The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

May 8, 2009

May is National Bike Month. Will you give biking a try?

I love my bike. In fact, I’m itching to get out and get on it right now, so this post will be short and sweet. After writing posts about driving, walking, and taking public transit, I’ve saved biking for last because it’s become my favorite. Which is funny since until I got this bike in July of last year, I was afraid of the two-wheeled beasts.

I mentioned two days ago that my community is great for walking. It’s also great for biking, Oakland being included in the U.S. Census’s Top 10 Cities for Biking. (Portland is Number One. Kansas City, MO is last.) And now, there are financial incentives to commute by bike: this year, the The Bicycle Commuter Act went into effect. You can get Commuter Checks through your employer to reimburse bike commuting expenses.

Ironically, commuting is the one thing I don’t do on my bike… since my job is 18 miles away across the bay. But I run errands, grocery shop, and do pretty much everything else.

(Okay, before anyone freaks out about the fact that I’m not wearing a helmet in these photos, please know that I usually do and that this day was an exception. I had my friend Manuel with me recording video all day and wanted my face to show. Okay, it’s a lame excuse. Sometimes you just want your hair to blow in the breeze. Don’t try this at home, kids. It’s dangerous.)

As I mentioned, May is National Bike Month, and May 15 is Bike-to-Work Day. (Note: I just learned that here in the Bay Area, Thursday May 14 is Bike to Work Day. So check with your local bike advocacy group for the correct date.) I’m going to participate by riding my bike to the BART station as close to the Bay as possible, taking my bike on BART, and then getting off a few stations before then end to ride some more. Bikes are generally always allowed on BART in any car except the first car of the train and except for a few trains during rush hour, when there is a shuttle instead to get them across the bay. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about taking a bike on BART.

Our buses out here have bike racks on the front as well, but so far I haven’t had the guts to try them. Besides, anywhere I would take a bus out here, I could just as easily ride. Unless, of course, I get a flat tire. I’ll deal with that when it happens. (Crosses fingers that it won’t happen — EVER. Which is like hoping my hard drive will never crash, right?)


Of course bikes are great for the environment because they use only human power and are made from way fewer materials than cars, right? Still, as with walking shoes, there are ways to lessen our impact further still.

Buy a Used Bike.
In another “Do as I say, not as I do” moment, I’m going to suggest that it’s a good idea to look for a used bike. I personally didn’t do that, as I discussed in my original post in July. After several failed attempts at riding bikes that Michael had found and fixed up for me, I finally realized that if I was actually going to ride a bike, it would have to be one that fit me perfectly. And that bike turned out to be a brand new Giant Suede DX W. But if you are less picky than me, check out Lighter Footsteps’s article, How to Buy a Great Used Bicycle, which explains what to look for while shopping.

As far as your helmet goes, it’s not recommended to buy a used helmet for the same reason parents are discouraged from buying used child safety seats. The helmet could have been in a crash and have internal damage not noticeable upon inspection. This article explains the reasons in more detail. A bike helmet is new plastic that could save your skull.

Donate/Recycle your old bike. Don’t let your bike end up in a landfill at the end of its useful life. Donate it or find a bike recycling program. Here is an article on Bicycle Recycling Programs the U.S. Or do a Google Search on Bicycle Recycling.

There are a few companies that will take back used tires and innertubes and downcycle them into other products. Splaff Flopps will turn old innertubes into flip flops. Send them to SPLAFF, 4950 Del Mar Ave, San Diego, CA 92107. Alchemy Goods turns inner tubes into purses and other accessories. Contact them to find a bike shop in your area that will take back your old inner tube. NOTE: Neither company will take tubes filled with green slime! (Green slime is a flat protection fluid in some bike tires — like mine, unfortunately.)

Green your vacation: make it a Bicycle Adventure.
The Adventure Cycling Association has a great list of resources for vacationing via bicycle rather than car or other modes of transportation. Have you ever considered taking a bike trip rather than simply riding around town?

Advocate for Bike-Friendly Communities. My local bicycle advocacy group is the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. Find other U.S. and international bike advocacy groups here and learn what you can do in your community to push for safer streets and bike routes. And as I mentioned in my post about walking, contact your legislators to support the Complete Streets Act of 2009 “to ensure that all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users as well as children, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities, are able to travel safely and conveniently on streets and highways.”

Great resources for finding bike routes, clubs, advocacy groups, maps, repair shops, lessons, retailers, basically EVERYTHING BIKE is the League of American Bicyclists web site.

Okay, that’s all I have to say about bikes for now. I’m off to ride mine. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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14 years ago

I blogged about bike helmets ages ago and while researching I stumbled on a slide show of celebrities on bikes. About half of them were without helmets. There was an inverse relationship between niceness of hair and helmet usage.

14 years ago

Rosa has some good points. Traveling the roads by bike has made me a safer driver, and driving the roads by car has made me a safer cyclist.

14 years ago

It makes me so sad to hear people say they're going to keep driving their cars until there are fewer cars so it's safe to ride a bike…

It's worth it to at least try biking a few times – the world looks a lot different from out there. I bike, bus & drive, and I think every driver should have to bike sometimes just to keep in mind what the world looks like from outside the car windows. (And bikers should pay attention from inside cars, too – it's amazing how bad the visibility from inside a car is, it makes the need for lights & bright colors way more obvious.)

p.s. i've been hauling my son around in a trailer since he was 18 months old, and our worst near-death experiences have been while walking across streets with walk lights, because drivers don't look before they turn with a green light – i've never had a near-death experience while hauling the trailer. It's big & yellow and drivers notice it.

14 years ago

I haven’t been biking ever since I moved away from Canada. Basically we have been living in areas where we wouldn’t feel safe letting our teenage kids ride and me biking would make for a constant reminder of what they are missing. Also even a run of the mill bike spill and hospital visit would cost more than a year’s worth of bus rides.

14 years ago

My husband guest-wrote an article on my blog last year about how to buy a used bike. As a former bike mechanic, he’s got some good advice. His primary bike, the one he used for the Xtracycle attachment, was purchased used from a bike shop. He built his other bike as well as my Xtracycle long frame bike from scratch.

14 years ago

FB – what about the new bike path on de Maisonneuve? I take it regularly & love it.

I bike to work on non-rainy days for 6 months of the year. Yay bikes!

14 years ago

I just want to thank you for the links in this post. My family and I am moving to a very small rural area in Florida this summer after living all over the world in cities that have been amenable to biking/walking and others that haven’t. This move is our final and I am hoping that we will have some influence in making it more biking/running/etc friendly.

Anarres Natural Health
14 years ago

Here’s a great North America wide organization: The Alliance for Biking & Walking, formerly known as Thunderhead Alliance, is the North American coalition of grassroots bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. We unite advocacy leaders to help them become more effective by sharing best practices and innovations. We strengthen organizations through resource sharing and training opportunities. We help advocates create organizations in underserved communities. Alliance organizations are working together to transform communities into great places to bike and walk.

~ We use a bike cart to haul everything from children to groceries, to hardware, through to moving. Bonus – you get to have a big flag!!!
~ We also have a transferable baby seat on the back of a bike.
~ I recommend folding bike racks to the rear for the most weight, and cargo rack in front with brackets to the wheel as a secondary basket. This makes steering easiest.

In a car accident in which there are serious injuries, babies properly strapped in car seats have a 51% chance of survival. This is the kind of statistic that makes you vomit, or wake up screaming at night if you’re a mother.

Most people I know don’t have cars. I do not know any children hurt in cycling accidents. I do know that:
1. My eldest daughter’s pre school friend was brained and severely disabled when run over by a car in her stroller on the sidewalk. Her friend was murdered this way at the same time. The driver suffered a ticket for speeding.
2. My eldest daughter’s best friend broke her thigh in 3 places as a 3-year-old when properly strapped in a car seat and 3 months in traction and a year learning to walk again. None of the adults in the car were injured in the low-speed collision.
3. My ex-neighbours ran over their pre schooler son at the bottom of the street and broke his arm.
4. Two toddlers were killed a year apart on their own front lawns/patios by speeding or out of control drivers racing down the hill near my house before they put in traffic lights.

Maybe we don’t see cars as dangerous or as weapons when we drive them, but they sure as hell look dangerous to me at times.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

14 years ago

An exciting thing happened today on my way to the grocery store: I almost collided with another bicyclist!!!

If I had, I might have ended up in traction at the hospital but I would have had a smile on my face because when bikes are hitting bikes it means we have a number of them on the street.

Why did we almost collide? Because his bike was so quiet I didn’t hear him approaching. But he wasn’t quiet when he thought we might bump into each other. Another reason to bike – you can hear the comments of others clearly, no need for obscene gestures!

On the subject of safety…I’ve put in over 15 years of daily biking in Chicago and suburbs and haven’t had an accident. You have to look at it as you would a car. People have accidents in cars all the time but they get right back on the road. Once you accept it as your mode of transportation, that’s what you do. What I don’t do is listen to an Ipod while riding. Being alert is job one.

14 years ago

LOL I got to bikes for about nothing. OK Near nothing. One is too tall for me, the other doesn’t have gears (is a single speedd) and too hard to ride as I puff my fat ass around. LOL I need one of them thar fancified bikes like you got. And yes I were a helmet. When I ride the scooter as well. I need something for them to scoop my brains into in case of an accident.

14 years ago

I never realized it until now, but we have very similar commuting habits! I even have a Giant bicycle bought around the same time that is so insanely comfortable compared to most other bikes I’ve been on. I live in LA near a subway station and I take the train to work in Pasadena every day. Even before I got rid of my car, I was riding the train daily and walking around a lot. Once I bought a bike, I worked toward doing all of my weekly errands by bike. When the opportunity arose to get rid of my car, I took it! As an additional bonus, my total monthly transportation costs are $0 unless I need something for my bike or if I need to travel someplace further away. My work subsidizes my train pass and all of my bike and related items were paid off in a short period of time when compared to a car and related payments.

Now I do most of my non-work commuting by foot, bike or in rare instances, bus/train/car rides from another person. Even though all method of transportation have their high and low point, I prefer biking and walking. I love how efficient, energizing, satisfying biking is while still allowing you to take advantage of calmer and less traveled paths that may normally only be accessible by foot.

Most people in Pasadena and LA don’t even know and haven’t seen all of the parrots and parakeets living throughout the city! The only reason I picked up on them was by hearing their squawks and squeaks while walking outside. I also never realized how close some museums and random attractions were to one another because it’s not so obvious when you are driving everyplace on the freeway.

Going Green Mama
14 years ago

One thing you didn’t mention is that many bike clubs are open to taking old bikes and fixing them up for area kids in need. It’s certainly something to consider, and definitely a good cause!

terrible person
14 years ago

You might have mentioned that we have a bicycle we would love to give away. It’s a 15-inch frame green mountain bike. (26-inch wheels). Everything basically works, though it could use a trip to the shop since it’s been outside for a year and gotten a little wet. Free to the most worthy FPF reader who can come and take it off our hands!

Super Size
14 years ago

Oh, and I should add we tried one of the child seats that mounts on the bike and no one liked it. Much easier to lose balance that way if he starts wriggling around. Also, the trailer makes DH’s bike very stable and has roll bars to help protect the little guys.

Super Size
14 years ago

Really glad you posted this. We’re not in a bikeable area and are looking for resources to find a new place to move so your links are perfect!

Deborah – you might try one of the trailers for kids. My DH pulls our 16 month old and says he hardly notices the extra weight. DS loves to ride that way too, and it has a good cargo area for groceries, etc.

14 years ago

I wanted a bike for my birthday -didn’t get it this year. So, I’ll be getting one for myself :-) But I won’t be able to use it for many errands. Not because Marin isn’t bike-friendly or that I don’t live close enough to shops, but I take my 22 month old on errands. I suppose I could get one of those kid attachment seats for up front, but I haven’t been on a bike in years and I am nervous enough to ride alone with some bags in a basket, never mind risking the safety of my child. Unfortunately having a child in the suburbs requires car transportation and child safety seats. I will have to offset my footprint in other ways until he’s older.

14 years ago

I, unfortunately, will not be riding a bike at any point during National Bike Month. As I live in LA, in which there are over 3 trillion cars (yes, that is an accurate statistic… inside my head), I’m sorry, I’m just too freaked out.

I WISH WISH WISH I could ride a bike not just for environmental reasons but also because then a) I could spend less on my car and b) I could eat WAY more junk food!!! but I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. I tooled around online to find reassuring statistics and could not find any. Although technically, the statistics for fatalities per billion miles are higher for cars, the statistics for injuries are higher for bikes (which makes sense intuitively, as well). Also, I figured if I started biking short distances and continued driving long distances, I’d actually be compounding my risk: more car fatalities happen at higher speeds, i.e. on the freeway.

What really drove it home was the fact that this one bike activist–who was majorly into safety and proper bike driving–was KILLED in a bike accident!!!! I’m like, if THAT guy got killed biking, then I don’t stand a chance. While in a way, the environment is more important than my own selfish survival, I just gotta draw the line here. I’m a wuss.

So until LA makes PROPER bike lanes (i.e. not the three foot wide ones that run between parked cars and moving traffic–COME ON), as they supposedly are for the Expo line currently in the works, then I refuse to bike. If anyone has any problems with that, then please, argue me into it. I’m at

14 years ago

Even though you’ve tried to pre-empt my getting freaked out by your not wearing your helmet, I’m still going to. Sorry, can’t help myself…(I’m a doctor) and it’s because not only are you putting yourself at risk by not wearing a helmet (which is bad enough, we like your brain!), but you are putting images of yourself out there in the media (via blog and a video?) without a helmet. Also, you’re riding down the street where others will see you being photographed and videotaped without a helmet. In short, this sets a blazingly bad example for other bike riders, many of whom are kids. Please please please please please wear your helmet. If not for yourself, or for me, or the kids, then do it for your cause! You need an intact brain to continue this important work. Ok, I will now dismount from my soapbox. Thank you.

14 years ago

I love to bike but hate MY bike. I want one that weighs ess than me and has basket ability like yours!!
Couldn’t you wash the slime out and then recycle it? Disposing of the stuff properly of course!

FB @
14 years ago

I am starting to love my bike as well. Biking to the grocery store and just around town is great, except if I want to go downtown, I take the subway… it’s just too dangerous with the way the Quebeckers drive here in Canada. :(

Other than that, extremely freeing, great exercise and fresh air.. and FREE :D