Posts Tagged ‘bike commuting tips’
Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
The following is a post written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Transit for Livable Communities, that originally ran in the Downtown Journal.
Further study reconfirmed recently what makes sense intuitively: moving your body as part of your commute or running errands is healthy. The “transit walk” is the focus of a new study in the March, 2013, Journal of Public Health, which found that people who live in cities with public transit systems that include rail tend to walk 30 minutes more than those without a rail system.
“Transit walkers in large urban areas with a rail system were 72% more likely to transit walk 30 minutes or more per day than were those without a rail system.” Nationally, the number of “transit walkers” (I am loving that term) rose by 28% between 2001 and 2009, while the number of people getting at least 30 minutes of “transit-associated walking time” rose 31%. Transit walking, the study concludes, “contributes to meeting physical activity recommendations.”
There you have it! Feeling in need of some exercise? Getting the signals that some activity would be good for you? Hit the rails, ride the bus! Happily our regional transit system qualifies (barely). We have one light rail line, with another almost open, and others in planning stages, not to mention connecting bus service. (Places like Denver, Salt Lake, Dallas, and Seattle have some really healthy people, judging by their rail lines.)
But what about upper body workouts? If the train or bus is the new gym, how’s a person to buff the biceps, trim the triceps? I recommend the bike lift, though I don’t have any studies to back me up.
I get at least two daily reps of the bike lift on my way to work. During winter, I often also get a round of evening reps, putting my bike on the bus to reach the bicycle paths along the Mississippi River (thereby giving myself a break from cold weather and sometimes snowy streets). I’m not sure how much my bike weighs, but let’s just say the beater bike I purchased for winter commuting is not carbon-intensive in more ways than one.
So, what are the basic steps to the bike lift? Here’s a brief guide to putting your bike on the bus—for those days when you are not getting in your transit walk.
Step 1: waiting for the bus. Ride your bicycle to the bus stop, arriving a few minutes before it is scheduled to arrive. Tip: if your route tends to have a lot of bicycle commuters, try riding to an earlier stop on the route to see if you can beat the competition. If that fails, you can ask the bus driver if you can bring your bicycle on the bus, but it is totally up to the driver. Sometimes the driver will instruct you to get on and off via the back door. Sometimes the answer will be no, in which case, you have to wait for the next bus or lock your bicycle at the stop and return to it later via bus.
Step 2: position your bike for the lift. When the bus arrives, roll your bicycle in front of the bus so it’s parallel to the front of the bus. Stand back about three feet. If the rack is closed, position your bike so that your front wheel faces left as you face the bus. To release the bike rack, reach up and squeeze the bar in the top center of the rack. It will open towards you. If the rack is open with a bicycle on it, position your front wheel facing to the right. This left/closed, right/open positioning is important for the lift to come.
Step 3: lift and place the bike. Facing the bike, I grab the front stem and the seat post to lift it up, then place the wheels in the tracks or slots on the rack. That’s the lift! It gets easier over time. And, it’s always good to use the power in your legs to assist with the lift.
Step 4: secure your bicycle. There is a metal arm by the front wheel that pulls out horizontally (if it’s stiff, yank it) and then raises up to clamp over the top of the wheel near the brakes. Once this is in place, check to make sure any packs or other gear on your bike is secure as well and board the bus.
Step 5: don’t forget your bike. When your stop comes, get off via the front door and let the driver know that you will be taking your bike off the rack. (You wouldn’t believe how many people get off by the back door and watch their bicycle depart with the bus.)
Step 6: The down lift. If two bicycles are on the rack and yours is behind, lower the metal arm and roll the bike toward you as you stand near the curb (the arms are positioned to keep you out of traffic when you unload the bike). If yours is the only bike on the rack, take it off and return the rack to the closed position by squeezing the bar in the front center of the rack and lifting it up. It sometimes takes a push to get it to click into the locked position. Take your bicycle onto the curb to wait till it’s safe to enter the street or bicycle path for your ride.
Note: The Commuter Connection in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul Smart-Trips in downtown St. Paul have practice bike-bus racks. After doing this once or twice, it’s much easier than it sounds!
Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
The following post was written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, for the Southwest Journal.
If your idea of a “Minneapolis bike commuter” is a college student or young employee, think again. From Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to downtown office denizens, one of the fastest-growing groups of local bike commuters is white-collar professional employees.
On a typical workday morning – even during the winter – hundreds of employees arrive downtown on two wheels, filling parking ramp bike racks and helping reduce traffic congestion by removing motor vehicles from downtown streets.
Well-dressed professionals who regularly commute to downtown by bike are often asked: How do they do it, and why?
Meet Marty Mathis: purveyor (and wearer) of fine suits, who bikes to his business in the Northstar Center three to four times a week from his home in Edina. “I’ve been biking to work downtown for years, and I love it,” says Mathis, who looks years younger than his age (51). “I’ve biked in double digits below zero, and through six inches of snow. In fact, on the days I don’t bike to work, I often wish I had.”
Due to the nature of Mathis’ business and the fine attire it requires, he is often asked by customers how it’s possible to synthesize bike commuting with dressier clothing. Or in other words, “how do you get to work and still look good?” Mathis says.
The solution, Mathis has found, is preparedness – and ready access to a facility offering a changing room and showers. “Dress appropriately for bike-riding, based on the weather – cool clothing for summer, and layers for winter – and bring your work clothes to work in a garment bag,” Mathis advises.
At the start of each week, Mathis lays out his complete post-bicycling wardrobe for work – all the suits, shirts, ties and shoes he’ll need, based on the number of times he plans to bike that week – and drops them off at work. After his 9-mile, one-way ride into work, Mathis swings by a nearby health club for a quick shower and change of clothes.
“I tell people, ‘look, if I can do it (given the type of work clothing I wear), you can do it too,’” Mathis says. “You just have to get out of bed, pump up your tires, and get going.”
Mathis, a member of the Bike Edina Task Force, has found a favorite route for commuting downtown: north on Edina city streets to St. Louis Park, from St. Louis Park to downtown on the Cedar Lake Bike Trail, and then through downtown to his business on designated bikeways.
“It takes me about the same amount of time to get to work by bike as it does by car: about 35 minutes or less in the summer, and about 50 minutes in the winter,” Mathis says. “I regularly bike for two reasons: to keep my weight down, and to help collect my thoughts at the beginning and end of the day. It’s great – along the way, I’ll often see all kinds of wildlife, such as foxes, eagles, hawks and more.”
Through his years of bicycling, Mathis’ weight has dropped from 185 pounds to a solid 170, his cholesterol levels have improved, “and I’m barely here, from a blood pressure standpoint,” he jokes.
Some bike commuting tips, courtesy of Mathis:
- Wear proper clothing – Bike in visible clothing, especially during winter, and in fabrics that help wick away moisture. Have raingear ready, just in case. “I typically wear a yellow shirt or jacket,” Mathis says.
- Be lit – During three of the four seasons, bike commuters will typically be riding to or from work in partial or complete darkness. “Have plenty of lights on your bike,” Mathis says. “I have a powerful beam on the front of my bike, and two bouncing red lights on the back.”
- Be seen – As a bicyclist, just because you can see the cars doesn’t necessarily mean car drivers see you. “Make sure that cars can see you, especially if you need to ride away from the curb (due to parked vehicles or road debris),” Mathis says.
- Be courteous – Obey traffic rules, and be mindful of pedestrians crossing the road.
For more information about bike commuting in Minneapolis, including the Guaranteed Ride Home Program (which provides registered participants with ride-home reimbursement up to four times per year), visit the City of Minneapolis bicycling Web site.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
The following post was written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, for the Southwest Journal.
When you hear the word “bicycling,” do you think of a weekend ride around the lakes or about grabbing your bike to go meet friends for breakfast or to make a run for a few things at the store? An increasing number of local residents are using their bikes for getting around, a.k.a., transportation, but for some, it’s still a leap to think of the bike you ride on weekends as the bike you could ride more often: to work, running errands or simply to get from point A to B.
Around the nation, there are more people using their bikes to commute. A 2011 survey of 55 major U.S. cities found that on average, the number of regular bicycle commuters increased by 70 percent between 2000 and 2009, according to The Atlantic Cites, a blog that explores ideas and issues facing cities and neighborhoods. The survey, which was based on data from the 2000 U.S. Census and the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, found that bike commuting in Minneapolis increased by 58 percent during this time period.
Even with this increase, the city of Minneapolis would like to see more people choosing to bike to work. Minneapolis leads all Midwestern cities in bike commuting, and is among the top U.S. cities for bike commuting, but is still well under Portland’s nation-leading 6 percent. The city has set a goal of 7 percent of all commuters biking to work by 2014, which is double the current estimate of 3.5 percent bike commuters in the city.
Minneapolis’ infrastructure is prepared to handle more bike commuters, thanks to an infusion of new bike routes that have opened in the last few years. If you’re wondering where this surge came from, a lot is due to $25 million of federal transportation funds. Minneapolis and three other communities (Sheboygan, Wis., Columbia, Mo., and Marin County, Calif.) received these funds to see how far they could encourage bicycling and walking as ways of getting around.
According to the city’s annual report on bicycling, there are now 167 miles of bikeways on Minneapolis streets – a 75 percent increase just from 2010. The city now has its first Bicycle Master Plan, and a full-time bicycle and pedestrian coordinator to lead its efforts.
But the commute trip is only one kind of journey that could be made by bike. While the average work commute (13 miles one-way in the 7-county metro) is too far for some people to bike, about 40 percent of all the trips people make are within 3 miles. Bicycling 3 miles takes about 15 minutes and often can be quicker than going by car, and is frequently loads more fun.
Minneapolis residents such as Masami Kawazato and Aaron Merrill, who live in south Minneapolis, use their bikes to get to work downtown and to run errands. They have not owned a car since 2003. Bicycling has become ingrained into their lives.
“Part of my motivation to bike is my background,” Kawazato explains. “I’m originally from Japan and lived there from birth through 6 years old and then again during high school. There, it’s common to bike commute and run errands like grocery shopping.”
The couple regularly encourages others to try bike commuting, as they do. “Try it at least once,” Kawazato says. “It doesn’t have to be every day right away. You could take the bike every Thursday to start or get a Nice Ride bike when it’s a nice day. For any women interested in biking but concerned about wardrobe, I’ve found that you can bike in just about any kind of clothing.”
If you’re interested in starting to use your bike for commuting or running errands, here are six tips to keep in mind:
1-Make bike commuting a routine. As Kawazato suggests, start by bike commuting once a week, on a specific day. Once you get accustomed to it, you can try adding additional days to your routine.
2-Add variety to your routes. Although Minneapolis has many miles of well-marked bikeways, don’t feel confined to taking the same route each day. Mix it up a bit, explore new routes, and learn new things about the city.
3. Be safe. Without question, always wear a helmet, and be sure you have at least a working white light on the front of your light and a reflector or blinking red light (better) on the back of your bike. Be predictable in traffic, obey traffic laws, and always signal your turns. By doing so, you aid not only yourself, but also all other bicyclists.
4. Security. Invest in a high-quality U-shaped lock to secure your bike to a bike rack, or sign post, and definitely not to fences, parking meters, street signals, or trees..
5. Attire. Wear comfortable clothing while bicycling, and invest in quality raingear if you bike commute regularly. If your job requires more formal attire, take it with you for changing, or keep a set of work clothing at work.
6. Seek companions. Bike commuting is safer and more fun when you can ride with others. Encourage friends or co-workers to regularly ride with you. Knowing you are riding with others will also be an incentive to stick with your commuting.
If you would like to be part of a national effort that encourages people to bike for transportation and recreation, go to www.nationalbikechallenge.org. It runs through Aug. 31.
Thursday, September 15th, 2011
Want the best tips on bike commuting in the Twin Cities? Go straight to the source: people who regularly bike the trails and roads of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Below are tips from serious bike commuters who were gracious enough to share their insights with us:
Making it routine
- Start by dipping your toes in the water. Try to commute both ways one day a week. If you schedule a specific day for it and plan for the extra time, it’ll become a habit. Once that gets easy, add another day. After a while, the people in your life will become accustomed to your mode of transportation and will tolerate some of the extra steps you have to take to get around under your own power. – Robert Tomb, @bikeonastick
- The secret to bike commuting is making it part of your routine, making it so that you don’t have to decide each morning whether you want to bike or not. We have one car, and my wife takes it to work. So I don’t think twice about it, I load up my daughter in the Burley, drop her off at daycare and continue on to work. – Rett Martin, @rett
- Keep your daily commute’s route interesting so you don’t get bored. Turn here one day—another the next. Take different routes. Explore. – Patrick Stephenson, @patiomench
Online tools and maps
- I use the Metro Transit Commuter Challenge online, which lets me log the miles I bike. It then calculates total miles, total trips, total gas not used and total CO2 offset (in pounds). Seeing those numbers add up is a nice, encouraging way for me to keep biking. – Casey Peterson, @case_face
- For rides to places you’ve never been before, cross-reference between cyclopath.org and Google Maps bicycle directions to figure out the most bike-friendly route. – Sarah Lonning, @slonning
- Wear a helmet! There’s absolutely no reason not to. – Casey Peterson, @case_face
- Never underestimate the importance of lighting. Run multiple red blinking lights on the back and at least two white lights on the front (one blinking, one steady). – Robert Tomb, @bikeonastick
- If you’re in an urban or suburban area, ride like a car: ride on the road, be very predictable and signal your turns. – Robert Tomb, @bikeonastick
- In case of emergencies, know the bus routes along your commute that will get you the rest of the way to work or home, and always have bus fare with you. – Sarah Lonning, @slonning
- I prefer slightly longer, safer routes to shorter, high-traffic ones. Riding the same 10 miles of road every day in two directions can get tedious, and it is easy to zone out. I like having a route that allows me to do that without taking my life into my hands. – Sarah Lonning, @slonning
- Having a good bike goes without saying, but it’s pretty much square one. If you don’t like your bike, or if riding the bike is a chore, you’re not going to want to ride. – Casey Peterson, @case_face
- Use an old road bike, update its drivetrain, install flat-resistant tires or tire protectors, and install fenders. – Robert Tomb, @bikeonastick
- Keep the bike in good, riding condition, just like you would a car. – Casey Peterson, @case_face
- You won’t really notice the savings until you switch to bike commuting full time, so don’t buy an expensive bike right away with all of the potential money you’re going to save. Once you are able to go an entire year commuting by bicycle, you’ll see the financial benefit, and you’ll be a bit surprised. It warms you a little on cold and windy days when you realize your efforts are so valuable.– Robert Tomb, @bikeonastick
- Spend your big money on really good raingear. I mean it, really good raingear. Spend your next biggest chunk of money on a waterproof bag or panniers for your clothes. You’ll especially need this if you have a laptop. – Robert Tomb, @bikeonastick
Day to day
- Get friends or coworkers to ride with you. This will help motivate you when you’re just getting into commuting, and they may know routes that you’d never thought of. – Sarah Lonning, @slonning
- If you have a longer commute or commute in all weather conditions, you’ll probably get to work sweaty and disheveled. Packing your work clothes can sometimes be a bulky pain, and a rear rack and panniers can be expensive. If you have storage or file cabinet space at work, you can pick a day of the week to drive or bus in with enough clothes for the week ahead and store them at your desk to change into, and then take home any clothes you brought in for the previous week. Wash, repeat. – Ang Dezelke, @angied
- Wear two pairs of pants when it’s raining out. That way when you show up to work with a soggy bottom, you can shed a layer. – Nick Nelson, @gonicknelson
- Rolling your right pant leg to protect it from sprockets doesn’t make you a hipster. Forgetting to unroll it does. – Nick Nelson, @gonicknelson
- Fashion is cyclical. Bike shorts are not. – Nick Nelson, @gonicknelson
- Little bells on your handlebars are manly. We all need horns to honk. – Nick Nelson, @gonicknelson
Have tips of your own? Share them below in the comments.
The following is a post written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, that originally ran in the Downtown Journal. Now that Nice Ride bikes are tucked away for the winter, consider using the bus for your quick trips to lunch, meetings, doctor’s appointments, or shopping. Using Metro Transit is an ideal way
The following is a post written by Bri Whitcraft, Special Projects Coordinator, Bike Walk Twin Cities. It all started with a video as inspiration and a Tweet as declaration. (My mom thought it was a joke.) Map & Route From my home in South Minneapolis, I biked to St. Paul to borrow the trailer from
The following is a post written by Hilary Reeves, communications director, Bike Walk Twin Cities, that originally ran in the Southwest Journal. Practical, affordable and surprisingly rewarding, winter bicycling has become increasingly popular in Minneapolis, recently named one of the top five cities in the nation for winter bicycle commuting by MetaEfficient. That’s amazing when