Spring is in the air, which means the days are getting longer and warmer, and it’s time to get fit. Have you ever tried cycling to and from work? Not only is it a great way to get fit; you also save petrol, and – for short trips – commuting by bicycle is often faster than sitting in rush-hour traffic. So, Let’s all BIKE TO WORK on Wednesday 7 September 2011.
WHO SHOULD COMMUTE?
Commuting ideally works best for people who have to commute up to 20km per trip. Anything under 10km and you are even likely to be faster on a bicycle than in a car or bus.
SOME LOGISTICS AROUND COMMUTING…
- Firstly, you need to find a safe route: Check if there are any bicycle paths in your area, and use them where possible. You don’t have to duck the cars, and you can move swiftly ahead.
- Be visible: Wear bright clothing. The brighter and more reflective, the better.
- Be careful: Ride as if you are invisible to traffic, until you are sure a car has seen you.
- Always wear a helmet (it has been law since 2004, anyway).
- ALWAYS STOP AT RED TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND ALL STOP STREETS and even if the light is green for you to cross an intersection, look out for motorists jumping the lights. Watch out for other road users at stop streets. Even if you are continuing straight at a T-junction stop street, there may be horseriders or people walking dogs in the area, and by not stopping, you could cause an accident.
What about your work clothes?
The best way of getting your clothes to the office is to attach bike racks and panniers to your bike. Put your clothes in one pannier and your food for the day in the other. Alternatively, get a small backpack.
You could even take some spare clothes to work by car the day before and leave it at the office, so that you do not have to carry too much with you on the day.
If your office does not have shower facilities, try the following: If you have long hair to wash, do so at home. Then have a gentle cycle to work. Cool down first. Take some soap, a face cloth and small towel and have a “wash basin shower” when you get to the office.
Why are we supporting a “Bike to Work” day?
There are some of us that ride to work every day. We enjoy it. We also believe that it makes the world a better place.
While Cape Town has recently received some great new cycle lanes, we need more – by showing that there are many South Africans who would consider cycling to work, we are in a stronger position to lobby for Government support.
Even if you use your car a lot during the day, use your bike on 27 October. Do your closer errands that day and leave the ones that are further and which involves transporting heavy objects for another day.
General cycling tips:
- Ride defensively but decisively: Follow the K53 principles and keep a clear space around you. Make it easy for a driver to anticipate what you are going to do (e.g. stopping your bicycle, turning left or right, etc) so that he/she can act accordingly. Ride in a straight line without swerving unnecessarily from side to side.
- Indicate your intentions and check if the driver has seen you. Preferably get the driver to acknowledge you before turning in front of a vehicle. A quick smile and a “thank you” wave also works wonders…
- Wear gloves. It improves grip on the handlebars, and may save some skin should you get into contact with the tar (most cyclists put their hands out to break a fall).
- Be careful: Ride as if you are invisible to traffic until you are sure a car has seen you.
- Do not ride in the gutter or close to parked cars. Be aware of drivers of parked cars suddenly opening a car door. Ride wide and take the lane if it is not safe for a car to pass you. Watch out for glass on the road, cat-eyes, drain covers, oil, sand etc, which can often be found in the far left of the gutter.
- Use lights (a steady white light in front and a flashing red light at the back) if you ride in the dark, dawn or dusk. In fact, consider having a flashing red rear light at all times, even in the middle of the day.
- Always carry identification with you. Programme the details of your next-of-kin into your cellphone under ICE (In Case of Emergency). Carry your medical aid details with you, if applicable. Have identification both on your bicycle and on your person, should you get separated.
- Do not use an iPod or phone while riding! You need to be able to hear approaching traffic, or other cyclists who may be warning you about a problem. You cannot do so if you are listening to an iPod! Be sensible, and leave the iPod for the gym.
Where may you ride?
- You may cycle on any public road (including a national road) other than a freeway, or where expressly forbidden by law. This means, near Cape Town, that the Blue Route and M5 are OFF LIMITS, as are any roads that are signposted to be accessible only to e.g. official vehicles or goods vehicles.
- The law says you must ride on the left of the road, but that does not mean the edge of the road. Ride a safe distance from the edge to avoid glass, cat-eyes, manhole covers and drains.
Where should you rather not ride?
- Narrow, twisty roads without a yellow lane (road shoulder) often pose problems for cyclists because cars battle to pass cyclists and, when there is not enough space, “squeeze” the cyclists off the road. If such a road is part of your day-to-day commuting road – please take extra care and make sure you wear highly visible clothing.
- Examples of the above include Constantia Nek into Hout Bay; Rhodes Drive
- (Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch); Newlands avenue (Kirstenbosch to the M3); Main Road Kalk Bay, and the like.
Enjoy your commute on Wednesday!