Tag Archives: bike commuting

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.

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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/

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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)

 

 

How to Get Ready to Bike to Work  

8 May

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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.

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 – 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 – It’s Not About Exercise

17 Jun

Super Hero Cyclist

Please welcome back guest contributor Don Pillsbury.

Don’t I need to be a “Jock” to ride my bike to work?

When co-workers see me riding my bike to work, they often assume I’ve always been some sort of athletic super hero. And while riding does occasionally simulate the sensation of “flying,” I’m no Superman. I’ve never participated in any organized sport (well, except for the office volleyball league) and I don’t follow any professional teams. People familiar with my younger years are always surprised to hear about my cycling adventures.

As I meet other bike commuters, that pattern seems oddly common. A co-worker, who commutes 12 miles throughout the year, in all sorts of weather, said she hated gym class in school – she was always the last one selected for any activity. This same person became indignant when asked about her commute being exercise. To her, it was about saving money. A friend, who also commutes 12 miles year round, doesn’t mention his cycling during a routine annual exam with his physician and is then shocked when the doctor suggests the need for exercise – despite his trim physique.

For the bike commuters I meet, cycling isn’t exercise it’s just a means of getting to their destination.

One other trait I’ve noticed: the complete lack of remorse about eating whatever they want.

What is your background? If you commute with your bike, some or a lot, please let me know whether you consider yourself athletic or not. I can be reached at: drPillsbury@comcast.net.

Thanks Don! If you’d like to write a guest post, pls email jfoster@gmtma.org.

Bike Commuter Journal – Secret to Success

3 Jun

Please welcome Brian Clissold as our guest commuter this week, he’s also a trustee of the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance and a resident of East Windsor. A version of this post appeared on his blog, Roadmaestro.

Here it is…wait for it….wait for it………CONSISTENCY!!

Yep, that’s it. That’s my big piece of advice for folks who want to commute by bike. Just like any other lifestyle change, it’s the act of doing it over and over, until it becomes routine, that makes it part of your life.

Now, it’s not that easy. “Sticking with it” is all rainbows and unicorns. What it really means is getting into the routine the night before, or even the week before, by packing clothes, packing lunches, mid-morning snacks (I always get hungry by 10 am when I commute), baby wipes, figuring out the timing, the logistics of parking, when you’re going to apply make up (if that’s necessary), bicycle maintenance, and what to do with all the extra cash you’ll be saving by not buying gas. Whew! It doesn’t sound so easy after all. If you’re content with just learning this concept and can figure out the details, you can be done reading now and go for a bike ride. If you need some more tips, read on.

My ride is just long enough that I prefer to ride in bike clothes rather than my work clothes. So, Sunday night I try to make sure I have enough bike clothes clean for the week. I also make sure I have a day or two of work clothes. The weekend is also when I do any touch up maintenance: pump up the tires, lube the chain, make any minor adjustments, etc. Lights get charged and fresh batteries as needed.

Each night I pack my bike bag (one rear pannier, or a bag that mounts to a rear rack on my bike) with the next day’s work clothes, hair goop, a towel, my headphones, reading material for the train. Much of this stuff just stays in the bag. I also bring in my thermos and water bottle from my bike, and make the coffee so it starts automatically in the morning.

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In the morning, I shower, pack my pannier the rest of the way with my lunch, put on my bike clothes, fill my thermos and water bottle, turn on the lights, and head out. Once I reach the train station, I put my bike in its locker, go into the station and change into my work clothes, and get on the train. I take my stuff with me to the office so I can hang my clothes to dry. Also, I change back into my bike clothes in the train bathroom on the way home so I can get right on the bike and get home.

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So this is kind of a lot of work, but I’ve been doing this long enough now that it is more of a nuisance to change out of the routine than to stick with it. The rare days that I have to drive to work really throw me off now, both in terms of the routine and also in my mindset. Driving is such a headache!

I should definitely add that my routine is supported by my amazing wife Abbi, who helps me out in a variety of ways, such as putting away leftovers in single serve containers to make it easy to toss them in, doing laundry, and being generally supportive! Thanks Hunny!!

There are a million tips for bike commuters, especially for newbies. I highly recommend spending some time on the blog, bikecommuters.com There is lots of good stuff there, from equipment reviews to riding tips for bad weather.

Go pack your stuff and start to make riding to work part of your daily, weekly, and monthly routine. It is an amazing lifestyle choice!!

Thanks Brian – if you’d like to share your bike commuting stories, please email jfoster@gmtma.org.