Posts Tagged ‘commute’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Changing Gears During SafeTrack: Folding Bikes Can Ease Your Commuting Woes

by Stephanie Tsao

Has WMATA’s latest surge stirred your last wits? If you’re like me, you may have let a few packed trains go by before you found one with enough breathing room.

As the weather improves, I have watched cyclists zipping past with growing interest. Those Capital Bikeshare stands are tempting, but I never seem to remember my helmet. Thanks to SafeTrack, I decided to try out a few folding bicycles.

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Depending on the brand, folding bikes average between $200-$1,500 for beginner bikes. The draw is that they can fold to fit in a trunk or under a desk, making them an affordable commuter option with less burden.

Before I tried, I was dubious. You see, folding bikes are smaller than your average bike, and my initial concern about them is how stable they feel when ridden. I have been biking for three years on a road bike, which have skinny tires and curved handlebars to ride smoothly on roads.

In comparison, folding bikes have comparatively short and straight handlebars and small tires, which led me to believe that the frame would result in a rocky ride. To my surprise, they can ride pretty smoothly and handle up to 20-mile rides.

Testing different brands

I tested three different brands of folding bikes.

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Brompton

The London-made Brompton bikes are known by the biking community as the “Rolls Royce” of folding bikes because they fold in three quick steps. A base model with two speeds and no added accessories can weigh 23 lbs and cost about $1,350.

For the price, you pay for the ability to fold in a matter of minutes and the convenience that the bike has mini wheels allowing you to roll the bike along after it’s folded like a piece of luggage.

Brompton bikes are comparatively expensive because they are designed for commuting. The bike is small enough to roll onto the metro, allowing you to duck out of a sudden summer shower. Moreover, you can stow it in your office with less worry of your bike getting stolen.

Tern

Tern, based in Taipei, Taiwan, builds three types of bikes: ones for adventures, touring, and city riding. For the lower price, you get a heavier bike. A basic model for urban riding can weigh 26-27 lbs, a bit more than the Brompton bikes, but the costs start out around $700. Also, the bikes do not come with the convenient small wheels like Brompton bikes do.

One advantage of Tern is that they also make racing models. A gentleman in his 50s told me he completed the 40-mile New York “Five Boro” Tour on a Tern! One of Tern’s lightest bikes for commuting weighs about 21 lbs.

Dahon

The last brand I tried was a Dahon, which is named after Dr. David Hon, a Japanese aerospace physicist who started designing folding bikes after he witnessed the world’s oil crisis in the 1970s. He became interested in other modes of transportation that were less reliant on petroleum.

Some base models are priced as low as $250-$400, but can weigh heavier than other brands. Some models are 27 lbs or more. The models take longer to fold, given their weight.

Other options on the market

Citizen Bike

I never got a chance to try Citizen Bike because they are sold only online. Certain models start as low as $200, but their bikes are on the heavier end, ranging between 26 lbs and 33 lbs. The bike models are named after major international cities such as Seoul and Barcelona, and they are able to fold up within 30 seconds.

Where to test and buy folding bikes in the DC metro area

20160702_143507Not all bike shops sell folding bikes, but those stores with catering to urban cycling tend to. I suggest calling or checking your local bike shop’s website to see if they sell any of the aforementioned brands.

I purchased my folding bike at [email protected] in Fairfax County. Closer to Washington DC, Revolution Cycles and Bicycle Space are just a few stores in the District that sell folding bikes.

Bike commuting isn’t for everyone. Nevertheless, as the SafeTrack repairs continue through next spring, keep folding bikes in mind. They may just bring the surge of energy you need to get to work with a sigh of relief.

Stephanie Tsao is a journalist by day and likes to cycle, garden and write in her spare time. The views expressed in this post are hers alone and not that of her employer.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Biking to Work: It’s Quite Doable

by Catherine Plume

Bicycle commuting continues to grow in the DC area and according to a US Census report, 4.5 percent of DC residents commuted to work by bike in 2013. Only Portland, Oregon “out bikes” us with 5.9 percent of their commuters using pedal power to commute. Commuter biking is fun, hip, and undoubtedly the quickest way to get around town, but it’s not without its challenges. If you’re considering joining the ranks of the DC bicycle commuter brigade, here are a couple of resources and suggestions to make your commute safer and more efficient.

The Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) is a great resource for any DC cyclist, and their lobbying efforts and advocacy have contributed to the development of bike lanes across DC. While bike lanes undoubtedly add protection for cyclists, cycling in traffic – even in bike lanes – requires confidence and respect for other cyclists, pedestrians, and the ever present motorized vehicle. WABA offers adult education classes for city cycling, and they’ll teach you how to change a flat. They also have youth classes cycling education rides. As a WABA member, you’ll receive a 10 percent discount at many DC bike store. Support WABA – it is your DC Area cycling friend!

Cykel

If you’re in the market for a commuter bike, there are a few things to consider. Fatter tires and wheels can cope with potholes and curbs better than skinny tires, but they will slow you down. Hybrid bikes offer a great middle of the road option. Investing in flat resistant tires and/or tubes will cost you a bit more, but are well worth the investment. A bike with a chain guard will save your pants, tights, leggings and shoes from grease spinoff while a lower or no top tube will prevent (or at least minimize) your skirt or dress from blowing up as you ride. Reflectors and lights (front and back) are a must for cycling at night and a helmet is de rigueur ALWAYS. A basket, rear rack and water bottle cage are handy accessories that will make your ride more enjoyable and practical.

Capital BikeShare bikes are great for city cycling, and meet most of the criteria outlined above. Depending on where you live or work and the time of day, finding a bike or an empty docking station can be a challenge. While Capital Bikeshare kiosks provide extra time to find an open dock and a list of where bikes and docks can be found, it can be inconvenient.

Whether you’re bikesharing or riding your own bike, plot out your route before you set out. DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) provides an online bicycle map. Opt for a route that will keep you in bike lanes as much as possible. Stay alert! Do you really need those earbuds in your ears when you’re cycling? Use hand signals to indicate turning and stopping. Everyone – cyclists, pedestrians and motorists – will appreciate this! Let fellow cyclists know that you’re passing them with a friendly “on your left” as you come up behind them. While you’re at it, acknowledge other cyclists when you’re at a stoplight. Make a new friend.

Think about where you’re going to park your bike once you get to work. Does your office provide bicycle parking? Invest in good bicycle locks. Thieves LOVE cable locks as they can cut through them in a pinch. A good U-lock or the new foldable locks are expensive, but they’ll thwart the thieves!

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Looking fresh once you get to work can be a challenge, especially with DC’s hot and humid summers. See if your office has a locker room or a shower for cycling. Keep makeup, towels and work shoes at the office so you don’t have to transport them back and forth every day. Keep some grease remover, hand sanitizer, and a small first aid kit handy just in case. If you’re biking in a skirt or dress that keeps flying up, wrap a coin in the fabric at the front hem and fasten it with a rubber band. This weighted hem will fall between your legs as you cycle and minimize fly up.

Finally, be a safe and responsible cyclist. When that impromptu happy hour happens and you find yourself a bit tipsy, please don’t cycle. You can put your bike on a Metro or Circulator bus or ask your friendly bus driver to help you. (Thank him or her profusely!). Metro trains allows up to two bicycles per car during non-rush hour times. Folded bikes are allowed anytime.

Biking is a great way to get around town! Do it, and bike safely!

Catherine Plume is a long time DC bicycle commuter. She’s the blogger for the DC Recycler; www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Making Strides: A DC EcoWomen Bicycle Journey

This post was written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Lina Khan, who overcame her fear of biking in roads in honor of National Bike to Work Day

Little By Little


The first time I biked on roads was in my last summer of college in Kirksville, Missouri.

Most students went home for the summer, including my sister. She let me borrow her bike. Since it was a college town in summer, there weren’t many cars on the road, so biking to my campus job or to my friends’ apartment was pretty fun. I could catch a breeze on a hot day – and cut my traveling time in half. After I scraped my bare toes on a brick wall, I just made sure to wear shoes.

But when the summer ended, so did biking. Earlier that year, I bought a bike of my own for $2 at a bike auction – but it was heavy and not easy to carry over stairs or curbs. I decided not to take it with me when I moved away in the fall.

It took me another 3 years before I bought another bike. By then I was living and working in Washington, DC and found Craigslist fairly useful. I finally found a bike with a 15” frame (just like my old one). And this bike was a hybrid – a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike – so it was lighter. I metro’d to Alexandria and paid $150 for it, even after bargaining.

I liked this bike because the pink and blue colors reminded me of a wild berry poptart.

After I brought it home (also on the metro), I promptly put it away in the shed. The first time I went for a real ride on it was a few weeks later. I felt more comfortable with the idea of using it on the streets of DC.

But then my boyfriend suggested we bike to an Indian restaurant for an anniversary dinner (I know, how totally young and creative) in Adams Morgan, about a 10-minute bike ride from home.

We biked through crowded streets and crossed busy intersections, but the autumn air felt nice, and I liked how bright my borrowed bike lights were. But then we rounded a tight winding section of road between parked and moving cars, and I was terrified of running into one or getting grazed.

My boyfriend (I’ll call him Calvin) sped up, and I couldn’t catch up at the speed I had settled on. I got frustrated and pulled over, he doubled back. I said I hated this, we got back on and continued until we finally made it to the restaurant.

For most of it I was thinking how much I’d rather metro or take a bus home—it meant less danger or vigilance. In the end, we walked home with our bikes. Calvin noted, after some self-reflection, that it took him months to work up to biking on busy roads with cars. Also it was nighttime. Also I’m a scared-y cat. I didn’t bike again for a long time.

Fast-forwarding another 2 ½ years to this week, my now husband Calvin offered to ride with me to work so I could write this blog. By I now have my own bike lights and have biked in my new neighborhood to get to the post office before it closed on a Saturday (so five minutes before lunch time because the post office didn’t really want to be open). By this time, I’ve also biked to another restaurant (Thai) and various other places taking trails and side roads, so theoretically I’m more familiar with the whole thing. But I still didn’t know how to use the gears—I kept forgetting. Also I still don’t like riding it.

Anyway, Tuesday morning my tires needed to be pumped (they weren’t as firm as overstuffed couch cushions) and I couldn’t use my bike pump because an old roommate’s boyfriend had run over it with his car. Luckily Calvin had one. So if you’re keeping a tally for bike parts, that’s bike lights, bike pump, and should also include sturdy bike lock, and if it’s a relatively nice bike, tire screws that can only be removed by a special wrench.** We biked from Hyattsville into DC, taking less busy roads that Calvin mapped ahead of time. He took my bike around for a bit and concluded that the short gear on right slowed the bike down, while the longer gear eased it up, and that it was the opposite on the left. When I was on it I tried it out, and started to say he was wrong until I realized I was using the left side.

After a few minutes of riding uphill, my legs got tired and I noticed a sign for Brookland metro station. I was also running late for work. Good thing I’d had breakfast and a full night’s sleep, otherwise I would have felt hopeless. But I still wanted to bike to Brookland instead.

We did.

Calvin noted that I needed to raise my seat up higher, so that my pedaling would cover more ground and I wouldn’t need to work my legs so much. I like being able to put my feet on the ground for emergency stopping, so this will take getting used to.

Since, to be honest, I’m happiest metroing into work, I will give it another try on a weekend, when trains and buses run less frequently. But I still remember how to use my gearshifts, and I breezed by quite a few cars on Tuesday without almost no fear (maybe just a little). So I’d say little by little I’ve made strides. Although it has taken me 5 years to get to where I am, I promise I won’t quit.

**I’m not sure my bike warranted one, but I was living in Takoma at that time and there were 2 bike shops on the same street that promised nice people and interesting equipment.

Did you participate in Bike to Work Month or Day? Tell us your story!

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Celebrate National Bike Month – The Case for Biking to Work

The following is a guest post by DC EcoWomen Board Member Alison Alford

May is the perfect month to ride a bike – it’s National Bike Month, and in Washington DC, Bike to Work Day is on Friday, May 17. The National Bike Challenge kicked off on May 1, with the goal of uniting 50,000 people to bike 10 million miles throughout America. Regardless of the reason, swapping out a trip in a car for a ride on a bike is always a great choice!

Why should we commute by bicycle? According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey“25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.”

The average vehicle emits nearly a pound of carbon dioxide (CO2) per every mile driven, and studies show that shorter car trips release more emissions than longer trips. By commuting to work by bicycle, or using a bike to complete errands, major sources of pollutants are kept out of the air.

Cycling also incorporates exercise in an otherwise sedentary commute, and provides the health benefits of adding a low-impact form of exercise into a daily routine.

More than half of 1 percent of American workers commute by bicycle. That may seem like a small number, but it is growing fast and the potential is huge. A survey completed by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in 2000 found that 41.3 million Americans use a bicycle for transportation, and every year more commuters are opting out of driving to work and opting into cycling. The United States’ 70 largest cities have seen the largest percentage of growth in bikers, with a 63 percent growth in new bike commuters from 2000 to 2010.

Not only does commuting by bicycle save money by not having to rely on gas-powered vehicles, it is also a zero emission form of transportation that is easily accessible to people of all fitness and socio-economic levels. Bicycles cost far less than a car or truck, and other than a good helmet and periodic maintenance, bikes do not incur additional expenses after the initial purchase price.

Many communities are becoming more bike friendly. For example, Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare program has over 1,800 bicycles available at 200 various stations around the D.C. metropolitan area. Many city buses and subway systems allow cyclists to bring their bike on-board, and organizations have the option to apply for bike commuting benefits for their employees. Associations and non-profits like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the League of American Bicyclists offer great on-bike courses to help cyclists become more confident while riding.

Regardless of your reason to bike, be sure to try it out this Friday, May 17 and join your fellow cyclists by celebrating Bike to Work Day!  It’s a fun way to get outside and try a new spin on your commute!

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on The Running Commuter

The following post was written by Dawn Bickett – DC Ecowoman and Running Commuter

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Biking to work is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint while getting exercise. And as the weather finally improves in DC, staying in the sunshine sounds preferable to travelling through the underground tunnels of the metro system.

But what if you don’t have access to a bike? What if you (like me) have heard too many biking accident stories? Or you simply don’t like biking?

As a recreational runner, I’ve decided to try a different approach: running to work.

I began thinking about running my commute when I noticed that I was passing by my office on morning runs only to have to go back home, shower, and return an hour later. Running to work seemed like a logical way to simplify my routine.

Considering trying your own running commute? Here are a few thoughts on the pros and cons:

Benefits of the running commute:

1. Carbon savings. Just like biking to work, running lowers your dependence on fossil fuels for transportation.
2. Time savings. Running to and/or from work saves you time by combining your exercise and your commute. I find that I can get about a half hour more sleep when running to work.
3. Mental health. Getting the heart rate up and blood flowing before or after the work day can be an excellent stress reliever.

Things to consider:

1. How far away is work? If the distance to your workplace is too far to run twice in a day, you can always run one way and take public transportation the other way. However, if you live 20 miles away, running to work simply may not be feasible.
2. Planning ahead. Unless you have a running backpack, it is not easy to bring things with you. When I plan to run in, I bring my change of clothes and shower supplies the day before.
3. Does your workplace have a shower? If not, running home from work may be the only option.

While the logistics of running to work are bit complicated, running to or from the office certainly beats waiting for the metro or getting caught in traffic. The next time you don’t think you can fit a jog into your busy week or your bike needs repair, try it out!