22
May
09

A new direction

After a lot of thought, and several failed attempts, I finally decided to put my money where my mouth was, and become a cycling commuter. Here’s a photo of my new rig, but the co-pilot had taken off for a quick pre-ride squirt.

How to get from here to there and back again.

How to get from here to there and back again.

The route that I take to the JCC is almost 7 miles exactly, and I’ve done the out & back twice thus far this week. I’m hauling the dog in the front basket, and two panniers on the side, complete with my laptop, ipod for classes, and a u-bar lock, which I haven’t needed thus far. The route takes me past Northpark Mall, via Boedeker, and while I was nervous about the way I would be received, thus far, over 28 miles, on and crossing several busy streets, I haven’t been honked at or hazed once.

The question is, WHY?

Well, let’s look at some things about the route, the bike, and my behavior.

First, the route. I am taking the Katy Trail up to it’s (current) northernmost edge, then bearing left on Airline to SMU boulevard.

Home to JCC and back

Home to JCC and back

Once there, I travel through the University edge, where there are some great neighborhoods and mild traffic. Once I”m across Lover’s Lane, there are STOP signs every intersection, so that’s a good traffic control device. Once I get on to Boedeker at NW Highway, however, it’s a 4-lane road, with very few right-turn neighborhood entrances or exits. North of Walnut Hill, the road is absolute crap, but again, traffic has ways to pass me, since it’s as wide as a boulevard up that way. North of Royal, things continue to be well-spaced out, and my right-hand turn on Northaven is similarly wide. Here’s a map. I’ll try to shoot photos, but honestly, I’d rather focus on cycling and not dumping my dog in a tipover.

The bike is a Gary Fisher Simple City 8, with an internal hub for shifting. It has fenders, two fat tires with built-in reflectors, and a small self-centering spring on the front wheel. The bike with gear must weigh close to 40 lbs, and I’m extremely upright. As such, it’s certainly NOT a speedster. Instead, it’s a true cruiser-hauler, and while I’m sure there are people with more effective bikes for schlepping, this one was the right one for my needs, my budget, and my tastes. On the rear, I’ve placed one of my Dinotte 200 lumens Blinkies, which is daylight-viewable, and on the front, I’ve temporarily placed a Cateye to comply with the law. However, on my helmet is my front-blinking Dinotte, which will give retina burn to anyone who stares at it long enough. The front is amber, but I may switch to white so I can see when the evening light is darker.

I wear this headlight and helmet combo at all times, and I am always making sure that the batteries are freshly charged. My average speed thus far? 12-14 miles per hour. When I’m on the road, I act, and ride like a citizen. The bike is not terribly maneuverable, and it’s heavy, but it is stable enough that I can use my hand signals when and where appropriate. MOST importantly, I’m going out of my way to act like my fellow motorists. That means riding with intent, signalling in advance, being polite with others (I smile a TON), and putting both feet down when I get to intersections, and waiting my turn. There’s no darting and dodging, hot-dogging, or cutting through. It’s all steady cycling.

I also carry a cold water bottle for myself and the dog, and I keep my cell phone in a zippered pocket, though I never pull it out, even if it’s ringing.

I think this all adds up to sensible urban cycling, and I’m excited about sharing this and other rides with you as I go about mitigating my driving.

One other thing. I’ve been trying to figure out just how much money I’m saving, per-mile, by riding instead of driving. It’s been a little tough, but there are some calculators out there on the internet, and based on those, I’m going to use $.90 per mile. So that means, when you add up gas, tires, oil, taxes, insurance, and depreciation, that’s what it costs me to drive per mile on a regular basis. It may go up, it may go down, but I think it’s a decent number to start with, so I’m going to use it until I can research this some more.

The bike cost about $1000, give or take, so I’m going to ride to proverbially pay that off first, then I’ll start blogging lunch, dinner, extra money for travel, etc. I don’t expect to completely replace my car, but I do think I’ll be able to lower my miles in the second half of the year, and maybe go 2 weeks between fillups. Right now, I’m at $25 over two days, so we’ll see how long it takes to come back up to zero.

Wish me luck, and feel free to provide comments or suggestions as you see fit.

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2 Responses to “A new direction”


  1. 2009/05/22 at 5:36 pm

    Very nice! Great color, too!

    • 2009/05/22 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks, P.M. The color sort of came in a “Any color you want, as long as it’s this one”. BUT, I also purchased one for my wife, and IT has a cream frame with faux Celeste (sorry, Bianchi) colors on the rims and basket.

      This evening was Amy’s maiden voyage, and we took the bikes, with the dog, from our house down to Pastazio’s Pizza.

      This is the thing about getting bikes for ‘around town’ cycling. The trip took us all of 5 minutes, we had no trouble with parking, we had nary a nasty stare or honk taking our lanes, we followed the rules with our behavior and intent via signalling, and by golly, IT WAS EASY.

      For those who don’t already know – PM is the Dallas Guru for all things related to Urban Cycling. He’s been an Apostle for the calling, preaching to any passers-by, and I think now, in this economic climate, his message is creating converts, myself being one of them.

      More rides to more places for more reasons in more conditions will lead to MORE respect, and MORE cyclists. Amen.


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