Dr. Bikelove

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Road
by Bruce Rosar

Q & A #1

Question from Concerned in North Raleigh:

I cycled in Houston since 1974, and I’m familiar with Forester’s “Effective Cycling” advice.  Still, the shift from flat, straight, wide Houston roads to North Raleigh’s hilly, winding, narrow roads has increased my anxiety regarding drivers’ over-the-hill visibility and stopping.

I’m thinking that a streamer on a tall, thin pole would help http://www.catchthewind.com/windsocks/antenna_spinsocks.html

Beyond the basic “Effective Cycling” stuff, are there things cyclists can do to further reduce even the rare incidence of “motorist overtaking” collisions?

Answer from Dr. Bikelove:

Being predictable is the best precaution that you, as the operator of a bicycle (or other vehicle), can take to avoid having someone violate your right of way.  Other road users need to notice your vehicle before they can begin predicting what your path will be.  Merely being visible isn’t sufficient; you need to be conspicuous (“obvious to the eye or mind”) enough that other road users will recognize you and your vehicle as something that they may need to give way to.  Apparent motion, shape, and the light from your vehicle are all factors that affect conspicuity.

Conspicuity can be improved with a flag attached to a pole.  When evaluating pole mounted bicycle flags, consider these factors:

Pole flags designed specifically for bicycles are available commercially.  Here are some pages for bicycle flags that I just happened to come across on the web:

Q & A #2

Question from “Sponsor” in Chapel Hill:

Hi, I am sponsoring an event in Chapel Hill. I will have a display for promoting biking, so can I get any handouts on cycling safety? Thanks!

Answer from Dr. Bikelove:

There are some informative brochures about bicycling that can be downloaded and printed from the Internet.  Such brochures can be handed out at events or meetings of any size, and can also be left at stores or given to people that you meet.  These brochures are all:

Fred Oswald, a bicycling instructor, has put together two great brochures. The first one is for kids, and the second is for adults;
“Bike Safety for Kids – A Parent’s Guide”
Tips for Bicycle Driving

Florida DOT has a really good series of brochures, including “Share with Care” and “Seeing and being seen”.  These brochures have a “Local distribution courtesy of” block in which a local organization can stamp their own name and contact info.

BikePlan Source has a brochure with a limited, but important, target audience; transportation planners.  “Improving Local Conditions for Bicyclists” details some simple improvements for bicycling which should be part of every community’s plans.  Most of these improvements are inexpensive and require a minimum of specialized bicycle planning.  They can help ease conflicts and congestion for all modes of transportation—cars, bikes, and even pedestrians.

Q & A #3

Question from “Thinking”:

I’m thinking about commuting by bicycle at least one day a week.  Do you have any suggestions or tips?

Answer from Dr. Bikelove:

Here’s my favorite tip:  during the years that I’ve been bike commuting, I’ve found that being able to take a shower at work is nice, but not necessary if you:

  1. Wait until you stop sweating (this can take a while in warm weather)
  2. Grab a half-dozen or so paper towels and a fresh set of work clothes
  3. Secure a private space (office, toilet stall, etc.) and take off your cycling clothes
  4. Wipe the dirt & sweat from your body with paper towels and your choice of rubbing alcohol (dries fast) or soap & water (easier on your skin)
  5. Change into your work clothes & chuck those sweaty/dirty towels in the trash
The following suggestions were written by Steve Goodridge (who recently bought a bike trailer so that he could drop his child off at daycare on the way to work) and edited by Dr. Bikelove (who sometimes bikes to work, but always works to bike)
  1. Keep an extra set of dress shoes and a reversible belt at work.  No need to haul them every day.
  2. If there are some days of the week when you commute by other means, bring your dress clothes into work then and store them (perhaps in a filing cabinet) for use on those days when you bike to work.
  3. If you transport your work clothes on the bike, try rolling (instead of folding) pants and similar items to avoid wrinkles.
  4. Store a complete set of clothes (including underwear) at work in case you forget to pack something.
  5. Keep your hair short for easier grooming and less sweat buildup.
  6. If your workplace serves breakfast, you can start your commute earlier by eating there instead of at home.
  7. Fenders can be a real blessing in the rain; soaking your favorite road bike lacking fenders will require a re-lube and can accelerate rust and wear.  Watch the forecast before choosing your equipment for the day’s ride.
  8. Showering before the ride can reduce your stink when you arrive at work – assuming you use clean cycling clothing, which you should.
  9. If you travel in the dark, use a good set of lights and reflectors.  Commuters are among the most courteous drivers on the road, but you shouldn’t expect them to see and avoid you in the dark if your lights aren’t on.
For many more suggestions and tips about bike commuting in the Triangle (and other places), check out the Triangle Roadway Bicycling Links page

The Doctor is in (the newsletter).  Send your questions about cycling on the roads via email to Dr. Bikelove, c/o Bruce Rosar [email protected].  The Doctor will answer selected questions in future columns.

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Last Revised 5/ 5/07