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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
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    10,957

    Unexpected Commuting Benefits

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    Only very recently have I gathered the nerve to both ride to work and to do urban riding at all. While I still prefer my trails and country roads, I suddenly find myself far more willing to ride places I would have rejected the very idea as little as 2 months ago. I am still cautious, and I am still very new at this, but there is something pretty cool about this process.

    This was an unexpected and unquantifiable outcome of my starting to ride to work a mere once a week, and I am curious if others have found other unexpected benefits of commuting.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    It's been a long time since I've commuted in traffic, or ridden in urban traffic at all, but I do remember that, and I'm not surprised it's happened to you. You have to believe you are a tank. That confidence carries over.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    During the first 10 years of returning to cycling nearly daily, I learned to ride routes that combined both bike paths, bike lanes and just streets with no lanes in heavy, congested downtown areas of Toronto. All of this car traffic, combined with high volume pedestrian crowds pouring out of light rapid commuter trains, subway system and buses into downtown. It does train a cyclist mentally how to ride with alot of cars and people crossing /jamming near around you.

    Much more congested than Vancouver.

    So whenever I go back to visit and cycle in these conditions, it's a slight shock: I used to ride in that type of traffic when commuting? But I've come to appreciate it's easier as a cyclist to ride in congested slow moving traffic vs. fast downtown congested traffic with all 4 lanes going 1 way as found here in Calgary. Just imagining make left-hand lane switches over multiple, one-way lanes, doesn't thrill me at all. (In fact, I avoid it if I can during peak car traffic hrs.)

    As a comparison, Toronto has over 2.5 million people with more people living and working in its core (1 million people working in downtown and midtown, including those from the suburbs). If anyone tells me that dedicated bike paths are useless under these car street conditions, they have to be crazy. A busy bike path is still preferable than dealing with that and also avoid stopping at many more multiple traffic light intersections. Someone counted the total number of traffic light intersections she had to negotiate over a 10 km. bike ride --over 25 different traffic light intersections. But half of her route was avoided through using dedicated bike paths.

    If I didn't combine a ravine park bike path from the suburbs, to join up street route remainder into downtown, I would have to contend with over 50 different traffic light intersections since I had a 16 km. ride one way. (We counted.)

    Even now where I live, I could ride downtown on streets to work since it's very early in the morning and quiet. But that means 10+ different traffic light intersections for only a 4 km. bike ride. So I go on a bike path and only contend with 3 traffic light intersections after getting off the path. It's just so much more pleasant and closer to Nature on a path.

    Calgary has 1.2 million people but less people pouring into downtown to work compared to Toronto.

    It helps a cyclist's confidence to cycle comfortably under common conditions : urban street, country and some dedicated paths.
    Last edited by shootingstar; 05-17-2012 at 04:05 PM.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,957
    Quote Originally Posted by OakLeaf View Post
    It's been a long time since I've commuted in traffic, or ridden in urban traffic at all, but I do remember that, and I'm not surprised it's happened to you. You have to believe you are a tank. That confidence carries over.
    I will remember this: I am a tank, I am a tank!

    We have something called the Cultural Trail downtown that is for mixed use. Here is a photo and here is a website that discusses it. I think that the existence of something like this makes it much easier for me to do this,

    I still won't ride in traffic during the evening rush, but then again, I am quite new to this commuting thing.

    Shooting Star, thanks for sharing your experience. I am having fun considering different routes to and from work, though a few very large sewer projects have really limited my choices until they are finished later in the year. My in-bound route is one I wouldn't consider any later than 5:30am...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    6,132
    You and I have done things in reverse order. When I first started riding as an adult, my rides were mostly in and around downtown Indy, sometimes at rush hour. From there, I started doing club rides that really ran the gammit in terms of traffic. Then I moved to a mostly rural area and have grown unaccustomed again to riding in traffic again. I did an urban ride a few weeks ago and was more unnerved than I expected to be.
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

    --Mary Anne Radmacher

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Columbia, MO
    Posts
    2,051
    Quote Originally Posted by Catrin View Post
    This was an unexpected and unquantifiable outcome of my starting to ride to work a mere once a week, and I am curious if others have found other unexpected benefits of commuting.
    I could write a book. SO many unanticipated benefits!

    One was the amount of fitness I have gained over 6 years of commuting. Just a few miles a day, less than 10 a lot of days, but EVERY SINGLE DAY, turns out to be a powerfully effective way to gain fitness.
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    355

    Talking

    This has happened to me too. I rode to my hairdresser today, after commuting to work. Almost 13 miles total. A few months ago, I would have thought that was insane.
    2013: Riding a Dolce sport compact for fun and a vintage Jetter with cargo rack for commuting

    www.bike-sby.org: A network of concerned cyclists working to make our city more bicycle friendly.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
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    5,269
    I'm MUCH more confident on the roads now thanks to commuting. I feel I'm more aggressive in traffic situations and take the lane or assert my right to the road more than I did when I just rode for sport. I feel like I can handle myself a lot better now than I ever did before.

    Of course, yesterday on my commute I nearly got t-boned at an intersection when a truck with a stop sign apparently thought that the stop sign was optional. I thought to myself "do NOT kill me with 3 days left in the school year- kill me in August- NOT May." Is it weird that that was my first thought?
    Check out my running blog: www.turtlepacing.blogspot.com

    Cervelo P2C (tri bike)
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    1983 Motobecane mixte (commuter/errand bike)
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Posts
    74
    I'm not a tank.

    I'm a tender and fragile being on a lightweight metal frame that amplifies the output of my limited organic power generators.

    When traffic is crazy, I walk on the sidewalk. At busy intersections I get off and cross in the crosswalk.

    Pretending you are a tank puts a lot of faith in drivers to see you and treat you like a tank.

    In all honesty, if a driver hit me while I was riding in a tank, they'd total their car. If they hit me while I was on a bike, they'd barely notice. It is up to me to be the adult in the situation, gauge the risk, and proceed accordingly.

    Don't trust them an inch.
    Existence is empty, but I am full of myself.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    Don't trust them an inch.
    A cyclist really can't trust drivers. We are against a 1 ton machine.

    Besides, nowadays it's the added danger of people on their cell phones, texting, etc. Which never existed 30 years ago. In a sense, driving was abit safer back then.

    For workplaces I've been, since I returned to cycling 20 yrs. ago, I've requested to start work earlier than others just so I can avoid heavy traffic and slide into the work groove in a more pleasant way.

    And leave work abit earlier to beat the rush hour because I started work earlier. Even half hr. earlier makes a noticeable difference to a cyclist.

    So for over 6 different employers, I've started work at 8:00 am, some other employers at 7:30 am. Then I can leave at 4:00-4:30 pm, depending on employer's rules.

    which means I get into work BEFORE 7:30 am to change, get a coffee, etc.

    One was the amount of fitness I have gained over 6 years of commuting. Just a few miles a day, less than 10 a lot of days, but EVERY SINGLE DAY, turns out to be a powerfully effective way to gain fitness
    Quite true Melavi. It doesn't make me a superwoman in the summer immediately, but I was pleasantly surprised for the short very cold winter rides I did several times per week for work and for weekend grocery shopping, that this type of incremental cycling helped me deal mentally, with cycling long hills and longer distances faster in spring /summer.
    Last edited by shootingstar; 05-17-2012 at 08:09 PM.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,713
    I learned to ride in urban Cleveland. Granted, on a college campus, but it was still high-traffic, and spent the next year in a similar area. I rode early in the morning or in the evening after rush hour, so traffic wasn't bad, but it was a lot denser than the trails I've been riding on for the last year. Now that I look back on it, I have to wonder what on earth I was thinking, and how I didn't end up as a hood ornament.

    I'm still not entirely willing to ride on some of the roads around here, because they're high traffic density as well as high speed, and unlike Cleveland, drivers aren't used to seeing cyclists or pedestrians.

    There's a lot to be said for confidence and taking the lane when you need to, and most drivers aren't out to get you, but there are a lot who aren't quite paying attention...
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
    http://wholecog.wordpress.com/

    2009 Giant Avail 3 |Specialized Jett 143

    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    I didn't mean trusting them. Not one bit. Not as far as I can throw them.

    I meant the self-confidence to ride assertively, which is actually much safer. Assertive riding is predictable riding, behaving like a vehicle with equal rights and responsibilities with all the other vehicles out there. It's when you act like a car sometimes and a pedestrian some other times and something that's neither fish nor fowl the rest of the time, that's what not only angers motorists, it confuses the ones who are trying to do the right thing.

    It's as non-subtle a thing as taking the lane, and also as subtle a thing as the message you send with your body language. I don't believe in eye contact (along your lines of not trusting them), I've experienced too many times when someone's looked me straight in the eye and taken my right of way anyway - but the ones who do look me in the eye are getting the message that I will run you over if you take my right of way. Obviously I won't, and couldn't if I tried, but people who see them do respond to that kind of body language message on a visceral level.

    Assertive riding also means trusting yourself. Hesitation costs you precious microseconds in a dangerous situation. Hesitation also, on that visceral level I mentioned, invites other road users to take your right of way and infringe on your lane. Trusting yourself is no different from the "flow" people talk about in competition, where mind and body are totally in sync and you instantly see and execute your next move.

    IMO, it's just as dangerous not to trust yourself as it is to trust other road users. Even more dangerous, honestly, because hesitation can put you in a ditch on your head when there aren't even any other vehicles around.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 05-18-2012 at 02:30 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Oslo, Norway
    Posts
    4,083
    Absolutely. I have seen so many people get into dangerous situations by not being assertive, or by making up their minds too late. Or even put others into dangerous situations. Just the other week I was coming down a hill, and the cyclist in front of me decided for no particular reason to suddenly slow down, waive her right of way and let a car turn in from a driveway into the road in front of her. The driver was looking only at her, and not at me approaching right behind her, which meant that suddenly I too had to come to almost a full stop.
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
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    2000 Schwinn Fastback Comp road bike/Specialized Jett

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    6,132
    Catrin,

    I would caution you a bit about the Cultural Trail. It is a nice thing to have in the city (at a cost of $50 million for a 7.5 mile trail, it darn well better be ), but I do think it poses problems because it is, in actuality, a glorified sidewalk and, as a sidewalk, it poses some potential hazards for cyclists. I'll give you a for instance. If you were traveling east by bike on the Trail as it parallels North Street and approaches Delaware, you could very easily get hit by vehicle that is turning left--and that is totally oblivious to your rearward approach--onto Delaware. And you may have trouble even seeing what that eastbound traffic is doing because there are cars parked alongside the trail, as well as westbound traffic. Some of the streets that parallel the Trail only allow cars to turn left when they have a green arrow and Trail users have a red light, but not all of the intersections offer that protection. I'm afraid that some Trail users who aren't used to riding on the street at all will assume that it offers more protection from traffic than it actually does.
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

    --Mary Anne Radmacher

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,957
    IndySteel - good call on being cautious with it. Depending on the time of day I won't always use it, and I am trying to be especially careful downtown anyway about stopping and looking before I ride out into traffic or cross the street. Out on my empty country roads I am more likely to look "on the move" as it were, but thankfully urban riding is so new to me that I am being extra cautious.

    What makes it even cooler to use it is that my agency was involved in the initial planning stages

 

 

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