Bike Commuter Journal – Bus, Bike and Back

Friday, June 6 by JerryFoster

Jennys BikePlease welcome Jenny Goodman as this week’s guest commuter, and contact wwbikeped@gmail.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 ? 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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Bike Commuter Journal – The Wimpy Way to Work (So She Says)

Friday, May 30 by JerryFoster

Kiyomi bikePlease 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 wwbikeped@gmail.com.

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal ? Decades of Dedicated Energy

Tuesday, May 20 by JerryFoster

Ted Borer bike commutes for 30 yearsOur guest commuter this week is Ted Borer – if you?d like to share your commuter experiences, contact wwbikeped@gmail.com.

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 ? ?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!

Ride well,
Ted Borer

 

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – How Things Change, or Not

Friday, April 4 by JerryFoster

Please welcome Steve Kruse as our guest bike commuter this week ? he chairs the Princeton Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and bike commuted from Princeton to Plainsboro through 2005. Steve joins us via an article he wrote almost 17 years ago, Two Wheels To Work, which appeared in the U.S. 1 Newspaper, May 28, 1997, used here with kind permission of author and publisher.

It’s great to get a view from last century, to see what has improved, and what hasn’t. Steve’s article mentions road conditions, policies, motorists both considerate and not, and several planned improvements to the area.

Steve noted that “New Jersey does not spring to mind as an especially bicycle-friendly place.” Is that still true? Maybe, but NJ DOT adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2009, so future improvements should include accommodations for biking and walking, transit users and those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As our readers know, the state has jurisdiction over only the federal highways and interstates and a few other major arteries. Fortunately for today’s Princeton to Plainsboro bike commuters, Mercer and Middlesex counties, as well as Princeton and Plainsboro have all adopted Complete Streets policies – click here to see everyone in New Jersey who’ve adopted Complete Streets.

Significant improvements have also been made to onstreet bike lanes in West Windsor, which are beginning to form a network. Steve mentioned staying out of the “door zone” of onstreet parked cars on Harrison – Princeton’s shared lane pavement markings (“sharrows”), including on Harrison, guide cyclists (and notify motorists) to the safe lane position away from cars. Plainsboro continues to extend it’s network of paved multi-use paths. The League of American Bicyclists have designated West Windsor and Princeton Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Communities, and Princeton University earned New Jersey’s first Bicycle Friendly University award.

As you read Steve’s article, what do you notice has changed? What has not?

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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