Published May 20, 2010
This just in: Mass Ave in Boston just got OK’d for a bike lane.
I’m asking for commuting tips from you and from my colleagues. (You can also jump to the comments for more.) Please contribute!
Tessa Brickley on Facebook:
Wear a helmet! Also, Google Maps now allows you to search for biking directions (as opposed to driving or walking directions) so you can plan your route.
Sacha Pfeiffer, health & science reporter:
I’m a hard-core bicycle commuter. I ride to work almost every day of the year, including through the winter. My main advice is this: be smart and be visible. Also consider taking a bicycle education workshop from MassBike. And abide by these words of wisdom, which a WBUR listener posted on the web version of a bicycling story I did last fall: To keep safe while biking in Boston, think of yourself as being in an obstacle course with moving obstacles that are trying to kill you.
Susanna Bolle, Public Radio Kitchen intern:
I bike around the city whenever possible and three bits of advice spring to mind: Beware of bicyclists wearing headphones (what are these people thinking? answer: not much). Play especially nice with busses (for obvious reasons). If you ride at night, get proper reflectors and lights — I can’t begin to count how many cyclists, dressed in dark clothing and sans light I (don’t) see on the streets of the city every night.
Will Smith, wbur.org developer:
- Take up the entire lane whenever you need it. If there is any sort of obstacle or narrow shoulder ahead and there aren’t any vehicles immediately behind you, move fully into the driving lane. You have every right to it as cars do. (From Andrew: As a motorcycle/scooter rider, I concur!)
- The sidewalk can be your friend. As long as its mostly empty and you ride extra slow, the sidewalk has helped me avoid snarled traffic and otherwise unsafe road routes.
- *most valuable tip for new bikers* Operate your bike as though you were completely invisible. Do not ever expect cars or pedestrians can see you, even if you are festooned with reflectors and have a 10,000 watt light mounted on the front and rear of your bicycle. Obey this rule and you will never have an accident.
Karen Given, Only A Game reporter/producer:
As a car commuter, I’d like to say thanks to the bike commuters who wear helmets and ride in a semi-predictable manner. I know that not all the drivers in this city are watching out for you, but I am. I’m happy to share the road with you.
John Hoder, senior computer specialist (he fixes our computers), on his tricycle, balancing on the front wheel while crossing the Charles on tightrope:
Within the last few weeks Boston has expanded its bike lanes considerably. Although I don’t pedal in much these days, I notice that Commonwealth Ave. (near Massachusetts Ave.) went from two auto lanes to a single one plus divider and bike lane. Looks like they’ve got a lane running from Kenmore on Comm. heading over towards the Park. It makes commuting on two wheels to B.U., B.C. etc. MUCH easier from areas like the South End and South Boston. I haven’t had a look around in too many other areas nor do I know of a bigger plan if there is one, but I did mention this to Adam Ragusea the other day figuring that it might make a timely radio piece. You might consider mic’ing up a rider?
(From Andrew: We reported just such a story some time ago on Radio Boston with our patent-pending “bikerophone.” I’m looking through the archives…)
Wendy Schwartz, on-air promotions producer:
On option for avoiding the melee of pedestrians, cars, buses, trolleys and other bikers, is to take streets that are parallel to the main roads. You get to see more flowers and breathe less exhaust fumes. The downside is the side streets are narrower, and you have to watch more carefully for cars pulling out of driveways and parking spaces.
Sarah Knight, development assistant:
Wear a helmet!!! You don’t know how many people I see weaving in and out of buses and cars without helmets on.
Clint Cavanaugh, leadership gifts officer, who does NOT wear a helmet, thank you very much:
I’ve been biking to work for, oh…20 years now (yes, child labor is a sad thing). Every morning, I get on my bike and as I start out, I have this feeling of utter freedom. It seems I’m a kid again and can go wherever I want. I always end up at my office, but it’s a great way to start the day!
You might say I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been doored, side-swiped or turned into. Me? I don’t think it’s luck. It’s good riding (knock on wood). I never, ever let my mind wander, I don’t ride dangerously fast and I think that every driver and pedestrian might do the silliest possible thing they could: go through a light, turn without signaling, open a door without looking, just not realize I’m there, vulnerable.
If you do all those things–be joyful, be careful, be vigilant–you’ll have fun, you’ll get in better shape, you’ll do your bit to ease pollution. Ride on!
Jessica Alpert, Radio Boston producer
i hate bikers.
Martha Little, news director:
Beware other bikers, especially when they ride the wrong way, against traffic. Someone almost slammed into me coming screaming down a hill against traffic as I was going up. It would have been very ugly.
Curt Nickisch, business & tech reporter:
Riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike. Don’t overthink it if you want to try commuting, just do. It’s easy to feel like you need a special kind of bike and the gear, but I’m riding the mountain bike that got me around my college campus. You can always get more serious about it later. The main thing is just to get started. While I miss listening to Morning Edition on my way in, I do feel like I get more of an experience out of my commute.
Jess Bidgood, wbur.org producer:
Every time I get on my bike around here, I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands. But, perhaps as a result, I feel far more alive biking than I ever do in the car. Keep your eyes and ears open. Constant vigilance!
Oh, and — every biker runs red lights. But there are some intersections you should never mess with. Pick ‘em out, and stick to ‘em.
John Wihbey, On Point producer (and inventor of this blog’s name!):
My philosophy is: Get to the Charles as soon as possible. Even if that means going through impossibly convoluted back streets and then taking a detour to a destination. Nothing beats the view. Once you get to the path, there’s no more traffic danger, except from other bikers and errant walkers/joggers. Also, it’s worth pausing to look at the water these days. Baby ducklings. Catfish are now hanging out in the shallows. Crew teams of all ages and kinds out in force. I stopped and talked to a guy who was fishing for sunfish the other day. No one fishes for sunfish. They’re junk. But he said he liked just being on the riverbank. A good idea for biking too. -JW
Lisa Tobin, Morning Edition field producer:
Don’t. OK, do, but with great caution. I spent 21 years biking in Seattle without a single incident and in four years in Boston was hit by a car AND another cyclist.
Kevin Sullivan, Here & Now producer:
I find the Storrow side of the Charles is way better than Memorial.
Path is much smoother; fewer cyclists and runners.
I agree with Adam re aggressive riding but see it as more defensive.
Always assume you’re about to be doored, forced off the road or hit by
entering traffic. Can’t imagine why more people don’t commute by bike !
Eileen Imada, On Point director:
GORE-TEX is your friend. Go to your neighborhood bike store, they’ll hook you up with what you need. Find and ride a bike you love. Take all the safety precautions–wear a helmet, watch for doors, use your lights–but don’t let fear keep you from biking. You’re not alone out there.
@aragusea, Radio Boston reporter:
Ride like you’re at war. It’s the only way to be sufficiently aggressive / mentally aware.
Pien Huang, On Point producer:
Bicyclists in Boston are like car/pedestrian hybrids. Advantages: You can beat around traffic. You can go on the pedestrian signal. Disadvantages: Drivers that can’t gauge lateral distance. Discontinuous lanes that can dump you into the middle of pot-holed streets in rush hour (Prospect St!?!). Bikers coming at you at night without lights.
Bikers, put on your lights!! Assume you’re invisible. And wear your helmets and get some health insurance – most people have a story of being doored or hit (usually one that involves spacing out – so be vigilant).
Also – listen back to our hour with Bicycling Magazine, NYC’s “Bike Snob,” and some confusion over ‘fixies.’
Excellent morning tomorrow for a bike ride, free breakfast at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. http://b.globe.com/a355Ek
avoid riding close to cars parked outside Dunkin Donuts in early morning: ppl needing coffee = check mirror before opening door FAIL
Best tip for aspiring commuters is to just try it! But also: wear a helmet, follow the rules of the road, and watch out for car doors!
You can’t bike to work if you have to get over the harbor; no bikes in tunnel, on bridge, or MBTA during rush hour (From Andrew: I don’t think this is a problem Friday, what with the police escorts.)
Oh, and do wear your helmet. A cyclist who didn’t collided with a car in Newton on Monday and died.
Got tips? Do share! Maybe it’s Bike to Work Day for you every day. How do you survive against Boston drivers? I’ll update as more nuggets come in.