How To Bike More And Drive Less

Whether you ride your bike to work, to school, or to the grocery store, biking is a safe, inexpensive and fun way to get around. It's also good for your waistline and the environment. Instead of giving up your car cold turkey, why not just strive to integrate a few more bicycling trips into your daily or weekly routine? Here are some simple steps to get you biking more and driving less.

Start Slowly

Build up your endurance. Start by biking around your neighborhood for a few hours to see how much you can handle physically. Before commuting by bicycle to work, start out driving part of the way and biking the rest, gradually increasing your distance each week. Bike part of the way. If your workplace is too far by bike, try biking to the nearest bus stop, subway, or train station.

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Pre-Plan Your Route

Pick a route based on your comfort level (number of hills, traffic, etc.). Call your local city hall to see if the Transportation Department or Department of Parks and Recreation have a bike map. Many highlight bike lanes, bike paths, one-way streets, steep hills, and public transit stations. Plan your first trip to the store, school, or work for a day when you have extra time. This will help figure out how much time to allow for travel.

Follow the Rules of the Road

  • Always ride in the same direction as traffic and as close to the right-hand edge of the road as possible.

  • Look out for cars at cross streets, driveways and parking places.

  • Be careful when checking traffic and don't swerve when looking over your shoulder.

  • Always give pedestrians the right of way.

  • Never wear headphones, or earplugs in both ears.

  • Be visible! At night, attach a white LED safety light to the front of your bike or helmet (visible from 200 feet away), and to the back of your bike (visible from 500 feet away), and wear reflective clothing.

  • Follow the traffic signals and use hand signals when turning, switching lanes and stopping.

Be Prepared

  • Make sure your bike is in working order, especially the brakes.

  • Prepare for emergencies. If the weather turns dangerous or you have an unexpected mechanical breakdown you'll need to have a back-up plan for getting home. Most big city buses are equipped to haul bikes these days, so it's always a good idea to have a bus schedule and some spare tokens on you, or at least enough money for cab fare. For unexpected mechanical failures, members of Better World Club members receive 24-hour roadside assistance for their bikes, as well as their cars.
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  • Dress for the weather. Invest in some good rain gear, gloves, and extra layers, to stay warm and dry. Above all, always wear a helmet.

Secure Your Cargo

There are endless types of equipment to make it easier to run errands and commute with cargo, such as shopping trolleys, racks that mount on a bike's back wheel, and trailers that attach behind the bike. When commuting with small children, invest in a child's bike trailer with seats, or a child-size seat that attaches to the back of your bicycle. Make sure they are equipped with helmets.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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