Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bells & Whistles

Some people are very “gear oriented” and have to have the latest bells and whistles for whatever they do. Cyclists are no exception, though one does not have to get all the latest gear to cycle safely. The most important thing is to have a well maintained bike of good quality. Next to that a helmet, which is required by law. (I will devote another article to this crucial though sometimes controversial piece of equipment)
Also required is a bell or some other sort of signalling device such as a horn. Great for letting pedestrians know that you are sneaking up behind them so they don't get startled as you pass them!
For night riding a front white light and rear red light visible for at least 150 meters and red reflector are required.
Though not required by law, I find one of the best pieces of safety equipment is a mirror. This really helps to keep an eye on traffic approaching from the rear and give better situational awareness. Even if you have a mirror, it is crucial to still do a shoulder check before changing lanes or turning!
The other gear that is a good idea is bright or reflective clothing. As mentioned in previous articles, visibility is a key factor in safe cycling. Wear clothing that is comfortable and that will help regulate body temperature as well as keep you dry in wet weather. Modern synthetics can do an amazing job of this. Don't forget to tuck in or strap up loose pant legs on the chain side of the bike so you don't' get it caught in the chain or covered in grease.
Make sure you do regular maintenance yourself or bring the bike into your local shop for a check and tune-up. A trained bike mechanic can catch potential problems before they develop.  I have seen a kid's bike brought into the local bike shop that had a loose wheel nut, and if weren't for the kind offer of a quick safety check from the bike mechanic, it would have gone un-noticed until the wheel fell off with possibly very serious results.
Before getting on your bike, do a quick ABC check. A= Air (tires at an appropriate pressure) B= Brakes (Functioning properly to be able to stop the bike fully loaded. You should be able to skid the tires if you hit the brakes hard enough) C=Chain (lubricated and running smoothly with gear changes)
I would also add a D (ABCD) D= DoNut ( Do make sure da Nuts are tight!That is the wheel nuts on the front and rear wheels)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Changing Driving Habits and Informed Decisions; The Auto Industry

I am pro cycling, but that doesn't mean that I am anti-automobile. After all I do drive a car. In fact I drive a car many more miles than I ride my bike. In trying to promote cycling I do not want to be anti automobile, but rather focus on the advantages of cycling. However, today I have a beef against the automobile industry.
I have been researching devices that can help you monitor fuel consumption costs and help improve your driving habits. (See my previous blog) These devices are available for just about every car manufactured after 1996, using the cars' on board computer. There is all kinds of information that is tracked with these computers. It seems to me that the North American auto industry feels they should keep this information away from the average car driver. (Some of the European Auto manufacturers like VW have been making basic fuel  consumption info available for years)
Imagine if all cars showed you how efficient you were driving in terms of fuel efficiency and what each trip cost you. Maybe people would improve their driving habits, use less fuel and even drive less altogether!? The auto and oil industry wouldn't like that! Anytime the "Check Engine" light comes on you need to take the car to a mechanic, and they plug in one of their computers to tell you what is wrong.  (usually charging you significantly just to do that) These devices like the Scanguage can give you that same information. Don't tell me that it would be too expensive to include all this type of information in the standard gauges at the time of manufacture.

Why do the auto manufacturers feel they cannot trust a car owner with this information? Seems like another example of keeping information away from the consumer, and not letting people make informed decisions.

I would like to suggest to our politicians that they enact new legislation that requires all new automobiles to have these gauges incorporated into the standard instrumentation of all vehicles. I have already spoken to the Green Party about this and it has been received very positively. What about our other political parties? I will be interested to see which one is willing to take on the auto giants!

I will be ordering a Scangauge for myself and will be happy to lend it to people to see how it works.

If you read the reviews of the aftermarket devices available now (Like Scangauge and Econodriver) you will see that people find it changes their driving habits for the better. It's part of the solution!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Here are a couple of articles from Mia Birk's Blog regarding Sharrows. Timely as we hope to see what the District of Sooke will be doing regarding Sharrows and Bike lanes. The plans for a bike lane on Rhodonite were nixed by residents, and council was supposed to be looking into trying sharrows.
Here are  the two articles; Seattle's Sharrows; Love Em or Hate Em? and
Four Solid Uses for Sharrows

Friday, December 3, 2010

A $ way of encouraging people to ride a bike

There is technology out there that will help people see what each trip they take in their car costs. Check out the Scangauge and EconoDriver. Scanguage is available in Canada here
Can you imagine how it might change people's habits if they had a cab meter in their car and they could see their money spent on gas vaporizing each trip they make?! It could be a great tool to compare cost of public transit to a private vehicle. After all we can't convince everyone to ride a bike because it is fun and healthy for you. Some people will react better to the dollars and "sense" approach.

Making your Intentions Known

A crucial aspect of cycling is to make your intentions known to motorists as well as pedestrians and other cyclists. This along with predictability helps to ensure safe and smooth traffic flow. It is all the same reasons why automobile drivers learn to use turn signals, and to follow the rules of the road.
Using turn signals is also very important for cyclists. Most of us know the standard signals, though they have changed somewhat. It used to be left hand out for left turn and left hand raised up for a right turn. Riders are being encouraged to use their right hand outstretched for a right turn. This is simple and leaves no room for ambiguity. The other day I saw a cyclist making the old right turn signal, and I couldn’t be sure whether they were turning or waving to someone in the car next to them.
As well as signaling, make sure you do a shoulder check before signaling, then once again after the signal. Never compromise control of your bike by removing your hand from the handlebar if it is unsafe to do so. The act of turning your head to look beside and behind, often indicates to drivers that you might be planning to make a move.
Having made your intentions known, it is prudent to confirm that the drivers have seen you. Eye contact is an effective way of doing this. Don’t assume that just because someone is looking in your direction that they see you. Communicate your intentions clearly and drivers will appreciate it and respect your right to be sharing the road with them.