If you are like many Americans, the Tour de France is your annual foray into the world of competitive bike racing. During this time, bike shops will typically see an uptick of interest in all kinds of bikes, not just skinny tire road bikes. In May, Denver South honored National Bike Month with a Bicycle Friendly Driver blog which discussed some laws and best practices for drivers and cyclists to legally and safely share the road. As a follow-up, we felt it might be helpful to provide introductory (or refresher) content for anyone considering using a bike for transportation.

This blog will discuss the benefits of commuting by bike; guidance on bike type[s], clothing, and equipment; route planning and tracking; and bicycling traffic laws/rules of the road.

 

Step One – Commit to Ride!  

The first step is usually the most difficult. Commit to trying to ride your bike for transportation – this could be for your commute to work or a local coffee shop or brewery – the goal is to replace a motor-vehicle trip with something more sustainable.

Bonus: Cycling is good for you. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity each week. So, why not combine a commute with your weekly exercise?

Cycling commuting health benefits include:

  • 41% lower risk of dying from all causes than people who drove
  • 46% lower risk of developing and 52% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease
  • 45% lower risk of developing and a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer

 

 Step Two – Bikes, clothing, and equipment:

Congratulations, you have decided to ride! Let’s talk about bikes, clothing, and equipment.

Bikes: If you have a bike sitting in the garage – dust it off, conduct an ABC Quick Check and start riding! If you’re thinking about purchasing a first bike or getting back in the saddle, there are several, if not dozens, of bike types. The type of bike you have chosen (or will choose) all depends on your personal goals. Visit your local bike shop (LBS)* if you have questions about the type of bike that might be best for you. They can help with important factors like size and fit. Without proper sizing and fit, cycling can be a miserable experience. Let’s get you on the correct size and fit so you can enjoy riding your bike!

Clothing: Ride in anything that feels comfortable!

Some suggestions when selecting riding apparel could include athletic gear with moisture-wicking properties, padded shorts (for longer rides), closed-toe shoes or sneakers, and high-visibility or reflective clothing. Also, in recent years, e-bikes have increased in both popularity and availability. E-bikes can make pedaling easier for the cyclist, which can, depending on your distance from work, allow you to wear work clothing on the bike. This then skips the steps of cleaning up and changing at the office.

Accessories: We love accessories and bet you do too!

Go to your LBS. Accessories are all about preference; each item speaks to an individual rider’s style and personality. Here is a short list of potential accessories riders can use:

  • Light and reflectors
  • Lock
  • Flat tire-changing kit (tube, patch kit, tire levers, and hand pump/or Co2)
  • Multitool
  • Fenders
  • Eye protection
  • Biking gloves
  • Bell
  • Mirrors
  • Rack
  • Bag, basket, or pannier

Bags and Cargo:

Again, how you carry your items is up to personal preference. Some riders prefer a messenger bag or backpack, while others opt to use racks or a basket. Your LBS can help explain the features, benefits, and costs of each option.

 

Step Three: Route Planning

There are several methods for choosing a route. These include Google (or Apple) Maps, your local jurisdictions’ websites, or regional resources. However, in my opinion, nothing beats personal experience. Everyone knows someone who is a “hardcore biker.” These riders have likely tried several different routes to/from the areas in which you live or work, so ask them for help. Every cyclist wants to encourage new riders, so they’ll be happy to help. Another resource is Strava. Strava is a run/ride tracking software that also doubles as a regional transportation planning tool. The Strava heat map shows thousands of cycling trips. These routes may not show up on Google but have been vetted by riders over recent years.

As a [formerly] competitive elite road bike racer, I would consider myself an experienced rider and route planner. I’m ready to support you with potential cycling routes or answer any general questions you may have. Reach out to evan@denver-south.com with any questions.

 

Step Four: Laws and Rules of the Road

It is important for cyclists to remain vigilant when using road and trail facilities. The health and safety of you and those around you should be of paramount importance. Here are a few laws/rules of the road to follow while riding:

  • By law, bicycles are vehicles
  • Follow all signs, signals, and right of way rules
  • Some traffic laws vary by jurisdiction (sidewalks, stop signs)
    • Some jurisdictions, including Englewood in the Denver South region, have adopted the Safety Stop (sometimes called the Idaho Stop) where cyclists can treat a stop sign as a yield sign and a red light as a stop sign; when not in those areas, be sure to follow all laws as you would in a car.
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic
  • Ride to the right as judged safe, or may use full lane
  • May ride side-by-side (two abreast) if not unduly impeding traffic
  • Right of way in the bike lane (July 1, 2020)
  • Drivers must give bicyclists 3 feet when passing and may cross a double yellow line
  • Hand signals when safe
  • Lights (front white, red rear reflector, side reflectors)
  • Yield to pedestrians, announce when passing
  • 15-mph on trails

To reiterate, it is important to remain mindful of everyone’s safety, starting with your own. Ride safely and predictably: increase your visibility when possible (e.g., take the lane) and communicate with people (e.g., hand signals and eye contact).

In conclusion, cycling is a fun, rewarding, and sustainable form of transportation. If more people commit to riding their bikes to work, social events, and recreation, local jurisdictions and planners will add more bike lanes, making it safer for everyone, including drivers. Denver South continually advocates for safe and efficient cycling infrastructure to/from our region because it reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality.

 

*Some local bike shops:

 

Additional resources and works cited:

 

 

Biker on Bike to Work Day with Tents