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(new) Urban Bike Commuters, Assemble!

Hi everyone. Longtime co-op member, first-time poster. With my return to my office in Kendall Square in September, I've started to commute in a day a week to get the hang of things before everyone else (including the college students!) floods the roads in the fall, whereupon I'll be doing that 2, maybe 3, days a week.  I've got a Tern Vektron Q9 ebike and absolutely love it.  I'd love to hear people's tips, ideas and thoughts for good gear.  I ride with an REI daypack, a Tern pannier and a Topeak seat bag with bike and tire repair stuff.  And a helmet and u-lock, of course.

My daily commute is a 6 mile ride to the Commuter Rail station, get on the train, fold up the Vektron, get off the train at North Station, unfold the bike, and bike the 2 miles to KSq.  The Boston to Cambridge ride is quite good (especially in Cambridge!), since there are LOTS of ritzy green bike lanes, but, being Boston, other roads are, um, challenging.  I do plan on getting out of the office occasionally during the day to explore on the bike.  I'm mostly concerned about 'doing the wrong thing' while biking and would love some pointers from more experienced folks.

30 Replies

@ntriano 

Thanks for the great question!

I wanted to bump this thread as I am sure there are lots of folks thinking about this topic as the summer progresses. It sounds like you're really well prepared for your commute! As someone who has ridden (and driven) around the Boston area I know the traffic there is no joke! We're going to tag some other commuters here in the community and see if they have some other tips for you:

@jhillis @bikes4days @paultrusty @mchamp88 @islandinthemist @jfk @nealos @Jhames @MNbiker 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
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I commute often in Worcester and have ridden in Boston a few times.

To me, a country boy from NC, Worcester seems big and Boston seems huge and unfriendly to cars and much less to bikes.

The bikes I've seen negotiating traffic in Boston all seem to me to ride like messengers in the movie 'Premium Rush'. Think, gives all cyclist a bad reputation.

That said, (remembering I'm just a country boy in the city) ride with high vis clothing, lights front and rear day and night. Be very aware of buses and large trucks especially at corners. These large vehicles have limited sight lines, are in a hurry and have timely delivery's to make. A bicycle stopped at a corner is the last thing on their mind.

So never stop at a light next to the curb or parked cars. Stop in the middle of the right lane.

This is very important, if you're in this situation and can't get in a safe place get off your bike and go to the sidewalk until traffic is moving again. It's not a bad thing to walk your bike on the sidewalk to a less busy street or one that has bike lanes. Riding as if you were inviable is also a great mindset. That is riding with the assumption that no one will see you and your safety is totally in your control.

Last point, if you're serious and are going to ride your bike only do it on the street never on sidewalks. It's illegal, is dangerous and takes away cyclist credibly as deserving to be taken seriously as a legitimate vehicles on the road.

Great traffic advice, but I can't entirely agree about sidewalks. In some cities, especially in suburban areas with high-velocity roads with no shoulders, sidewalks with few or no pedestrians are the only safe option -- even if it's illegal. Trying to take a lane in these instances is madness. I often think about a section of road I used to bike commute on in Greenbelt, MD. There was no alternate route, no shoulder and cars whizzed by at 55+. There was a sidewalk, however, that I never saw a pedestrian using. Yes, it was probably illegal, but I figured a ticket was less trouble than broken bones or death, or worrying about the credibility of bicycles as legitimate vehicles.

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Great suggestions and tips!

Having ridden city streets much since the 1950's, the best thing to improve my riding safety has been adding a rear viewing mirror on my left of course. Prefer one that mounts into my Trek Hybrid handle bar, but there are many other choices if that doesn't work on your bike. Just a glance without turning my head makes so much sense to me.

Hope this is helpful and maybe saves an injury or two.......

 

 

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@DanChop  @jaq73 @Nfinn @restingbikeface @WeekendWarrior @John @Ekuzco @Sweet-Tater @Susan @advcyclist 

Any thoughts or commuting advice to add here?

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I've just finished 16 months of commuting to work by bike every day, summer and winter in northern lower Michigan, not driving once.  The pandemic and Zoom removed the necessity of occasional driving to out-of-county matters. Sounds heroic, but then the distance has only been one mile until recently.  As of last week, it's three miles each way.  It's mostly in city streets but the last leg is on a regional trail passing through the city that bypasses a high-traffic area.

My winter route may vary, depending on which parts of it are plowed well of snow.  The trail is supposed to be plowed but I'm not sure about timing and frequency.  We will see. Of course, the streets are plowed  but the real challenge for bikes is the brown mush that the cars make of the snow between plow passes--nasty stuff. When I run into that, I just move out farther into the traffic lane.

Here's a question.  The 3X increase in distance has led to some groin area underwear chafe.  I'm a male and generally wear cotton briefs.  The leg bands are what seem to be causing the chafe.  I may try boxers or, if needed, bike touring shorts with a liner.  That would require changing at work (and I'd have to wake up earlier to give the extra change time--boo).  Any suggestions for the chafe issue?

Chris Campbell

Traverse City, MI

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Get some Chamois Butt'r and/or some synthetic shorts/underwear that covers your upper thighs. 

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While you might be well prepared for your bike commute, is your employer? If the employer is large enough and there are some other bikers, I would lobby for employer provided bike racks or lockers and changing rooms with showers so that bike commuting becomes more manageable for those who try it and your employer becomes known as a bike friendly place to work.

aka "Boonerelli"


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I agree with John and will add that the more bike friendly employers we have in our cities the more aware and bike friendly our cities become. This gives us a little more chance to be heard when needed.