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!