When I was in junior high school, my younger sister and I would ride our three- speed bikes seven miles from East Carson to the movies in Bixby Knolls, Long Beach. The movie theaters, located on Atlantic Blvd were replaced in the late ‘60s with shops and office space. Most of our friends had single speed bikes so we were queens of the hill with our fancy three-speed bikes. I remember the ride home since we had to climb a big hill up Wilmington Blvd from Del Amo Blvd. Facing that hill on the return home never stopped us from setting out on numerous adventures. It was great fun to have the freedom a bike gave us along with the trust of our parents to be safe riders. It wasn’t until years later that we found out that when our neighbors saw us pedaling far from home, they would report back to our parents to make sure we had gotten permission to ride that far.
Most everyone I know owns a bike. Would you say that’s true for the people you know? But are all those bikes catching sunshine, street grime and, road time? Based on talking to my friends, their bikes are in the garage where it’s gathering cobwebs, rust and dust. Why is that? When I ask about their bike they come up with the mostly the same responses:
- I really should ride my bike!
- I feel bad that it’s sitting in the garage for (fill in the blank) years!
- I really intended to ride it when I purchased it (fill in the blank) years ago!
- I don’t have time to ride my bike!
And the number one reason:
- I’m afraid to ride it on the street. Those cars are gonna run me over!
I understand your fear! I’m going to share a secret that can help you overcome your fear: when going to the same destination, most cyclists do not use the same route for riding their bike that they would for driving.
Let me give you an example: when I visit my girlfriend, who lives 7 miles away from my home, I drive on the freeway. Her home is 2 miles south of the freeway. But when I ride my bike, I take a side street that parallels the freeway but is ½ mile north of the freeway. I picked that street, even though it is out of my way, because it has a designated bike lane for most of the 7 miles of my trip. It’s a street that I usually don’t drive because it’s residential and traffic moves slower that I want to drive. So it’s a perfect street for bike riding.
Even though I am an experienced cyclist, there are certain streets that I would not take while riding my bike. They are the streets with very fast traffic and no shoulder for cycling. I find it’s better for me to go a little out of my way to find a safer street. I find these safe streets by using my local bike path maps. Most transit authorities have bike path maps and many are free.
In Los Angeles, the Metro website (http://www.metro.net/bikes/) has lots of information about how to use the bus and train system when planning a bike ride. You can also request a copy of the Los Angeles county Metro bike path map or view that map online. Other resources for planning you bike trip are Bike Metro (http://www.bikemetro.com/home/home.asp) which allows you to enter starting and ending locations and will give you a suggested route. I also use GoogleMaps (https://maps.google.com/) and select the bike icon after entering my starting and ending locations.
I try to allow enough time to ride my bike when I run my errands instead of driving. Give it a try this weekend: plan your cycling trip to a friend’s home or to the store or the local coffee house. Shake off the cobwebs, dust and rust from your bike and do a quick safety 3-point inspection every time before you ride.
- Inspect the tires – Are your tires flat? Are they inflated to the proper PSI (pounds per square inch)? The recommended PSI is usually printed on the sidewalk of the tire. If you don’t know how to change a tire ask for help from a cycling friend or your local bike shop. Under-inflated or over-inflated tires can both cause accidents. Riding on flat tires can damage your rims. Replacing a tire or inner tube is a lot cheaper than replacing a wheel because of damaged rims.
- Check your brakes – squeeze your brakes to make sure they are working. Are the brakes hitting the rim, not the tire wall, when you squeeze them? Make sure you brakes are working well because bikes with bad brakes have accidents.
- Check for loose parts – Grab your seat and handlebars and see if you can twist it: they should be secure. Also push down on your seat to make sure it’s secure.