- Shift down as I slow down or approach a stop.
- Shift down as I start to climb a hill.
- As I shift down when climbing, do so with the pedals slightly unweighted (not under force).
- Adjust my pace as I pedal through downtown in a way that is conducive to catching the light changes in my favor.
- Shift my weight back slightly on the seat when braking, which prevents that feeling that you’re going to plunge over the front tire when you’re braking hard.
- Start my braking earlier when it’s wet or frosty; the brake calipers need some distance and friction to dry off the rims and do their job.
- Bring one pedal up to the 3:00 position as I stand on the other leg at the stop. Why? Because this gives me a gentle rolling start when I take off. (As previously noted, I can’t do a track stand.)
- Give my ankle a gentle twist to the side to click out of my SPDs when needed, if I’m wearing my bike shoes. (In fact, I do this sometimes unconsciously as I come to a stop even when I’m wearing regular shoes, which I found quite funny when I first noticed since I have no idea how many times I’ve done it without realizing.)
- Smile and give a small wave to drivers and pedestrians as I make eye contact with them. Hidden message: “Hey, I’m a human being.”
- Look back to make eye contact with a driver as I signal a turn, or before I start off when the light turns green—one more chance to make sure he/she sees me.
- Look ahead for debris that I should avoid so I don’t get a flat tire.
- Look back—a lot—to check for drivers before making a lane change.
- Scan driveways and cross streets as I approach them for cross traffic of any kind.
- Watch out for pedestrians. (I thought I did before but now I really do. We’re in it together as vulnerable users of the street.)
- Stay in a position behind a large truck or bus that leaves me visible to the driver in his/her side view mirror. This means not dead center—either right or left enough so the driver knows you’re there—and not so close to the truck that I’m invisible.
- Take the lane when I need to so I am visible and thus safer.
- Steer clear of the door zone in a stretch with parked cars. (Hence the need to take the lane.)
- Load-balance the things I’m carrying.
- Lift up on the handlebars when I’m riding into a parking lot or anywhere else with a bit of a lip so I don’t hit it quite so hard. I managed to pop two tires at once hitting a driveway entrance too hard and too fast and don’t want to repeat that.
- Pick a line of travel going downhill around a curve that lets me feel safe and take advantage of the earned acceleration without slowing much, if at all.
Now, for long-time commuters much of this is so obvious or basic it isn’t worth putting on a list.
My point exactly: Things that didn’t come automatically in the early days, if at all, are now second nature. It does get easier, and the more you ride the safer you become in your habits and the more unconscious basic bike handling will become.
This development of habits, along with some of the clothing adjustments I’ve made, lead to my final point. Without even thinking about it, I
- Ride all kinds of distances in all kinds of weather in all kinds of clothing as my regular and preferred form of transportation.
Once you get going you won’t have to think much about your bike commute. It becomes as reflexive as driving may be for you now.
Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking
- 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
- Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
- Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
- Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
- How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
- Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
- On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
- 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
- Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
- There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
- Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
- More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
- Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
- Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
- 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
- On a Roll with Katherine Widing
- I Shouldn’t Assume
- Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
- Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
- What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
- How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
- 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
- It’s All in the Attitude
- Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
- Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
- More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
- Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
- Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
- Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
- 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!
- What do you have to think a lot about right now in your riding?
- What did you used to think about that you no longer have to think about?
Did you delete your helmet post? When I clicked over from my reader, it was a 404.
Anyways, I’m interested in the Giro helmets because they’re actually affordable. There’s no way I can but one of the other two any time soon.
However, personally I don’t need a new helmet, so I wouldn’t be buying another one for, I hope, a while.
You’re right, Chris! I’m a much more mindful driver now that I ride my bike (the topic of a future post) and eye contact is one of the keys. Pedestrians and people on bikes have the advantage there if we use it.
Great tips, Barb. Many of them deal with visibility and communicating intentions. Adhering to these key concepts helps cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.