Writing this post based on a request from a friend – hi!
Ok, so biking – I love being out on a bike. Warm weather, cold weather, rain, it’s all enjoyable in its own way. It’s even better with friends!
I also bike quite a bit. When I was in high school and college, bicycling was my main mode of transport. I live in a bike friendly city and prefer it over driving if I can. Having both driven and bicycled many, many miles, I’ve found what works best for me.
The way I approach bicycling is similar to the way I approach driving. A bicycle technically counts as a “vehicle” and defensive driving/bicycling is always a good approach. Cars, bikes, pedestrians, joggers – we’re all road users (to varying degrees) and some general safety precautions will help make that road use more enjoyable.
Here are the basics:
- Helmet. Please wear a helmet, folks! It’s an easy way to keep your brain safer. Brains are important.
- Lights. Front and rear lights, especially if you’re doing any riding at dusk/night are a must. I have both and I also put them on a flashing mode during daytime rides and think of them like running lights on a car – this makes a huge difference in being spotted from further away (the light/motion attracts the eye).
- Rear or front rack to carry panniers/bungee things to. These are a lifesaver. Get that big bag off your back, minimize sweaty back, and have fun pretending your bicycle is a pack mule. (You’d be surprised at the amount/variety of things I can carry on my bike with a front rack/back rack and bungee cords.)
- Reflectors. I like to have the spoke reflectors on both front/rear wheels so that they light up with any headlight/streetlight action. I also have a small velcro reflective yield sign on the back of my rear rack. Y’all, please yield to bicyclists, we’re generally slower than cars and vastly more vulnerable as road users.
- Panniers. I have some panniers/saddlebags in different sizes and shapes (all were my mom’s, she used to be an avid bike commuter). My favorite one has flowers on it and pockets inside so I can store things in sections…
- What I store in my pannier for an everyday ride: flat repair kit (CO2 canisters with inflator, patch kit, spare tube, tire levers, multitool), snacks (toss in a couple granola bars and forget about them til you need them), plastic bag(s) (great for covering seats in rain if you’re locking up somewhere, and they do come in handy), bungee cords, small first aid kit (added a couple ibuprofen), extra socks (biking in wet socks sucks), pads, bandana (neck or head covering for hot/cold rides), pen, plastic utensils (spoon/fork) wrapped in a napkin, sunscreen stick, reflective vest (great visibility for riding at night or along busier roads), and lastly a few fresh facemasks. Depending on the weather I’ll also bring an extra layer, or my bike lock if I’m planning to lock up along the ride. This all sounds like a lot, but all the items are pretty lightweight and fit well into the pockets in my bag. I also prefer to be prepared and have found uses for each of these items while out and about.
Bicycling is both a way for me to get from point A to B and also a moving meditation. By making myself more visible on the road (and following the rules of the road, both in a car and on a bike), it’s a more enjoyable experience as a whole. I regularly pick routes that are designated bike routes, neighborhood greenways, or multi use paths to minimize the amount of vehicles I need to interact with, as a personal preference. When I do interact with drivers, I try to make eye contact to make sure they see me/know I see them, give a “thank you” wave when folks let me cross an intersection, and generally try to be pleasant. I have, however, perfected a passive aggressive disapproving head shake for when cars pass by with very little room, and I’ve only ever had to give a couple folks the finger (if you choose to do this, make sure you have an escape route, some folks view their cars as weapons and will use them as such).
Now, for the less fun topic:
Street harassment! As a woman on a bicycle, there’s potential for twofold the harassment: regular street harassment towards women, and then harassment towards bicyclists. Like I said above, some folks will use their vehicles in aggressive ways, some people just really don’t like bicyclists, or are plain sexist, angry, or think that just because someone is outside means they have a right to their time/energy/space. I always joke that if I go for a ride in the city and don’t A) get yelled at or B) fear for my life at some point, it’s a good ride. And I live in a pretty bike friendly town. Luckily, this has been less of an issue as of late (maybe all the creepers are at home?), and mostly it’s just folks on their phones or not paying attention to the road around them. If you’re queer or a woman (or both), you’re probably no stranger to harassment. Don’t let this stop you from getting out on a bike. I don’t have a solution to it, but I have noticed biking in pairs or groups lessens it (find some biking buddies! Gain biking confidence!).
The pros of bicycling far outweigh the cons. I enjoy having a “go bag” of sorts as my regular bike bag, so I can toss it on there and be prepared for most biking related situations. As the weather shifts towards spring, I’ll be out riding more, and if you’re one of my friends in the area, hopefully you’ll join!