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Bike-to-Work Week: Tips For Commuters

by on May 04, 2010 4:00 PM

As the sun sets on Earth Week at Penn State, community members drag their dusty, flat-tired bicycles from the garage to tune up for Bike to Work week and all of its activites. The Centre Region Bicycle Coalition has a slew of events including a bike rodeo and mentor commuter rides for new commuters.

Longtime commuter and vice president of CRBC, Paul Rito, shares some tips if you're commuting to work or class this week. Rito has been biking to work off-and-on for 30 years to decrease his carbon footprint. He says he bikes to work at least 75 percent of the time, and on days he doesn't, he takes the bus. Rito also leads recreational rides around Centre County.

Here are some things to keep whether you're starting out or you're an old pro:

1. Ease in. Rito suggests biking one to two days a week, then building up. "The most important thing is not to make your bike commute, or any bike ride for that matter, so miserable that you'll never want to do it again," he says.

2. Remember it's still a commute. It's not a leisurely ride, so it's not always going to be fun and the weather's not always going to cooperate. Rito says not to get discouraged by a bad day.

3. Check all the routes to your workplace. The shortest route isn't always the most optimal, Rito says. If you have to go an extra half or three-quarters of a mile to go around a hill rather than over it, you can spread out the work and keep an easier pace.

4. Use the bus. It might seem ironic, but take the bus to shorten a long commute. All CATA buses have front
bike racks, too.

5. Do your own version of "park & ride." Rito suggests driving part way and riding the rest for those who have a long commute.

6. When you wear a suit to work, Rito recommends keeping a change of clothes at work for those emergency days, like an unexpected rain shower. (Some travel toiletries are handy, too.)

7. When there's no shower at work, Rito recommends Rocket Shower, a product made from witch hazel, water, a small amount of alcohol and essential oils. Just spray it all over your body and wipe clean with a dry towel.

8. Leave early. If you have a strenuous commute, leave about 15 minutes earlier than necessary to give yourself a chance to cool down and dry off.

9. When you're riding on campus, always yield to pedestrians. And a bell or an "on your right/left" will let peds know you're there.

10. Wear a helmet. "At 15 m.p.h., hitting something will give you a mean concussion," Rito says, "Meeting up with 3500 lbs of metal going 20 m.p.h. in the other direction is a fractured skull. Everything's not
under your control. You won't see or hear the one that gets you."

11. See and be seen. Lights are inexpensive and very beneficial. Rito recommends buying "blinkies" on the front or back of you bike for others to see you coming and a powerful headlight so you can see where you're going if you're commute takes you down unlit streets.

12. Become a weather nut. Most rainstorms don't last all day. If your hours are flexible, take advantage of it by leaving 15 minutes earlier or later. Keep an eye on the radar to avoid getting wet.

13. Dress lightly. Wear as little as possible on your commute and put the rest on when you get there. There are plenty of cycling accessories to carry your stuff. Rito suggests wearing clothes made of lighter fabric, like Gore-tex or nylon.

14. "Street Skills for Cyclists." It's a class offered by Penn State as part of the Health Matters program. Check out the Health Matters website for more information.

15. Use your resources. The CRBC has resources listed on the website and Rito has several ride maps and cue sheetslisted on his website. He also recommends picking up a CATA bus/bike route map at any of the local bike shops.

Alexia Miller is a Spring 2010 intern and a Penn State senior majoring in print journalism. She can be reached at [email protected]
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