Skip to content

The JBC is On the Mend

August 9, 2014

A lot of you might have wondered at some point, “The JBC’s been pretty quiet for about a year. What’s the deal?”. Well, quite a lot has happened actually. Two main members moved to other cities, three main members had babies last year, and the other sub-members have been involved with non-JBC-related bike events.

This doesn’t mean we’re defunct, however. Merely in a lull of sorts prompted by a huge laundry list of offenses. Er, I mean excuses. No wait, “reasons”. Yea, that’s it. Bear with me while I break it down:

On May 2nd, 2013, Harley and I found out we were pregnant. This, of course, changes everything. For some of you who are parents, we may not need to expound upon that any further. ‘Nough said. But I’ll humor the rest of you…

We planned a wedding; one we couldn’t have pulled off without the help of some incredible friends whose integrity is truly astounding and unbeatable. Again, for some of you who’ve ever planned a wedding, this doesn’t require additional explanation. Just trust me. It consumes your every moment.

The lease to our apartment was going to be up at the end of September, so immediately after our honeymoon, we were on the lookout for a new home. Long story short, and after much debate, we decided to try out Asheville, NC. Yes, we did actually move up northward for a bit. If you blinked, you missed it and many of you probably didn’t even notice we were gone. We moved back to Jax, defeated by the merciless hills and frigid weather as my belly grew right alongside our new-parent worries.

We moved temporarily into our parent’s home and then again into our generous and wonderful friends’ garage apartment while feverishly searching for jobs. It’s around the end of October by now and I’m due early January. Day in and day out we searched for jobs, finally landed some temp jobs, and spotted that pinhole of light at the end of this frighteningly obscure tunnel.

After the job hunt came the house hunt. It took a while to find a property owner who managed to look the other way regarding our temp jobs. Most of the time the landlord is going to insist that at least one of you must have a steady full time job, not some temp job you just landed a couple weeks ago. Thank God for that man.

We moved our stuff, yet again, to our new apartment in Riverside in November and were resolute to finally settle into our own private space once again. My desire to nest was so strong, it nagged at me sweetly, growing louder and louder each day with no possible way to satisfy its cries until around the last month of my pregnancy. By the end of November, I believe we were nearly fully settled and nested. My belly was becoming quite large. Harley insisted we have a real Christmas tree that year because it was going to be a particularly special Christmas for us. I beamed over the idea and we made it so.

I rode my bike through eight and a half months of my pregnancy, even through the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina. I even made it to the annual Riverside Avondale Luminaria Bike Ride in December which was three weeks before my due date. Call me crazy (and maybe I am) but I love riding bikes, even in this Godforsaken “Third most dangerous city in the nation”. I remember riding while obviously quite pregnant through the new roundabouts in San Marco. Cars continued to treat me as if I were invisible. Those two new roundabouts and the new stop-sign-and-stop-light-free San Marco Square still, to this day, confounds and infuriates me and Harley to the point of complete avoidance. We no longer ride bikes nor drive in that area. Motorists still do not always stop when a pedestrian is trying to cross. Whoever decided that a never ending flow of traffic in a residential area was a good idea must either be crazy or hopelessly stupid. I vote for the latter.

But I digress.

My belly endured its final kick and Jonas introduced himself late December, one week before he was due. It came as no surprise to me. His grande physique and relentless kicking were the only signs I needed that this boy was going to insist on coming out sooner rather than later to stretch out those long legs of his. He was a beautiful, beautiful sight. Instantly we felt that obligatory discernment, that staggering love that every other parent has struggled to describe properly. If the reality of “everything changes” didn’t fully sink in before, it certainly did at this point. He was welcomed home by the glow of our Christmas tree.

We narrowly survived the first three months of parenthood. But the abundance of bonding with two of the most important people of my life–Harley and Jonas–more than made up for the lack of sleep. These precious moments were laced with anxiety; we both still needed to find better employment. Months 4 through 6 were full of discoveries for Jonas and the rekindling of the simple joys lived vicariously through our little one’s fresh perspective on life. And thankfully by the grace of God, in that time, we both landed really great and secure jobs.

Much like my womb, our family quickly began to feel the walls of our little one bedroom apartment contract. Our boy had begun the scooting stage. Before you know it, he’ll be crawling… walking even. But our lease isn’t going to be up until November 2014. We figured we’d just have to suck it up until then. That is, until another blessing befell us. And so… yet again… on July 2nd we moved to a sweet two bedroom home, and still within the urban core.

Did you lose count? We’ve moved five, count ‘em FIVE times, since October of last year. Believe it.

At this point, Harley and I keep asking ourselves and each other, “When are we going to get back to focusing on the JBC?”. We’ve realized everything we’ve been doing since May 2nd has only and ever been for the betterment of our family and especially that of our son. Even the attempt to move to a more traffic-friendly city. It was all for our Jonas.

If we want to keep doing right by our son, we also need to be sure to continue to be actively involved in improving the Jacksonville core, namely in cyclist and pedestrian advocacy. As of right now, Jax is still considered the third most dangerous city in the nation. If we want our child to be active and feel free enough to, at the very least, ride his bike around the neighborhood (and we do), we need to get back on the wagon and keep doing our part to make it safer for him.

Now that we’re finally settled, it looks like we can realistically start doing more. We’ll be attending the FDOT Public meeting at the Cummer regarding the new proposed segregated bike/ped path for the Fuller Warren Bridge–the first ever on any of our bridges! I have several PSA billboard designs already created and ready to submit to Clearly Jax. And speaking of PSAs, we’re brainstorming over some ideas for short video clips depicting some of Jacksonville’s most challenging situations for cyclists and pedestrians.

The BPAC and other renowned advocates in this city have already made huge strides in the right direction. But we all still have a great deal more work cut out for us, including keeping the City Council in check about budgets and frivolous spending. We hear about cyclist and pedestrian fatalities all the time. More money needs to be put into driver education and infrastructure if we’re ever going to have a respectable metropolis.

The Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition will be up to our old antics in due time. To those who remained our friends through what has been our toughest, and at once, most glorious year of our lives, you are certainly one of our greatest motivating factors. Thank you for toughing it out with us. We’re ready to get back to work.

In the mean time, and in the immortal words of Harley Henry himself, RIDE BIKES.

 

Revive Downtown Jax. Ride bikes to One Spark!

April 9, 2014

Don’t forget to attend One Spark this Wednesday through Sunday and vote for Community Couriers Jax. They deliver by bike. What’s not to like?! Find out more about CCJ here.

Slide for CCJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JBC Co Founder once again discussing Sharrows in Duval (or lack thereof)

December 11, 2013
Harley Henry, JBC Co-Founder

Harley Henry, JBC Co-Founder

Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition Co Founder, Harley Michael Henry, was recently on air with Catherine Varnum of ActionNewsJax to discuss the missing Sharrows on Riverside Avenue in front of The Cummer Museum to just beyond The Fuller Warren Bridge. These road signals were originally set in place to thwart motorists from ‘edging out’ and/or ‘buzzing’ cyclists on this main artery for pedal pushers within the urban core (and not just merely on Saturdays for RAM goers or Road Training Sessions held on Tuesdays for the Acosta Bridge loop) because of their having to avoid menacing obstacles like uneven manhole covers.

For more information on these road markings please see What is a SHARROW?!

Riverside Avenue is heavily travelled nowadays; for commuters, roadies, pedestrians-on-bikes, and first timers alike aiming to enjoy The Riverwalk. It is not just a section of roadway that bicyclists could afford to take lightly when FDOT/JEA/sub-contractors removed the markings this past August to replace outdated water mains in the area. Especially when there are stories like fellow JBC Co Founder Abhishek barely surviving with his life back in 2011 bicycling next to a JTA bus on Riverside Avenue [precisely in the location where these markings were left unanswered for so long].

{Updated Dec. 11, 2013}

Therefore, we of The JBC applaud the enduring and endearing effort of newsrooms such as ActionNewsJax who continually ask the difficult questions within a city so prone to be lax as Jacksonville has become with regards to its concern and welfare over the livelihood and safety for its citizens, and the daily deadly degradation thereof.

As of now, the Sharrows have already been put back in place on Riverside Avenue (the very next day following the news story going live, thanks to JEA subcontractors) and our bicyclists can once again if seeing/feeling the need to use the entire lane if necessary. Now if we could get JSO to enforce these traffic codes pertaining to pedestrians/ bicyclists, and motorists…Duval just might make it out of the top three for such ap-thy in permitting the most dangerous city streets in America-

There is a way to better all of this; by way of bettering the lack of infrastructure through purely creative revolutionary means, educational awareness and/or community care, and with proper/adequate enforcement of such laws of the road. (PSAs too, but The JBC is venturing there next for our future campaign because we tire of suggesting it with candor to all around but with no resound)

This could thereby revive Jacksonville Downtown, promote it as its center forever via more foot traffic and cyclists once they again feel safe and secured that their town is truly walkable and bike friendly, as every town should aspire towards…[most early burgs in Jacksonville we constructed on a five points radius; like the spokes of a bicycle wheel radiating outward, we should take advantage of these early designs and mimic them and create thoroughfares for people to travel/ segregated paths do work best or let us repaint some of the wide lanes down creating a place for non-motorized traffic and add protective barriers to ensure the livelihood of all...making this town more viable and fun].

I will close with a quintessential ending worthy this very sporadic train of inconstant thread, which is to simply but endearingly say “RIDE BIKES” in Duval.

- Harley Henry

A Pregnant Jacksonville Cyclist

July 18, 2013

It has been a while since I’ve addressed this blog as well as bike/ped advocacy efforts in general. I think it’s safe enough now to tell everyone the main reason for this temporary yielding of bicycle efforts.

On the night of May 2nd, Harley and I were very pleasantly surprised with the very best news of our lives by way of (of all romantic things) urine sample – We’re having a baby!

On May 3rd, I was not so pleasantly confronted with the idea of riding my bike in the “third deadliest city in the nation” while our little bun bakes peacefully, albeit vulnerably, in my oven.

Where before I rode however I wanted – freely and fearlessly – I now find myself firmly planted at the crossroads of Liberation and Parental Responsibility.

I rode the Acosta, crossing over at it’s midpoint despite the risk of speeding traffic peering just above its blind spot. I rode the Main Street Bridge, not usually on the sidewalk, but right on the road, sans shoulder and blind spots aplenty. I rode the Fuller Warren, however, far more often than any other bridge, to get from San Marco to Riverside, where everybody knows your name… or at least your bike. There is no bridge in Jacksonville with bicycle facilities, so I made due with what this city has given us cyclists.

I rode outside the bike lane frequently and only because much of the time you’ll find debris within it, broken glass its predominant feature.

I rode late at night, during rush hour, weekdays, weekends. My love of street riding far outweighed any love of a casual pedal down the Baldwin Trail or a meander through a neighborhood-only route. And I would only and ever ride on a sidewalk, if for only a moment, when it seemed most logical to do so.

I rode fast, made quick, even impulsive decisions, many of which helped squeeze me out of sticky situations with cars or other bikes within large groups sprinkled with novice bike riders who sway and swerve, stop and start, as if they weren’t surrounded by about a hundred other cyclists.

Now.

Now I hardly ride at all and certainly not the way I used to. As my tummy grows, so does my love for this child. So does my resentment for this city’s leaders as a pregnant Jacksonville cyclist. It may be difficult for some to understand why one would ride so fearlessly, pregnant or not. Why risk your own neck? Isn’t it just as valuable as your child’s? Absolutely. But I suppose I did it out of spite, rebellion, revolt, whatever you want to call it. I did it to prove a point – that cyclists belong, that they have rights, and that my alternate mode of transportation is a gas-free one so get used to it. I refused to be a chicken shit, bowing down to the car-centric, distracted-driving-embracing, gas-guzzling, “fuck you, I’m in a car” culture this city has so successfully bred.

I cannot be a rebel like that right now. I cannot be a rebel like that ever again. I have someone else in my life that deserves my presence, my love, my longevity. I have two someones actually. This is my little family now and it takes precedence over my point-proving to all those fleshless, four-wheeled creatures whose grill is of metal alone, not face or feature. Not kindness or consideration. Not decency or logic.

Perhaps I should rephrase the above. “I cannot be a rebel like that ever again… in this city”. Harley and I have been living with the new roundabouts on San Marco Blvd. for a few months now. We live a block away from both of them. There have been too many incidents where we were either walking across the pedestrian crosswalks or riding our bikes within the roundabouts when a motorist would just not stop, as if we were completely invisible. The flow of traffic on that road is nonstop during both morning and afternoon rush hours. Roundabouts in a neighborhood area in a city like Jax (where motorists aren’t educated about the rules) was a really stupid idea. Whose idea was that, anyway? There are kids, pets, joggers, bikers, and elderly people all over the place. This is our neighborhood and the street we live on is cradled by San Marco Blvd. It’s difficult to always avoid that road every time I get on my bike. After being cut off for the umpteenth time in the roundabout closest to our apartment while pregnant, I was fuming for hours.

I’ll ride more often again, after my belly is freed up and my level of physical comfort improves. But to ride so freely in this city? That will always be questionable. I will, from now on, question every move I make in this car-centric city for the sake of my family. That, my friends, is what you call borderline living in fear. And that really pisses me off.

I have never been more pissed off about the idea of riding bikes in Jacksonville than I have been the past few months. If any of you know me, you know how ornery I already was before. With a baby taking every step, every turn of the pedal with me, I am humbled by how much a family can change one’s life. How the tiniest little person, no bigger than 5 inches long, can completely change the world around us. I am hoping it will not be too much longer that I continue to feel that tinge of fear for the very streets I so enjoy riding.

After all… we do intend to teach this child how to ride bikes.

Neglecting your bike for too long may become costly

June 19, 2013

If you don’t properly store your bike, a few things could happen to it that may cost you. I’m not going to pretend to know all there is to know about bike maintenance and so I occasionally refer to Sheldon Brown’s website for information, as well as other sites if Mr. Brown’s unbeatable expertise goes over my head. Check out Sheldon Brown’s bike maintenance page right here: http://sheldonbrown.com/tooltips/index.html

So if you’re treating your bicycle much like how someone is treating a very expensive bicycle that was gifted to him and his staff, you might want to dig it out from under all those boxes of Christmas decorations and old 70s leisure suits, grab some cloth diapers, gentle rust remover, or fine steel wool (don’t use that on the frame), chisel off that 2-inch layer of dust, replace the tires, tubes, and possibly even the rim tape, and help make your bike feel better.

If you’re hanging the bike from the rim, the rim will eventually warp. Hang it from a more sturdy part of the bike, like the frame (specifically the top tube), or just park it, making sure nothing else is leaning on it either. Warping can also occur in different places on the bike if you have a bunch of heavy items stored on top of it or beside it. Those heavy items could be loosening and bending some of the more tender moving parts.

If the environment in which it’s being stored is not climate controlled, and most especially if you’re storing it outside, there’s a good chance the frame and other components will begin to rust or at least corrode. Sometimes that can’t be helped and there are ways to store it in a non-climate controlled environment. You can certainly Google information for that type of storage, but I personally suggest storing it somewhere inside your home.

Tires will go bad and begin to rot as well if it is not being stored in a climate controlled environment.

Be sure to check the chain to see if the lube is still good to go. If not, clean the chain well and dry it thoroughly, then lube it up with some fresh stuff. Also, check the chain and make sure that it’s not too loose or sagging. If it is, repair it. If it’s too rusty and the rust cannot be removed, replace it.

Make sure all the moving components are working properly and are not corroded and getting stuck. If they are, clean them (you might have to take some of these parts off completely in order to clean them) and see if that makes a difference. If not, they may need to be adjusted or replaced.

Check your brake pads and make sure the rims aren’t rubbing on them and make sure that when you squeeze the levers, the face of the pads are completely touching the rims. If they’re touching the tire, or anything else for that matter, you should get them repaired or replaced.

If your brake levers are too loose and they touch your grips or come really close to touching them, get them tightened.

Keep your bike tires pumped every so often, even if you rarely if ever use the bike, to ensure the rims don’t get warped after sitting on flats for several weeks or months.

Little things like that can really make a difference, so that when you’re ready to ride, or you’re ready to give the bike to someone who will use it, it will be in tip top shape and safe enough to ride.

If you’ve suddenly discovered your bicycle has been sitting all by its lonesome in storage for over a year, it’s beginning to corrode, and you don’t care about that bike in any capacity, just gift it to someone who will take care of it and ride it. Especially if it’s a pretty nice bike and has a lot of potential to be loved by someone else.

It’s certainly better than letting it waste away. Similar to what at least one nice, new, custom bike is doing right now here in Jacksonville. :*(

National Bike to Work Day

April 23, 2013

310651422_beb42fdf89_o

National Bike to Work Day for 2013 is May 17th!

I am not yet sure if the City of Jacksonville is going to plan anything special for National Bike to Work Day. In years past, the city organized a place where a large group of cyclists would meet up, and from there, launch to their respective places of business, largely as a big mass, and with police escorts to boot.

That has been proven to be a bad idea. And here’s why:

  1. Meeting up in one spot as a group will surely cause inconvenience problems for all those who don’t live anywhere near that spot. You’re probably going to be late to work and you probably won’t even be able to tell your boss an exact time that you’ll be able to make it to work.
  2. Riding in a large group during rush hour is only ever going to tick off the already extremely nasty, impatient, uneducated motorists here. And ya know what, I would actually completely understand why. They are just trying to get to work on time like everyone else. Don’t make matters worse in the “third deadliest city in the nation” by riding in a huge mass like that during rush hour.
  3. Police escorts are not ever going to be a realistic experience for those who truly commute to work by bicycle. Having someone essentially hold your hand and block traffic for you is not the right way to handle Bike to Work Day, or biking to work on any other day, for that matter.
  4. The police escorts cannot be there for you when you need to ride back home from work. Nor will the huge group be there for you either. You’re all on your own when the clock strikes 5:00.

Kind of silly, isn’t it?

So how about instead, simply ride to work directly from your home, and with a buddy or two if you can. That’s how it works in most parts of the country. It’s not meant to be an event. The point of Bike to Work Day is to have higher numbers of cyclists in regular clothing out and about and visible to motorists who are also trying to get to work. Cyclists wearing regular clothing sends a message to all the doubters out there – “Yes! It can be done! You, too, can go to work by bicycle!”

You CAN actually choose to ride your bike to work if it makes sense to do so. Do you only live a handful of miles away from work? Have you been meaning to get on that New Year’s resolution about getting fit? Do you see a reasonable route you can take to work by bicycle that isn’t going to be too harrowing? Sick of shoveling out huge piles of dough to Big Oil?

Remember, you’re not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic. So get yourself unstuck and RIDE BIKES… to work.

Advice for Novice Bike Riders on “Serious Rides”

PLEASE NOTE: The advice in this article is NOT actually endorsed by me, or anyone from the Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition. I felt the need to list out a few tips and tricks to help make novices feel more comfortable on what I call “serious bike rides”, but I must stress that only YOU can fully educate yourself, and you must accept the fact that YOU ride at YOUR OWN risk.

So here goes…

Firstly, You may not want to make your bike route the very same route as what you take with your car. Get to know the general area between your home and to where you wish to ride. For safer routes to where I need to go, I check out Google Maps on occasion to see if I can find low-traffic roads to ride on.

I’ll use my commute to work as an example: After Google Mapping the best possible route to take by bike,  I then drove on those roads to and from work, finally deciding which ones I could get away with on my bike. I went back on Google Maps a few times and drew out my own personal bike route. The route consists of both high traffic roads and low traffic neighborhood roads, bike lanes, big shoulders, and a short area where there is neither a shoulder nor bike lane with relatively heavy traffic (the only part of my bike route that stinks big time).

Secondly, ride your bike regularly to and from the corner store, a friend’s house, the park, etc. Take long joy rides in neighborhoods but also make sure you’re getting a feel for what it’s like to ride on roads with real traffic. If the traffic is too heavy, too fast, or too scary, you don’t have to force yourself to ride it. Start out by riding on roads that make you comfortable, slowly building up to the more challenging roads. That way, when you’re ready to take a serious ride, such as commuting to and from work or biking to Art Walk downtown, you’ll not feel so intimidated. When a bike rider feels intimidated, they may not be in the right mindset to handle situations gracefully enough. And remember, don’t ride your bike on roads with fast, heavy traffic if there’s no large shoulder or no bike lane.

Third, after you’ve ridden your bike quite a bit in and out of traffic on joy rides, and after you’ve driven on that route with your car a few times, making sure you’re driving that route during the times you’ll be riding your bike, you’ll then be ready to ride that route with your bike, but only during non-peak days and hours. Meaning, take that route with your bike on a lazy Sunday to get a feel for it. See how long it will take you to ride it so that you’ll make it to your destination on time. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time in the event you’re somehow stuck in heavy traffic during rush hour. Also, give yourself extra time so that when you arrive to your destination, you can freshen up and change clothes.

Finally, after getting a good feel for bike riding on the street in general, and getting a good feel for the best route on a bike, you’ll ideally be more confident a rider to be able to handle a serious ride.

Some additional tips:

You should wear a helmet.

Now, the bike helmet option is actually a topic of great disagreement between different types of cyclists. Honestly, sometimes I wear a helmet and admittedly sometimes I don’t. It really depends on my gut feelings about the time of day or how serious my ride is. When commuting to work, I wear a helmet. It makes me feel safer and it is safer. I’ll say this, bike riding is about as dangerous as any other form of street transportation, but that’s my opinion. This is not the opinion of the JBC in general. We are all made up of different cycling types and have various degrees of advice. Some folks may feel turned off to bike riding when they see people wearing helmets. Don’t allow yourself to buy into that school of thought. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a helmet. It’s not going to make you look goofy or totally ruin your hairstyle for the rest of the day or anything like that. All you have to do is pull a brush through your hair after your ride and you’re good to go.

I would personally recommend you wear a helmet. Just be on the safe side and do it.

You could also go to a book store and browse through some bike safety books. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the info out there. A lot of it is useful and some of it is not. Some of it is quite overkill and can turn people off to riding. Just use common sense:

  • Don’t listen to music while riding.
  • Always keep a sharp eye out for cars.
  • Don’t make impulsive decisions unless you’re trying to get out of a sticky situation. Acting in a predictable fashion will help other cyclists and motorists know how to act when they’re on the roads with you.
  • Don’t do something you’re not comfortable with. You’ll experience a bit of discomfort and that’s normal. But if your gut is screaming at you not to do something, your discomfort level is too high in which case you should back off from the situation.

Get familiar with fixing a flat, even if you haven’t had one yet. Most bike shops offer a free or very inexpensive bike maintenance basics class every once in awhile.

Always be prepared with a Plan B. Be familiar with bus routes, have a couple of backup phone numbers, and have the phone number for North Florida’s Emergency Ride Home service (http://www.northfloridatpo.com/cool_to_pool/) just in case something prevents you from riding.

Ultimately, what’s important is that you’re interested in riding bikes more often. If you do it each day, you’re going to save loads of money on gas and you’re going to be more physically fit. Just make sure you feel confident enough to take on your serious rides by first practicing with joy rides. You’ll find the practicing will not be a laborious, boring chore, but actually quite delightful. You’ll discover other things that you can do, other places you can go, on your bike while you’re practicing for the serious rides. You’ll get sun on your skin, fresh air in your lungs, you’ll be getting exercise that’s fun and relatively easy on the body – not cooped up in a boring gym or taking a toll on your joints with jogging.

Just take it slow at first and with time, you’ll discover on your own what works best for you.

Happy riding!

7753899498_96e54d3a83_b

Art BIKE to Art Walk during Bike Month in May

April 12, 2013

Art Walk Bike 1 (general)

It might be safe to assume that Art Walk tends to attract those who live within, or at least relatively close to the urban core areas, such as Avondale, Riverside, Murray Hill, San Marco, St. Nicholas, Springfield, and of course Downtown. But what I don’t understand is that the overwhelming majority are still compelled to drive their cars to an event called Art Walk, knowing full well one will have a very difficult time finding a parking spot, and will also be dodging pedestrians and cyclists left and right as they dart, stroll, and weave all over the streets that make up the heart of downtown.

Did you know that more than 40 percent of urban trips in the United States are less than two miles, but a whopping 90% of those trips are taken by car? Why?

If you’ve got a bike, what say you give it a shot and ride it to Art Walk? The benefits to riding your bike to Art Walk are seemingly endless – exercise, fresh air, feel young again, gas-free, park practically anywhere, pass up all the grid-locked cars, look like you’re really hip and with it, and so on. Just don’t actually use the phrase “hip and with it” as it will instantly negate the cool factor completely.

So map out a few side roads you can take, slap on some blinkies, and ride.

You’ll be glad you did.

Advice for Novice Bike Riders on “Serious Rides”

PLEASE NOTE: The advice in this article is NOT actually endorsed by me, or anyone from the Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition. I felt the need to list out a few tips and tricks to help make novices feel more comfortable on what I call “serious bike rides”, but I must stress that only YOU can fully educate yourself, and you must accept the fact that YOU ride at YOUR OWN risk.

So here goes…

Firstly, You may not want to make your bike route the very same route as what you take with your car. Get to know the general area between your home and to where you wish to ride. For safer routes to where I need to go, I check out Google Maps on occasion to see if I can find low-traffic roads to ride on.

I’ll use my commute to work as an example: After Google Mapping the best possible route to take by bike,  I then drove on those roads to and from work, finally deciding which ones I could get away with on my bike. I went back on Google Maps a few times and drew out my own personal bike route. The route consists of both high traffic roads and low traffic neighborhood roads, bike lanes, big shoulders, and a short area where there is neither a shoulder nor bike lane with relatively heavy traffic (the only part of my bike route that stinks big time).

Secondly, ride your bike regularly to and from the corner store, a friend’s house, the park, etc. Take long joy rides in neighborhoods but also make sure you’re getting a feel for what it’s like to ride on roads with real traffic. If the traffic is too heavy, too fast, or too scary, you don’t have to force yourself to ride it. Start out by riding on roads that make you comfortable, slowly building up to the more challenging roads. That way, when you’re ready to take a serious ride, such as commuting to and from work or biking to Art Walk downtown, you’ll not feel so intimidated. When a bike rider feels intimidated, they may not be in the right mindset to handle situations gracefully enough. And remember, don’t ride your bike on roads with fast, heavy traffic if there’s no large shoulder or no bike lane.

Third, after you’ve ridden your bike quite a bit in and out of traffic on joy rides, and after you’ve driven on that route with your car a few times, making sure you’re driving that route during the times you’ll be riding your bike, you’ll then be ready to ride that route with your bike, but only during non-peak days and hours. Meaning, take that route with your bike on a lazy Sunday to get a feel for it. See how long it will take you to ride it so that you’ll make it to your destination on time. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time in the event you’re somehow stuck in heavy traffic during rush hour.

Finally, after getting a good feel for bike riding on the street in general, and getting a good feel for the best route on a bike, you’ll ideally be more confident a rider to be able to handle a serious ride.

Some additional tips to make you feel more safe:

You should wear a helmet.

Now, the bike helmet option is actually a topic of great disagreement between different types of cyclists. Honestly, sometimes I wear a helmet and admittedly sometimes I don’t. It really depends on my gut feelings about the time of day or how serious my ride is. When commuting to work, I wear a helmet. It makes me feel safer and it is safer. I’ll say this, bike riding is about as dangerous as any other form of street transportation, but that’s my opinion. This is not the opinion of the JBC in general. We are all made up of different cycling types and have various degrees of advice. Some folks may feel turned off to bike riding when they see people wearing helmets. Don’t allow yourself to buy into that school of thought. The JBC neither endorses nor openly objects to helmet-wearing because there are very good points to both sides of the coin. It’s up to you and what makes you feel good, okay.

But I would personally recommend you wear a helmet. Just be on the safe side and do it.

You could also go to a book store and browse through some bike safety books. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the info out there. A lot of it is useful and some of it is not. Some of it is quite overkill and can turn people off to riding. Just use common sense: Don’t listen to music while riding. Always keep a sharp eye out for cars. Don’t make impulsive decisions unless you’re trying to get out of a sticky situation. Don’t do something you’re not comfortable with. You’ll experience a bit of discomfort and that’s normal. But if your gut is screaming at you not to do something, your discomfort level is too high in which case you should back off from the situation.

Ultimately, what’s important is that you’re interested in riding bikes more often. If you do it each day, you’re going to save loads of money on gas and you’re going to be more physically fit. Just make sure you feel confident enough to take on your serious rides by first practicing with joy rides. You’ll find the practicing will not be a laborious, boring chore, but actually quite delightful. You’ll discover other things that you can do, other places you can go, on your bike while you’re practicing for the serious rides. You’ll get sun on your skin, fresh air in your lungs, you’ll be getting exercise that’s fun and relatively easy on the body – not cooped up in a boring gym or taking a toll on your joints with jogging.

Just take it slow at first and with time, you’ll discover on your own what works best for you.

Happy riding!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 648 other followers