Friday, February 13 by JerryFoster
So, how much money do you save by bike commuting? Probably a lot, but let’s run the numbers.
First, the car expense – according to the AAA’s Your Driving Costs 2014 report, operating a small sedan costs $7930/year, while a SUV runs $12,446/year, including gas, maintenance, depreciation, insurance, loan interest, etc.
What about biking expenses? Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics, refers us to transportation economist Todd Littman’s 2011 research, which gives a range of $100-$300 per year for operating costs, which is comparable to AAA’s numbers, since it includes depreciated cost of the bike, etc.
Startup cost varies a lot, like the variation in the cost for driving a small sedan and a SUV. Here’s hypothetical cases for a high quality and an economical setup, based on online prices from the same national outdoor recreation equipment company:
High Quality – $2153
- New commuter bike, including fenders, rack, front/rear lights – $1400
- Commuter Helmet, including attachment for front/rear lights – $65
- Front/rear helmet lights – $100
- U-lock plus cable – $100
- Multitool ($50), spare tube ($10) , flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($45), lube ($10) – $118
- Rainwear – jacket ($100), pants ($75), gloves ($45), helmet cover ($30) – $250
- Pannier, handlebar bag or backpack – $120
Economical – $543
- New hybrid bike – $400
- Rack ($25), front/rear lights (to be seen, not to light the road, $20) – $45
- Helmet – $25
- U-lock – $20
- Multitool ($10), flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($10), lube ($5) – $28
- Rain poncho w hood – $5
- Backpack – $20
Typical bike maintenance is easy enough to learn that many people do it themselves – fixing a flat tire, lubing a chain, adjusting brakes – a web search shows numerous how-to videos that are very instructive. Blogger James Schwartz assumed $50 per year for maintaining a $1500 commuter bike.
Clearly, bike commuting saves a lot of money if you can actually reduce the number of cars you own, since you can buy multiple high quality new bikes and gear every year for much less than the operating costs of even a small sedan. But it is very difficult in the suburbs to go car free, so what if you only have one car? Then the savings will only be based on reduced miles driven, which saves on gas, maintenance, tires and depreciation.
According to the AAA report, the operating costs (gas, maintenance, tires) for a small sedan is 16.3 cents/mile, and 23.8 cents/mile for a SUV. If your commute is 2 miles each way, like mine, then 4 miles roundtrip x 240 working days/year equals 960 miles biked each year.
The 960 mile reduction in driving would save $156.48 (operating costs) plus $33.60 (reduced depreciation), totaling $190.08 for a small sedan, and $228.48 (operating costs) plus $48.96 for (reduced depreciation), totaling $277.44 for an SUV. This is in the range for paying for the annual bike costs, but hardly a killer incentive by itself. It will help if your employer offers you the IRS Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit – you can be reimbursed up to $240 each year for bike commuting expenses.
Of course you might choose to use the commuter bike for other errands, such as small grocery runs, to the bank, post office, etc. Since only 15% of our trips are for commuting, that leaves a lot of other trips that could be done by bike – e.g. 40% of all trips are 2 miles or less, and if you take the bike/walk trips out of the denominator, 69% of car trips are 2 miles or less.
Of course, you’ll save more in indirect costs, for example if you substitute biking for a gym membership, that could save about $1000/year. And the potential for saving money on health care is huge, since you may be much healthier with regular activity.
Perhaps most important, it’s fun! Of course, you’ll also be saving the world by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since car exhaust is the single largest contributor in our area to CO2 emissions.
Last, longtime WWBPA readers might notice a strong resemblance between the bike commuter pictured above and the bike lane fairy, who hasn’t made a public appearance recently. Could this be why? Please join us at the New Jersey Bike and Walk Summit next Saturday, February 21 – we’ll keep an eye out, you never know when you might see her next.
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Tuesday, February 10 by JerryFoster
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. You may notice a little extra reflective tape on the trunk box, for example.
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?
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Wednesday, January 28 by JerryFoster
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 us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your low stress bike commuting tips.
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Wednesday, January 14 by joegorun
Please join us Saturday February 7, 2015, at 7:30 pm for a showing of “WADJDA” at the West Windsor Arts Center. Admission is free for WWBPA or WWAC members, $5 otherwise.
“WADJDA is a movie of firsts. This first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia is the story of a young girl living in a suburb of Riyadh determined to raise enough money to buy a bike in a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. Even more impressive, WADJDA is the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker. In a country where cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote, writer- director Haifaa Al Mansour has broken many barriers with her new film”.
WADJDA is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and always pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, a neighborhood boy she shouldn’t be playing with, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda’s mother won’t allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. So Wadjda decides to try and raise the money herself. At first, Wadjda’s mother is too preoccupied with convincing her husband not to take a second wife to realize what’s going on. And soon enough Wadjda’s plans are thwarted when she is caught running various schemes at school. Just as she is losing hope of raising enough money, she hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition at her school. She devotes herself… Written by Razor Film Produktion GmbH
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Saturday, January 10 by JerryFoster
Five years after Montclair and NJDOT adopted New Jersey’s leading Complete Streets policies, this week Mercer County became the first to have all roads covered – state, county and every municipality. Congratulations to Mercer County for reaching this very important milestone toward making our communities more bicycle and pedestrian friendly!
Complete Streets policies require road improvements to support biking, walking and transit for users of all ages and abilities as the rule rather than the exception, and provide for incremental improvements without mandating retrofits.
Complete Streets benefit everyone, e.g. better safety (not just for cyclists and pedestrians, but mainly for motorists), higher property values (see walkscore.com) and improved security (more eyes on the street). Those who walk or bike feel better, are healthier and live longer – students who bike or walk to school score better on standardized tests.
Realizing these benefits will take time, as responsibility for our roads is divided between the state (for federal and state roads), counties and municipalities. Even a short trip can include roads and/or bridges under the care of many jurisdictions – for example, biking around Princeton’s Carnegie Lake involves traversing 3 counties and 5 municipalities, plus a state and maybe even a federal road.
What does a Complete Street look like? It depends – Complete Streets are not cookie-cutter. All of these pictures might be considered examples in some sense, while each may have additional possibilities to make them even more complete.
See if you can pick out which picture shows which Mercer County municipality – Trenton, Hamilton, Ewing, Hopewell Township, Pennington, Hopewell Boro, Princeton, Lawrence, West Windsor, East Windsor, Hightstown and Robbinsville.
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Monday, November 24 by JerryFoster
What would you do? You’re walking at night, from the station to home north of Clarksville – up Scott Ave, through school grounds and the parking lot to the intersection of Clarksville and Hawk Drive.
There’s no marked crosswalk, but there is a streetlight. Or, you could go to the painted crosswalk at the opposite edge of school grounds, but there is no street light and no way to manually activate the blinking crosswalk lights that are set on a timer for the students.
Also, you’d then have to walk back to Hawk Drive to continue home.
What would you do? Cross under the street light without a painted crosswalk or at the painted crosswalk without light? See the picture for an approximation of the differences.
Please join us at the Twp Council meeting tonight, Monday November 24, 2014, to ask for an improved painted crossing with a streetlight, pedestrian-activated warning lights and turning on the existing speed display signs at all times, not just during school times.
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Wednesday, November 12 by joegorun
I’ve been commuting to work in the Plainsboro and West Windsor area on and off for 8 years, and bikes were always a central focus of my life. Post-college, the bike was replaced with the car, shuttling from one commitment to the next. With increasing work responsibilities, I lost sight of what matters most. I started focusing on convenience over happiness and status over health. After a few years the longer car commutes, office lunches, and stress started taking a mental and physical toll. Gym memberships collected dust, and bigger pants couldn’t solve the problems any longer. Suddenly I didn’t recognize myself. A year ago I had an “awakening” and realized it was time for a number of changes, including a commitment to consistently commute by bike no matter what.
Today, it’s going well. As it turns out, this area is actually amazing for biking to work, to the store, or just for fun. Often it’s actually EASIER than driving. You have your choice of bike lanes, bike paths, or even roads, and it’s getting even better thanks to the hard work of many people. More importantly, there is a growing tolerance on the roads, and most drivers are also closet bicyclists just waiting to start bike commuting as well. You can even expand your biking with a simple bus or train excursion.
My commute brings me past the beautiful fields of Stult’s Farm, down the boulevard-esque bike lanes of Southfield Road, and even through Mercer County Park, where I routinely pass dozens of deer. I’ve also rode in rain, floods, and snow, and enjoyed every minute. I take in the beautiful scenery and admire the changing seasons, all from the seat of my bike.
Riding a bike is more than just exercise or cost savings; it’s fun too. It’s the high gear to happiness!
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Wednesday, October 29 by joegorun
Four Princeton-area residents participated in a weeklong bicycle ride in October from Philadelphia to Fredericksburg, Va. to promote the East Coast Greenway (www.greenway.org), a 2,900-mile urban version of the Appalachian Trail that links cities from the Canadian border in Maine down to Key West in Florida.
The four, Robert Russo of Belle Mead, Dan Rappoport of Princeton and neighbors Melinda Posipanko and Silvia Ascarelli of West Windsor, bicycled on everything from trails to quiet streets to roads with plenty of traffic, and across the National Mall in Washington. Together, they raised more than $11,000 for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit organization that is working with state and local partners to put more of the route on trails and quiet roads.
The 325-mile ride is an annual event, but the location changes. The goal to ride one section of the East Coast Greenway a year (hence the name, the Week-a-Year Ride) and finish in Key West in 2019. The 2013 ride came through Princeton and West Windsor because the East Coast Greenway includes the D&R Canal Towpath from New Brunswick to Trenton.
“This annual ride provides an exploratory trip to experience the economic impact that off-road trails can and do provide to the different communities that we ride through,” said Robert Russo, who is the treasurer for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. “We get to meet with government leaders in the different states to emphasize the economic and health benefits of a growing off-road trail network.”
All 40-plus riders met with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who is considered the most bike-friendly governor in the U.S. By the end of 2017, 60% of the East Coast Greenway route in that state should be off roads. Overall, about 30% of the route is now off roads, and the vision is to get all of it away from traffic.
Dan Rappoport has participated in three of the four rides so far, only missing the first, from Calais, Maine to Portland, Maine. In 2013, the ride from Hartford, Conn. to Philadelphia took him past his childhood home in Cranford. Riding down the East Coast, he says, is his substitute for the dream of a cross-country bike ride.
The ride was Melinda Posipanko’s first multi-day tour. She loved how the Greenway crafts safe routes by connecting existing trails with quiet roads wherever possible. She was particularly impressed that the route did not go out of its way to avoid less fortunate neighborhoods in the cities and towns it passed through thereby enhancing the possibility that bike tourism will bring economic benefits to these areas.
Like the others, Silvia Ascarelli, a first-time east Coast Greenway rider, is taken with the vision of a route from Canada to Key West. While Delaware is making impressive strides with its off-road trails, she was equally wowed with the well-used network of trails in Maryland from Baltimore to Washington that made riding there a pleasure. For more about this year’s ride, read her blog, www.exploringbybike.wordpress.com
The 2015 version of the ride will pick up where this one ended, in Fredericksburg, and will end in Raleigh, North Carolina. This will be a more difficult ride than in previous years due to longer mileage and fewer greenway sections, so it will be geared toward advanced cyclists. Anyone interested in participating can email email@example.com for more information.
In the attached photo, from left:
Silvia Ascarelli of West Windsor, Melinda Posipanko of West Windsor, former New Jersey resident Ed Majtenyi, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Robert Russo of Belle Mead, Dan Rappoport of Princeton
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Friday, September 19 by JerryFoster
Consider the following scenario – you’re stopped in traffic by a long line of cars waiting for the light – this being New Jersey, you move up the shoulder, where there’s plenty of room. Unfortunately, a car turning left through a gap in the waiting cars hits you – who gets the ticket?
Would it be any different if you were riding a bike up the shoulder? Who would get the ticket then?
What if you were riding your bike in a bike lane instead of a shoulder – now who gets the ticket?
The motorist or cyclist on the shoulder would get the ticket, since shoulders are not for traveling – the cyclist in a bike lane would “only” be injured, not ticketed, since s/he has legal right of way.
This scenario is based on a real life incident in Chatham, where a cyclist on the shoulder was hospitalized and ticketed for unsafely passing cars on the right when he crashed into a car turning left into a drugstore driveway. As the Polzo v Essex County ruling confirmed, “a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder.”
So cycling in the travel lane or a bike lane provides legal right of way, but what about safe operating conditions?
The NJ Supreme Court ruled that travel lanes and shoulders do not need to be maintained for safe cycling – “Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers peculiar to bicycles.” “Roadways generally are intended for and used by operators of vehicles.” “A ‘vehicle’ is defined as ‘every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or motorized bicycles.’”
Bike lanes offer safe operating conditions – “A public entity’s designation of a portion of the roadway as a bicycle lane would alter the generally intended use of that part of the road and would require the public entity to maintain it in a reasonably safe manner for those purposes.”
So here’s the score:
- Bike Lanes – right of way and safe operating conditions
- Travel Lane – right of way but operating conditions sufficient for vehicles only, not bikes
- Shoulder – neither right of way nor safe operating conditions
The court provided NJ cyclists with another option to gain safe operating conditions for specific roadway or shoulder segments – notify the maintaining entity (state, county or municipality) that you routinely cycle on a specific road or shoulder. “Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder of Parsonage Hill Road was designated as a bicycle lane or routinely used as one.” “We need not address here the standard of care that might apply under the Torts Claims Act if a roadway’s shoulder were routinely used as a bicycle lane and the public entity responsible for the maintenance of that roadway was on notice of that use.”
Will adoption of a Complete Streets policy provide a future court sufficient evidence of intended use by cyclists? If so, cyclists would enjoy a better standard of care for travel lanes, though perhaps not as good as for bike lanes.
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Friday, September 12 by JerryFoster
Now our 4th annual survey, WWBPA volunteers counted 343 bicyclists and pedestrians at 3 locations around the train station on Wednesday September 10, 2014 between 5-8pm. Last year the count was 334, but the numbers are not directly comparable, since we counted at 5 locations last year. Comparing the same locations at the same times, biking and walking increased 24% over last year (which had decreased 18% from the year earlier). The weather cooperated this year, only 80 degrees and mostly sunny, in contrast to last year’s hot (90 degrees) and humid day.
Once again we participated in the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, an effort to accurately and consistently measure usage and demand for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Our 2014 findings:
- Cranbury/Wallace/571 (Rite Aid) – 28 bike, 113 walk
- Scott/Alexander (Arts Center) – 34 bike, 106 walk, 2 others
- Vaughn/Alexander (bus stop) – 18 bike, 42 walk
Total: 343 people, 80 who bike, 261 who walk, 2 on motorized wheelchairs or skateboards
Thanks to our volunteers!
Traffic along 571 in downtown West Windsor flowed freely except from 6:00-6:04pm, likely due to 2 different trains from NYC arriving within 5 minutes of each other.
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- midblock crossings of 571 at Rite Aid driveway – 8
- male – 243, female – 98 (“Other” gender data not collected)
- walkers – 261, cyclists – 80
- male cyclists – 70, female cyclists – 10
- male walkers – 173, female walkers – 88
- At 571, 4 semi trucks, two traveling together at 7:35pm
- At 571, 11 car honks, none directed at cyclists or pedestrians (most re left turning, a few at the 571 merge point where 2 lanes decrease to 1 southbound)
- At 571, the vast majority of cyclists wore helmets
- At 571, one couple relaxed in the pocket park for about 10 minutes
Friday, August 29 by JerryFoster
The NJ Supreme Court ruled in 2012 re the county’s potential liability for surface defects on the shoulder that a cyclist was riding on when she crashed and subsequently died (Polzo v Essex County). The ruling generated concern that cyclists riding on the shoulder may be treated differently by the legal system than those in a bike lane, but after reading the ruling carefully, I believe that concern is unfounded.
The court found:
1. The depression caused the tragic fatality.
2. “The Motor Vehicle Code provides that a “roadway” is the portion of highway generally used for vehicular travel; the “shoulder” borders the roadway and is for emergency use; and “vehicles” are not bicycles. Bicyclists are directed to ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. While they may be inclined to ride on the shoulder, they have no special privileges if they do.”
3. “Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers specific to bicycles.”
The ruling is clear to this point – cyclists riding on the road or shoulder may not expect a standard of care specific to bicycles. Cyclists may be dismayed by the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, but there is equality between the roadway and shoulder re the standard of care. “No special privileges” does not mean “at your own risk.”
They then examined if the actual depression was a dangerous condition under the Tort Claim Act, noting “Under the TCA, a dangerous condition means a condition that creates a substantial risk of injury when such property is used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used.”
They might have stayed with the logic that cyclists riding on the shoulder have no special privileges, because the law says shoulders are not part of the roadway, and only roadways are generally intended to be used by bicycles under the law (to the extent bicycles are an intended use even though they’re not vehicles).
But no, they said:
4. “Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder was routinely used as a bicycle lane, which might implicate a different standard of care.”
So a shoulder that is “routinely used as a bicycle lane” might be expected to be held to a “different standard of care,” though presumably not to the extent as to “remove all dangers specific to bicycles.”
Since evidence of routine use may determine generally intended purpose and trigger a different standard of care, concern re a distinction between shoulders and bike lanes is unnecessary, in my not-a-lawyer view.
Perhaps the plaintiff’s lawyer should have introduced NJDOT standards for bicycle compatible shoulders as evidence of intended purpose, but in any case Essex County now has a Complete Streets policy that clarifies that bicycling is an intended purpose for county roads.
While cyclists are rightly concerned about the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, the suit was primarily about tort claims, which used the MVC only to determine intended purpose, and even finding none with regard to shoulders, ignored it in favor of a standard of evidence of routine use.
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Thursday, July 31 by JerryFoster
Fireflies photo by Chris Egnoto (used with permission)
Welcome back guest blogger Don Pillsbury sharing some of his cycling incidents and a great picture courtesy of his friend.
There are many benefits from cycling. Personally, what I have learned most from regularly riding my bike is the art of improvising. No matter how well you plan, it is inevitable, at some point; you will encounter a situation that requires you to “make do.” Such is the time my headlight inexplicably gave out. (Fortunately it was the peak of firefly season and the iridescent insects guided my way along the D&R Canal Towpath – it is one of my most cherished memories.)
Or riding along and having the crank/pedal fall off. (I had read about a one-legged cyclist and decided to see what it is like.) Or like getting to the office and discovering the set of clothes you distinctly remember leaving there before hand were not to be found. (That situation took some creativity.)
You can only pack a set amount of tools, spare parts, gear, and equipment.
After that, it’s a matter of keep calm and ride on – with creativity and humor.
Thank you Don! If you would like to write about your experience in a guest post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Monday, June 23 by JerryFoster
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 email@example.com.
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Monday, June 16 by JerryFoster
Please welcome WW resident Jake Herway, who’s launching an exciting new addition to the area’s cycling tourist industry, NJ Bike Tours. He’s also helping The Farm Roll scenic bike tour, coming up Sunday, June 22, proceeds to benefit our friends at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed. Here’s his story:
“Now a resident of West Windsor, I grew up riding through the picturesque landscapes of Europe, savoring the rich history, unique architecture, and European patisserie’s and cuisine. New Jersey was the last, dead last, place I expected to rival that experience. I was wrong.
NJ bike tours started when I discovered a hidden gem in the back roads of a state I assumed was nothing but concrete, electric wires, and grime. Hidden to millions who visit, live in, or avoid New Jersey is a rich history, beautiful farm country, stunning views, and fresh, delicious food that create an energizing cycling adventure. My goal with NJ bike tours is to share the beauty, fun, and discovery of a hidden Garden State, only a few pedal strokes off the beaten path.”
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Friday, June 13 by JerryFoster
Please welcome Brian Clissold as our guest commuter this week, a trustee of the WWBPA and a resident of East Windsor. A version of this post appeared on his blog, Roadmaestro. Brian, what’s your secret?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Friday, June 6 by JerryFoster
Please welcome Jenny Goodman as this week’s guest commuter, and contact email@example.com to share your experiences.
OK, after the long, long, winter, it’s going to be 60 degrees and no rain, I picked up my son’s friend and dropped them both off at school, the 606 bus leaves at 8:12, so I have 15 minutes to get my bike shorts, t-shirt, bike shoes, helmet and gloves and get over to the bus stop. You see I am somewhat of a wimp. I don’t ride when it’s cold (and this morning it’s 35 degrees), in the rain, or in the snow.
I made it. The bike goes on the front of the NJ Transit bus in a really cool, super-easy-to-maneuver bike rack. While I have a few panic attacks as we go over some wicked potholes, hoping my bike won’t get thrown off the rack and smashed by the bus, my stop comes up with everything still intact. My work is about a ½ mile from the stop, so I bike over looking like a dork with my jeans tucked into my white socks.
My bike is a steel 1980 Reynolds 531 double-butted Puch that has Campanolo pedals with toe straps with over 10,000 miles on it. (Though truth be told, I don’t even tighten up the toe straps, nor have cleats anymore.) Talk about retro. The fork was also 531 but was crushed when I flipped over the hood of a car pulling out of the Hightstown McDonalds in 1993. We got it fixed and painted by Andreas Cuevas (that might mean something to somebody out there). And it has beautiful lugs.
Work is finally over and I set out on my first ride of the season, April 1. I have a great commute from Ewing to Princeton on the Princeton Pike, which has a great shoulder almost the whole way. Not too long and not too short, about 11 miles one way. The only bad part is fighting for position on the bridge over Stony Brook. Pretty hairy. Yeah, I know, there is a separate bike lane you can ride on, but between the frost heaves and the mud and gravel at the bottom of a turn coming off the bridge, I’d rather take my chances. The first ride home of the season is so pleasant. First I pass Halo Farms with its plastic herd of dairy cows. No joke, you should go see them. Through the parking lot of the Trenton’s Farmer’s Market, dodging a thousand pieces of glass, past the “Win, Place, and Smoke” shop, then on to the open road.
I thought I would feel worse than this for the first ride of the season. A previous blogger (and neighbor of mine) says NJ is like Holland, nice and flat. Well, that’s true I guess, but not on your first ride of the season, especially up the hill into Princeton past the Battlefield Park. Coming into town is my favorite part of bike commuting – being passed by some cars in a hurry and then proceeding to pass them back while they wait in traffic at a stop sign or light. And now that Nassau Street has sharrows, I feel so legit giving myself enough room so I don’t get slammed by a car door opening up. I make it home in one piece (again). And tomorrow looks like it will be nice for another ride home.
Jenny Goodman has been bike commuting off and on (on nice days) for about 25 years. She is entitled to be a wimp, having ridden with her husband across North America, from Alaska to Montana, from Portugal to Switzerland, Maine to New Brunswick, and from NJ to Canada twice in the wind, snow, sleet, rain, blazing sun, and bugs (including a swarm of huge grasshoppers in Saskatchewan).
A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.
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Friday, May 30 by JerryFoster
Please welcome Kiyomi Camp, who also serves on the Princeton Free Wheelers bike club board, as our guest commuter this week.
When I was in high school and college, I used to ride my bike everywhere, both for transportation and for pleasure. As an adult in semirural Montgomery, New Jersey, that didn’t really seem like an option, especially after my kids were born. I lived on a 2-lane highway 4 miles from the nearest commercial area and about 8 miles from my workplace and the kids’ school.
Then I went to my 30th college reunion. Seeing all the people riding bikes at the college brought back happy memories. I resolved to try riding my bike to work, at least during the summer when I worked shorter hours and didn’t have to chauffeur kids.
The route I worked out involved riding on the towpath for 3 miles then taking to the streets. At the time, I only owned a mountain bike. The first climb up Mt. Lucas on knobby tires nearly killed me, then I had to climb Cherry Hill Road! I changed my route to avoid Cherry Hill, bought slick tires, and eventually got strong enough to make it up the hills without having to stop. My route was about 9 sweaty miles. I work in a school and have access to showers so this was not a problem. My clothes and lunch fit in my trunk bag and I kept shoes and toiletries in my desk. I really enjoyed riding to work during the summers, when I could ride home before rush hour, but I’m a pretty wimpy rider and found the rush hour traffic on my road during the school year was more than I could handle.
In 2011, I moved to Hopewell, a mere 7 miles to work but on more heavily traveled roads. From Princeton Free Wheeler ride leaders Diane Hess and Andy Chen, I learned some routes through developments that minimize my time riding on The Great Road. I also make use of the “bike lane” (really, a sidewalk) on The Great Road for the uphill portion of my ride home. My new route turned out to be rideable at rush hour so I can now ride year round although I’m still a wimp and drive if it’s icy or visibility is poor (or if I oversleep.) My ride to work starts and ends with pretty nice downhills. Of course, this means that my return trip starts and ends with some pretty serious uphills, but I can reward myself with a shower and a recovery beverage when I get home.
I acquired some different bikes and became addicted to a couple of bike blogs that extolled the pleasures of riding to work on an upright bike while wearing one’s normal clothes. Enamored of the vision of myself riding to work on a stylish bike in my dress and ballet flats, I decided to give that a try.
Unfortunately, seven miles with a couple of miles of uphill each way is not really fun on an upright bike. I concluded that I really prefer riding a road bike while wearing bike shorts. I’ve learned to bring in a bag of office outfits on my driving days so that I can commute on my unencumbered “fast” road bike. I also built up a vintage touring bike with a Brooks saddle and Carradice bag for days when I want to look picturesque or carry my clothes and lunch.
As a wimpy rider, I like to make myself as visible as possible. My bikes sport front and rear lights that are used even in daylight, and my main commuter has reflective tape on the frame and rims. I wear a helmet, use a rear view mirror, and avoid road-colored clothing.
I don’t bike to work every day, but I’ve never had a day where I biked to work and wished that I hadn’t. I guess this means I should bike to work more often!
Thanks Kiyomi – if you’d like to share your commuting experiences, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.
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Friday, May 23 by JerryFoster
Please welcome Jim Angelus as our guest commuter this week – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact email@example.com.
Everyone has an experience that births the compulsion to begin and end the work day on a bicycle.
Until ’98, my commute was limited to the overcrowded and undersanitized Lexington Avenue line in lower Manhattan. I was born in the city and lived there for 35 years commuting to ad agencies, where I was a creative director. Living in Hopewell 20 years later, a stark contrast – I rise at 6, am out the door at 7.
It wasn’t until taking *mandatory* retirement from my marketing job at Merck that cycling took over. It was 2001. I was out of a job with newly born twin boys; retirement at 45 not an option.
Time to redirect, refocus, narrow down, be practical, and use time wisely. I had been cycling the Sourlands, up through Frenchtown, Holland, and Lebanon townships trying to plan next steps.
Fortunately, logic and sound thinking didn’t reign – however, a self-absorbed plan to cycle cross-country with a close friend in ’02 did. This 3,215 mile/25 day ride from Point Reyes, CA to Keyport, NJ was the perfect gestation cycle that gave birth to the “third wheel” in my marriage.
A decade later in ’12, my German friend joined me once again, as we cycled from Seattle, WA to South Seaside Park, NJ – 3,300 miles/37 days later.
Today, I ride to work in South Brunswick, on Rte 518 into Rocky Hill, up the hill by the quarry to Rte 27. My ride home varies as does my mood. Sometimes a detour up Lindbergh Rd, other times Aunt Mollie Rd serves me well. Decisions! Decisions! My single speed wheels are picky and I must keep them happy.
Whit is planning a Lewis and Clark Trail excursion in ’15. Three’s a charm – I may just ride home…
A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.
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Tuesday, May 20 by JerryFoster
Our guest commuter this week is Ted Borer – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 marks my 30th year of commuting by bike. At this point bicycle commuting isn’t just a passing phase, it’s part of what defines who I am.
For the first year out of college I didn’t own a car. Living in West Philly, cycling was faster and cheaper than any other way I could get to my job in Center City. Back then I’d wear my shirt and dress pants and carry my suit jacket and tie in a backpack. I could park outside the building entrance, while most of my co-workers had to walk several blocks from lots where they’d paid to park. I kept a massive chain and lock locked around the bike rack directly outside our office building so I didn’t need to carry it back and forth, and the building security officers could see the bike. I only had a few miles to ride, so washing up in a men’s room was all I needed. Without spending my income on car payments, insurance, maintenance, parking, or gas, I was able to save enough for a down payment on a house much sooner than my peers.
When I got a work assignment in Phoenixville, I moved to Devon and regularly bicycled through Valley Forge park to get to work. That was 12 miles and fairly hilly. So I didn’t do it every day. After my wife and I moved to Media, PA, I was able to find a bike trail that took me to the plant where I worked in Eddystone for a few years.
I was mostly a warm weather commuter until I got a job in Princeton and we moved to Pennington. After commuting by bicycle for a decade, I realized that it was a pretty high priority in my life. So I drew a nine mile radius around my new office and told the realtor we’d only consider looking at houses within that circle — and she needn’t bother showing us anything that involved crossing Route One.
Year by year I’ve sorted out what it took to ride comfortably in any weather. I ride 12 months a year but avoid the road when there’s a risk of ice or snow cover. My lifetime bike odometer should pass 85,000 miles this year. I expect to pass 100,000 miles before I retire. Not all of those miles were commuting. I’ve done fifty or sixty century rides, earned a Super-Randonneur award along the way. I’ve done some other ultra-distance riding, some very fast “training” rides with triathletes and solo, and dozens of bicycle camping trips with my children.
We live in a pretty neighborhood with more property and a larger house than we could afford in Princeton. I enjoy a few miles of rural riding past cows and sheep, then a few miles of county routes that have steady, 45 mph traffic but great wide shoulders, then a few miles of urban traffic in downtown Princeton. It’s a wonderful mix. My 7 ½ mile ride takes 35 minutes at a natural pace. I carry books, phone, and clothes in panniers and shower when I arrive. The fastest I’ve ever done the ride was 25 minutes home-bound — just after my wife told me she’d started labor with our second child! He’s now deciding on which college to attend.
As our kids grow up, my wife and I are beginning to do more and more riding together and anticipate seeing foreign countries by bike in retirement. But we have four college educations to pay for, so I expect to be bicycle commuting to work for at least another decade!
A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.
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Friday, May 16 by JerryFoster
Biking and walking to school is good for children and good for the community.
Walk and Bike to School Week will be celebrated this year from May 19-23, 2014. Governor Chris Christie signed a proclamation encouraging state and local governments and school districts to promote active and healthy lifestyles by walking and bicycling to school.
Safe routes to schools is a priority for the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (WWBPA) because it benefits health and well-being of the whole community, from our youngest members to our oldest. Biking and walking to school is great for student health and academic success. Studies in Denmark and Spain have shown that biking or walking to school leads to higher levels of concentration that lasted throughout the morning hours – “Walking and biking to school is also a great way for kids to get the physical activity needed for healthy minds. Kids who are more physically active have better academic performance. Studies are also beginning to show that exposure to nature and free outdoor play can reduce stress and relieve ADHD symptoms,” said Dr. Jennifer Rupert.
Not only is active transportation good for kids’ school success, kids who get themselves around also know their neighborhood and environment better. This study looked at kids in a high traffic neighborhood and a low traffic neighborhood and found that students who lived in the high traffic neighborhood, who were driven most places due to safety concerns, had a negative attitude about their neighborhood and could not draw a map of their street network. The children in low traffic neighborhoods had a high knowledge of their neighborhood and more positive feelings of their place. The study followed up with the adults and children in the same neighborhoods after the facilities for biking and walking were improved in the high traffic neighborhood. The children’s knowledge of their town improved once they were able to get around on their own. Previous studies had shown that adults living in high traffic neighborhoods felt more isolated from their community, too. Being able to get around outside of a car builds community and connection between neighbors.
Beyond the health and community-building benefits from walking or biking to students themselves, getting more kids and parents out of cars has congestion and air quality benefits for the whole community, especially for folks living near the schools. A traffic engineer interviewed by NPR noted that “One of the biggest problems we have with schools in general is parents dropping off kids, buses, and kids walking, all converging in the same fifteen minute period,” says Lees. In fact, 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic is children being driven to school, according to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.”
As Dr. Rupert points out “think about the air quality around a school when dozens of parents sit in idling cars while their children jump out. Air pollution has contributed to childhood asthma rates doubling between 1980 and the mid-1990s. Asthma rates remain at historically high levels and cause 14 million missed school days every year. Walking and biking to school is healthy for kids, healthy for communities, and healthy for the planet.”
In New Jersey there are a number of organizations working to make biking and walking safer for students and their families. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes that safe routes to school has benefits New Jersey, “Since 2005, $13.5 million of this grant money has helped pay for New Jersey projects, from the construction of a bridge and sidewalk system along Route 539 and Frog Pond Road in Egg Harbor, to new crosswalks and flashing school zone signs in Jersey City. In January, Gov. Chris Christie announced a new round of grants totaling $5.7 million for 25 communities, including some struggling areas such as Garfield, Jersey City and Brick, where many children don’t have access to safe places to be physically active. This is good news for our kids, for our communities and our health.” New Jersey has a safe routes to schools organization which helps provide coordination and resources to folks wanting to organize and advocate for safe routes to schools. They run an award program to recognize schools making strides towards safer biking and walking. We also have a walking and biking resource center funded by NJDOT and run out of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers New Brunswick.
WWBPA supports biking and walking to school as a healthy, community building activity. We partner with students, parents and teachers in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district to host bikes and walks to school, biking and walking “buses” and to advocate for safer routes to schools. Recent partnerships have included working on the Knight Trail as well as the Cranbury Rd Sidewalk and Safety Project. We know that safe routes to schools are an important part of a community active transportation network. Want to plan something for bike and walk to school month in October? Check out this fact sheet from NJ Safe Routes to School campaign through NJ DOT. Contact us at wwbpa.org to partner with us as you plan an event at your school.
Thanks to former trustee Beth Zeitler for contributing this article, a version of which also appears on the Greater Mercer TMA blog.
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