Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bike Life: The Commute

Some would probably laugh at me, calling my home to work travel a commute. More like a pleasure trip. Google maps says it's 0.6 miles and 4 minutes:
0.6 miles in 4 minutes is about 9mph, which is the equivalent of a pretty leisurely biking pace. I've experimented the last couple of days to come up with the best way to get to work by bike. I tried just riding a couple of my typical car routes and they're pretty terrible. I'm assuming this is fairly typical of city streets, but you can barely get up to speed before you've got to stop at an intersection. And there are quite a few big, busy streets on my route that aren't all that hospitable to bike riding or crossing.

I also tried taking the canal from my complex down past the museums and then riding up Blackford to Michigan (where my building is). That's a longer route but it cuts down street crossings to one: Blackford at New York, which is pretty manageable. Unfortunately, the canal is essentially worthless for biking. There are several choke points that are barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. Even a single person makes it almost impossible to ride past them. And even in wide areas, pedestrians typically walk as wide as possible, taking up the whole walkway. Yesterday, I encountered a summer camp group and had to simply get off my bike and walk through the group. Scratch that option.

For now, I think it's going to be walking. On foot, I can take an "as the crow flies" route that's actually very short and fast:
When you factor in the time to cross all the streets with a bike as well as parking and locking up the bike, it barely takes any more time to walk this route. I'll save the bike for my longer trips.


Mike said...

not that i know how you're riding, but keep your bike off the sidewalks... that's how most accidents happen.

having said that, I too have ridden around the canal before, and it's more trouble than it's worth.

and here's some tips. And now that you're a cyclist, let me introduce you to BikesnobNYC with the nicest thing he's ever written.

Stacy said...

glad to hear you are biking and walking to work. i think that is my husband and I's next big purchase - two bikes...we live so close to our library and so many little things that would make for many pleasant rides - and I could possibly ride to my bus stop instead of drive.

CorrND said...

Thanks for the links Mike. I've been doing a mix of roads and sidewalks so far, depending on how big the road is, but I'll do my best to stick to roads from now on.

I'll be damned if I'm going to ride on West St, though, particularly when almost no one uses the sidewalks along there. Big roads are one thing, but that road is a mini expressway deathtrap!

rodney said...

Have you considered converting your bike into a HydroBike?

CorrND said...

Hahahaha! Nice Rod...if only I had a place to store it!

John M said...

What Mike says about sidewalks is generally but not universally true. The Indianapolis ordinance allows bikes to operate on a sidewalk as follows:

(b) A person who operates a bicycle on a sidewalk or greenway in the city shall do so only in the following manner:
(1) The bicycle shall not be operated at a speed, or in any manner, which constitutes a threat to the safety of either the bicycle operator or other persons, or diminishes or impairs the free use of the sidewalk or greenway by other persons.
(2) The person propelling, and each person riding upon, a bicycle shall be seated upon a permanent and regular seat firmly attached to the bicycle;
(3) The person propelling the bicycle shall not allow more persons to be carried at one (1) time than the number for which the bicycle is designed and equipped;
(4) The bicycle shall be equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving an audible signal, lamps, and brakes in the same manner as is required by state law for bicycles operated upon a highway; and
(5) The bicycle's bell or other device capable of giving an audible signal shall be sounded not less than fifty (50) feet from any pedestrian or vehicle approaching upon the sidewalk or greenway;

Obviously, it should be done as rarely as possible. But the classic situation where it might be appropriate is a busy road and a wide but lightly used sidewalk. I agree that cruising down a narrow residential sidewalk with a bunch of driveways is dangerous for everyone. But there are some circumstances in which the sidewalk is the best option.

beffuh said...

I also live downtown, have a car, but bike or walk to work (about a mile to where I go at IUPUI). I mostly ride in the street, but I do go on the sidewalk on my way home along Michigan...since Michigan is one way...and I'm going the OTHER way. I only cross West. I also refuse to ride my bike on that road. Way too scary.

John M said...

Tractorblader, you will be in better shape this summer or next when the New York/Michigan bike lanes are done. I imagine Michigan is far enough removed from the heart of downtown as to be reasonable to bike on through downtown, but NY during evening rush our would be fiarly treacherous, I imagine.