Tag Archives: bike commuter

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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Happy Birthday Bicycles Everywhere

10 Feb

How many of you remember your first bike? I fondly remember my first bike in spite of the scars I have to remind me of it! My first bike was a bright red children’s Pegasus with a silver Pegasus sticker on the frame.

When I was a kid I often wondered who made the first bike, but never really pursued the question because I was too busy riding my bike, acrobatic moves and all, and scraping my knees.

It turns out this year is a great time to learn more since the bicycle turns 200.  Information on who invented the first bike tend to contradict each other, and while some records date back to 1418, the bike as we know it today seems to be modeled after the 1817 machine made by Karl Drais. It was called the “dandy horse”, “velocipede”, or “the running machine.” It’s purpose—a replacement for the horse after a crop failure led to the starvation and slaughtering of horses. It was made of wood, front wheel steer, and it was propelled by pushing it off with the feet.  This first model was short-lived though and it would be another 50 years until the bicycle would get another chance.

bike1

Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons

 

A brief history of the evolution of the bicycle

  • In 1863 there was the “bone shaker” because it was made of hard materials with steel wheels and rode on cobblestone roads.
  • 1870 the “high wheelers” looked more like a circus bicycle and weren’t very safe, it’s no wonder they were not that popular either.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1878 first American bicycle, the Columbia Bicycle made by the Weed Sewing Machine Company and it was quite expensive, almost ten times more than a sewing machine.
  • 1880 women could also take a spin on a new model called the tricycle. Many men also adopted this machine because it was more practical than the two, high wheels model.
  • 1888 John B. Dunlop first used a pneumatic tire for the bicycle and made it more comfortable and safer to ride.
  • 1890 advances in metallurgy lead to the “safety bike”, a model that looked a lot like what we know nowadays, much safer and more popular. During this time, the bicycle also become more accessible to a larger number of people and many of them started using it as a means of transportation as opposed to an expensive leisure machine up to this point.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1890 was also the time when more women started riding bicycles.
  • 1894 a change in ladies fashion allowed them more freedom and increased mobility. This is also the year when bamboo bikes were manufactured.
  • 1894-1895, Annie Kopchovsky, finished a multi-modal trip around the world. She would ride her bicycle to and from the main ports.
  • 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. patented the first e-bike.
  • 1903 Sturmey Archer invented the internal hub gears.
  • 1920 after WWI, kid’s bikes were introduced to revitalize the bike industry at a time when the automobile was gaining more and more popularity.
  • 1958 the first World Championship on road and track included women.
  • 1965 Bike-share begins in Europe.
  • 1970 on Earth Day, the bicycle sees a comeback in light of increased awareness of air pollution.
  • 1973 the Oil embargo creates even more interest in bicycling.
  • 1978 high oil prices lead to more sales of bicycles than automobiles.
  • 1980’s we see an interest in health and fitness and the bicycle is embraced for both recreational purposes and commuting. Interestingly the middle and the upper classes lead the way in this trend.
  • 1986 bicycling was the third most popular sport.
  • 1990 Shimano introduced the integrated brake levers.
  • 2002 was the year when Campagnolo introduced the 10 cog rear cluster which allowed for 30 speed bicycles.
  • 2016, the U.S. had 2,655 bike share stations in 65 cities.

I can’t wait to see where the bicycle will go next! Hopefully it will have Complete Streets everywhere so it can go anywhere it wishes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of events. If you want to learn more check out the following sources:

https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/press_releases/bts020_16

http://www.ibike.org/library/history-timeline.htm

http://www.icebike.org/58-milestones-from-bicycle-history-you-must-know/

GMTMA’s Bike to Work Week and Photo Contest Winners

19 Jun

A big thank you to everyone who rode their bike to work during GMTMA’s Bike to Work Week challenge this year! In just one week you eliminated 300 car trips and rode over 1800 miles!

While many people that registered for bike to work week do regularly or occasionally ride their bike to work, 15% of our bike to work registrants were first-time bike to work riders. Sixty percent of these new riders were women.  Some could not bike to work but chose to swap an errand typically done by car with a bike ride. Cargo bikes proved to be great for running errands and grocery shopping.

33% of the participants that reported their rides for the week, rode to work five times, 23% rode three times, and 8% ride their bike seven days.

The longest commute by bike was 32 miles/day which adds up to 160 miles per week and five people reported more than 100 miles rode in a week.

This year’s participation by gender:

gender

The incentive to ride was great this year, besides the great weather, we had 25 prizes to give out thanks to our generous sponsors:

Hart’s CycleryMcCaffrey’s SupermarketWhole Earth CenterKopp’s CycleSt. Lawrence RehabREISourland CyclesHalter’s Cyclery,Knapps CycleryWhole Foods Market (Princeton) and NJ Bike Tours.

The prizes ranged from Trenton Thunder tickets, $25, $50 and $100 dollars gift cards to helmets and bike tune-ups.

The winners are: Jenny M., Deniz D., Robert W., Sharon H., Sena V., Jim S., Christian J., Marc B., Sam B., David B., Vanshaj B., Daniel W., Chris S., Elizabeth M., Joseph K., Charles K., Michael L., Philip C., Ellen F., Ken M., Jenny G., Ted B., and Edwin S.

The Bike to Work Week Team Challenge prize goes to a group of four riders from Maser Consulting.

Maser Consulting Team

Maser Consulting Team

The Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner is Deniz D.

Who needs a car on a beautiful spring day? We are a car-free family. You ask if that is even possible in New Jersey? It sure is and we love it! Here’s a classic example of a resourceful bicycle moment: my wife managed to get an entire piece of plywood home (cut to fit in our daughter’s chariot, yet just the right length for our project). But if that wasn’t enough, she stopped to pick up a watermelon along the way. The best part was the proud smile on her face when she got back home!

-Deniz D.

Kudos to Deniz and his family and thank you for the great picture!

GMTMA Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner

GMTMA Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner

And as one of the riders said: “It’s not over yet!!   The more I ride the more I enjoy my bike! Thanks for the extra push on my spring and summer riding. “

We hope this was an incentive to get you started and you will keep biking every chance you get.

Don’t forget to join us for the next Bike to Work Week Challenge!

Until then send us your stories or join us as a guest blogger.

We will follow up with a post about all the suggestions we received to make our communities more bike friendly.

GMTMA Launches New Program

5 Jun

Good moves slide

GMTMA is excited to announce the launch of the brand new “Good Moves” program. Good Moves is a personalized transportation planning service for Mercer and Ocean counties residents. It is a free resource that provides personalized transit schedules, bike maps, carpool matching, and more! No more wondering about how to get from Point A to Point B without driving alone in your car!

We want residents to know that driving alone in a car isn’t the only option for getting around. There are other transportation options including transit, biking, and walking that are easily accessible. Good Moves is a valuable resource to residents that are new to the area and are unfamiliar with the plethora of transportation options. However, Good Moves is available to anyone!

To kick-off the program we sent direct mailings about our service to new residents in the area.  We quickly began to receive requests for information from people who are ready to make a good move.

A Lawrenceville resident requested a personalized public transportation plan and a biking map to ride to get to transit.  

Another resident wanted a personalized plan including public transportation options to Manhattan.

Good Moves is happy to connect all of these people to sustainable transportation options in their community! Not only does taking other transportation options besides a car connect you to your community, but it provides numerous other benefits! You will save on the cost of gas and the upkeep of a vehicle and reduce carbon emissions and road congestion. Additionally, walking and biking around town offers exercise and health benefits.

If you are interested in receiving your free personalized transportation guides, visit http://www.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.

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.

Gear Up for Bike to Work Week

3 Apr

 Picture1

May is National Bike Month, and Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) is celebrating again this year with Bike to Work Week events to encourage people to get on their bikes and discover the benefits and joy of cycling. The motto this year is “Biking: Happy You, Healthy Earth!”

Registration for Bike to Work Week and Bike Month events is available on www.gmtma.org.  Registrants that log in their miles at the end of the week are entered to win great prizes offered by the following sponsors:  Kopp’s Cycle, Whole Earth Center, Whole Foods Princeton, St. Lawrence Rehab Center, Hart’s Cyclery, McCaffrey’s Supermarket, Knapps Cyclery, Sourland Cycles, and REI.

First 150 registrants get a free t-shirt! REGISTER NOW! 

GMTMA is also sponsoring the following Bike Month events:

Swap A Ride: Don’t bike to work? No problem. Replace as many car trips as possible with bike trips and enter to win prizes!

Employer Bike Challenge: Form a group of fellow employees to participate in Bike to Work Week. Enjoy the camaraderie and the great outdoors with co-workers by commuting to and from work together. AND, get a chance to win our EMPLOYER WHEELS award.

Visions of Bicycling: To celebrate Bike Month and the beauty that is bicycling, GMTMA is hosting a photo contest. Bike to Work Week participants are welcome to submit their photographs. Check out last year’s winning photograph, “Lunchtime Errands”, in the photo above!

 And of course, GMTMA offers information and safety tips for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and can provide onsite bike safety and pedestrian education programs for schools and camp programs, businesses, as well as seniors. GMTMA can also help your community do a walkability audit and identify concerns for pedestrians related to the safety, access, comfort and convenience of the walking environment. An audit can also help identify potential solutions such as engineering treatments, policy changes or education and enforcement.

Many thanks to our sponsors!

Horiz