Bike Commute Numero Uno

By James Fallows

By Lizzy Bennett 


After I posted my bike commuting tips, several people have confessed that they'd love to ride but they can't; they're terrified. "Is it safe?" they ask. I remember telling the friend who finally convinced me to ride, "I just don't want to die." Being scared is good! It means you'll be cautious and aware (see tips # 2 and # 5 from the earlier post). As for safety, it's only as safe as you ride.

So how to make the maiden voyage? I suggest riding with a buddy: someone who knows the route and how to ride it. That way you focus entirely on following that friend and tune everything else out. A bonus in following is that you'll naturally pick up tricks of the trade, like never snuggling up to parked cars and maintaining utmost respect for rail tracks and expecting drivers to lose their minds in the rain.

I chose to go solo on my first ride to work - an army of one! I ended up on a four lane road headed toward a freeway on-ramp and was rather traumatized. I consulted the San Francisco bike map - Google biking directions are quite good - more closely before riding home and it was smoother sailing from there. But an escort would have been nice.  

Bikers tend to be so stoked to see other bikers, so you should have no problem finding a buddy. Many cities have pro-cycling organizations - San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, New York Bicycling Coalition - that provide education and training on how to ride your city. And car-free events in neighborhoods and parks an a great opportunity to get comfortable on a bike.

In this case, the first time really is the hardest. But if you can get over the hump, you'll be liberated from parking tolls, gridlock and road rage. And according to our word cloud, freedom, exercise and health will pop to the top of your list.

To help you get comfortable with the idea of riding to work, I filmed my ride yesterday. Warning: I filmed it with a GoPro cam on my helmet so it's a little shaky. Enjoy the view!



Lizzy Bennett is online marketing manager for Timbuk2 Design in San Francisco.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/02/bike-commute-numero-uno/71111/