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It’s Just Like Riding a Bike

This weekend I rode a bike—for the first time in 12 years! I was worried it would be harrowing, but I got over my wobbliness pretty quickly. Jason and I stuck to the Charles River Bike Path most of the way, but there were a few times that we were actually in the road, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.


Elisabeth Nicula inspired me to do this last year. I’m working towards biking to work like her, but I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with it. So instead of buying a bike first thing, I’m going to rent one a few times and try it out. They’re $30 a day from Cambridge Bicycle. This time Jason and I went to Watertown along the river (13 miles round trip!). Next time I’m planning on trying out the route to work.

(Yes, this is a bicycle-specific Google map. They just added the feature a couple weeks ago.)

We’re pretty lucky. Everything’s relatively close together in Boston, and there are quite a few bike paths, so it’s easy to get around. On the other hand, drivers seem to be unaware of bicycles—if not outright aggressive towards them. Which I’m sure is no news to any bicyclists reading this, but I’ll definitely be more patient towards them when I’m driving.

Any advice for a complete noob? Or any good routes to try? Elisabeth?


Comment from Danielle
Time March 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

1. Since you’re renting, try a few different bikes! I borrowed a friend’s ten-speed and felt uneasy. Then I found my own more-upright three-speed and felt comfortable.

2. MassBike has great beginner’s guides to biking in traffic. I liked this (pdf) and this.

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time March 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

Thanks, Danielle. The rental from Cambridge Bicycle was a city bike, so it was an upright three-speed, too. And it had pedal brakes in addition to a front hand brake, which I liked a lot. And a bell! I think it may be the ideal type for me. One question, though: Do most bikes have chain guards? If not, do the chains get rusty or caught in your pants/skirt?

I didn’t realize you were supposed to ride in a straight line rather than moving over to let cars by when there are empty parking spaces. Don’t they get impatient and crowd you?

Comment from Danielle
Time March 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

a. Chain guard: Get one, unless you want to roll up your right pants leg and look like a bike messenger. The typical commuter recommendation is chain guard and fenders (and lights!), though they make the bike heavier. I’m actually more comfortable riding in a skirt.

b. Impatient drivers: Fuck ’em. 😉

Seriously, I do edge a little over if there are no cars, but only if there’s a clear line of sight from behind and time to edge back out safely. Bike lanes do solve this problem, in my opinion, or you can stick to wider roads such as Somerville Ave. (which will have bike lanes soon).

As a driver, I only get impatient on very narrow roads where the cyclist blocks cars altogether–and honestly, usually at the end of these roads the light is RED anyway, so it’s not like speed helps–and on Prospect St., which is narrow *and* overtrafficked.

Comment from Elisabeth
Time March 23, 2010 at 9:18 pm

1. You look super-cute in your helmet! That’s a feat.

2. Completely agree with Danielle as far as impatient drivers go—though I have noticed drivers becoming more patient.

I have come to feel that being predictable, even car-like, while riding in city traffic makes me feel secure. To me this means owning my spot on the road (preferably on the right side of the right lane, out of harm’s way from dooring) so that I am visible. This is also why I follow traffic laws.

3. That KHS Green that you rented is a great city commuter. Broadway Bicycle School also carries some nice commuting bikes that are outfitted with fenders and chainguards.

4. For fun weekend rides, I LOOOOVE the Minuteman path. Peter and I ride that most weekends in the non-frozen months. There are also some nice rides that branch off of it.

I am so excited that you’re trying out bikes! It’s nice to be carbon neutral but for me it’s just the best and fastest way to get around—and on my bike I feel free as a bird.

Pingback from I Got a Bike!! « Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time April 12, 2010 at 9:17 pm

[…] Green Yup, that’s right—I finally bit the bullet and bought a bike. I was planning on renting a couple more times to get used to it before buying one to ride to work every day, but my friend […]

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