For novice urban-dwellers and scaredy cats, city biking can be, to quote Aladdin, a whole new world.
But given the financial and health benefits, many opt to commute on two wheels.
Many novice bikers learn lessons the hard way: on the street. Luckily, you don’t have to.
Here's a shortlist of tips for biking in the city, whether you're fresh off your training wheels or a Tour de France veteran.
1. Bike lanes, a love/hate story
Bike lanes. The city’s designated space for the two-wheeled among us. Often these bike lanes are completely separate from the street. If not, they have large speed bumps to separate the cars from the bikes. More heavily-trafficked areas might even tout stop lights specifically for the bikers.
That said, not all bike paths are created equal. Often times they start … and then they stop. And there you are at an intersection, fumbling to get to one of the two undesirable options: street or sidewalk. Neither option will make you popular. More on that in #3.
2. Be nice to other bikers and they’ll be nice to you… mostly
It’s true. Maybe it’s our collective good vibes as cyclists, or maybe all of our love for the planet via our reduced carbon footprint is making a difference in our moods. But while the cars are a-beepin’, we bike nerds are sayin’ “No, you go ahead.”
Exceptions, of course, occur. Your more intense bikers zip right past you in a fit of “I am a Lance Armstrong protegé.” Once, when I accidentally entered the opposite direction’s “lane”, the gentleman took it upon himself to hit me in the backpack in order to let me know.
You stay classy, grumpy man.
3. Know that everyone else hates you
Be it at rush hour, the middle of the day, or the evening lull, pedestrians and cars alike want nothing to do with you. (Still waiting to hear back on the rollerblading and hoverboard enthusiasts.)
No matter what, you’re in the way, obnoxious, or both. Cars believe the street is only for cars and people trying to clean your window, and pedestrians would like the sidewalk to be reserved for walking and taco carts only, got it? Don’t even get me started on the street performers.
Over all, just try to be respectful. People might at least recognize the effort.
4. U-Lock or Bust. Literally.
If there's anything that thieves salivate over, it's beautiful metal transportation devices that are ripe for the picking on many a street corner. Naturally, these crafty robbers will probably eye your bicycle at some point.
This means that you need a LEGIT lock. None of those janky ass chains that some wire cutters can tear apart faster than you can say “Hey, that's MY BIIIIIIIKE!”
Get a U-lock. Period.
In addition to having the Cadillac of locks, always be smart about where you’re parking your beloved transport. If you can, look for the bike racks that are attached to poles, and not those sketchy wheel ones that a couple of guys could unbolt and carry off. Make sure you lock around the frame, and not just the wheel, unless you’re into replacing that kinda of thing.
5. Love your bike.
Like a pet or a significant other, bikes need maintenance. A little oil on the chain, pumping up the tires when they’re feeling low, a sweet serenade at sunset…What was I saying?
Oh, yes. If you become a frequent biker, you will soon realize that your bike needs some love and tenderness so it can keep getting you where you need to go.
Pay attention to any clicky-clicky sounds, go easy on those speed bumps and find a guy at a bike taller that you know you can trust for any repairs (a patched flat tire will cost much less than a new tube, but many won’t tell you that). Get on a first name basis with the attendants at the gas stations when you go get some free air. Sing to it at night.
You know, normal stuff.
One important detail: bikes change your life.
They tranform drab routines into endorphin-filled adventure, and by consequence, improve your mood and overall well-being.
Biking around the city makes commutes infinitely better. Breathe fresh (ish) air. Get exercise. Save money. Feel, on the whole, much happier.
Sunshine, endorphins and extra cash in the pocket do indeed, a content person make. Plus, riding bikes is fun.
Got more tips, fellow biker? Share your knowledge nuggets below.
See you on the street!
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.