Traveling, in any form, has become increasingly expensive. Traveling to work has even become an expensive daily trip. With the cost of owning a car and the toll it can take on the environment, many have switched over to a greener way to commute: biking to work. Although some may argue it’s not as fast, (depending on your area), it’s direct, and the cost is free! Who doesn’t love free? Though in general there may be little monetary cost to this means of travel, you could pay a heftier price if you are not prepared. Those who decide to commute to work on their bicycle are faced with a troubling question: what if I am injured by a driver in an area with heavy traffic? They begin to ask themselves what steps can they take to avoid this frightening possibility. Safety for the cyclist should be a top priority.
In larger Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC’s), the percentage of bicycle commuting has increased by 80% from 2000 to 2011. In some cities, authorities are trying to be proactive for those who are taking alternative means to traditional modes of transportation. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Boston Transportation Department are working together to make the treacherous stretch of Cambridge St. that spans above the Massachusetts Turnpike, safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Both departments will conduct a road safety audit of the area in the near future. Because there is no solid timeline for the audit, commuters are forced to “deal” with the situation at the mercy of speeding cars while biking to work.
Out West, bikers have decided to join forces and face the commute together. It’s considered a grassroots movement called the L.A. Bike Trains. Depending on where you are commuting, a group is put together for specific areas with a conductor in charge of being the guide. Biking groups range from 5 people to 10. The conductor will review safety of the road and biking hand signals before they set off. Although bike trains have yet to see mass adoption, the commuters agree it feels better to face traffic in numbers! The groups that have ridden together make it a point to say that drivers tend not to be as friendly as they hoped, in terms of sharing the road.
As cyclists try to avoid cars, what are drivers and auto companies doing to avoid bicycles? Volvo has taken the initiative to help warn drivers of a collision before it occurs. The Swedish auto-giant has taken their new XC90 to a new level. This innovative car not only alerts drivers of an oncoming obstacle such as another car or a biker, but has an auto-brake system that prevents collision and run-off-road accidents. The Volvo Canada CEO Marc Engelen projects the vision of the automaker’s goal that no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020. This would be more comforting to know as a cyclists: The car will stop itself if the driver does not see me first.
No matter how people travel, technology has impacted the way we commute. For drivers, GPS devices and verbal commands have become the norm for new automobiles. Trains and planes now have WiFi on-board to allow for a mobile working environment.. Even for cyclists, innovating technology has begun to grow. Open ear and bone conduction headphones are making it easier to listen to the road around you. Just like motorists, cyclists are using global positioning applications to navigate the roads. Most recently smart bikes have begun to emerge, creating a whole new wave of engineering possibilities. Recently, Levi helped create The Bike Design Project. This competition enlisted teams from cities across the US to participate. Their goal, create a bike that was safer and easier to use. The winner of the project, Teague and Sizemore Bicycle, created a phenomenal bicycle that could revolutionize how people bike. The bike is equipped with auto-changing gears, head and tail lights, turn signals and an electric motor to assist you in any uphill climb.
Whether it’s in a group or alone, cycling to work takes courage and resources. Cities are trying to coordinate safer routes while organizations are starting groups to travel together. Companies are creating new products to meet the needs of those who commute on bicycle and do not want to lose their ability to listen to music! Slowly but surely, commuting to work on your bicycle will become safer while retaining the attributes of commuting in your car!
Just as an extra resource, here are some Road Safety Guidelines to help you understand the commands from a cyclist.
Road Safety Guidelines
If you are walking or running, do so, against the flow of traffic.
If you are biking*, bike with the flow of traffic.
*If you are biking, use the following hand signals to notify drivers which direction you are traveling:
For a right turn: Bend your left arm up at the elbow, 90 degrees, with your palm facing frontwards. OR Stick your right arm straight out beside you, with your palm facing frontward.
For a left turn: stick your left arm straight out beside you, with your palm facing frontward.
To stop: Bend your left arm down at the elbow, 90 degrees, with your palm facing backward.