locking advice .

And last but not least  – safety tips:

Bicyclists

  • Follow all the rules of the road, including riding with traffic and stopping for signs and signals
  • Be predictable and signal your intentions to others – point right or left for turning, hand down for stopping
  • Be ready to stop at driveways
  • Make yourself visible, wear bright colors, something reflective, have a white light in the front of your bike and a red light on the back, mirrors, and bell
  • Wear a helmet

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

And don’t forget to register for bike to work week, log your miles, and share your pictures and your experiences with us.

Happy Cycling!

 

This year’s Bike to Work Week Sponsors  Kopp’s Cycle, REI Princeton, Greater Mercer TMA, St. Lawrence Rehab Center, Sourland Cycles, and Whole Earth Center

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