Started bike commuting: High School
Commute distance (one way): 7-9 miles
Describe your commute: The route I usually take downtown is Woodward Avenue (the major surface road in the area). The avenue varies in width from 9 lanes down to 7 with traffic between 50 and 40mph. Even though it is pretty wide, the outer two lanes are usually reserved for street parking and the center is a turn lane. With huge population loss in the city, the outer lanes are de facto 12-foot-wide bike lanes. Bike salmon are more dangerous than passing cars here.
My secondary is a little longer down a similar street, Hamilton Avenue, but with almost no traffic. The neighborhoods are rougher in parts, but overall it is a more pleasant ride. I pass through two of the city’s richest enclaves and it is fun to ride through more than two miles of old mansions (the REAL kind, not the Mc-kind!).
Describe your bike and accessories: Late 80s Schwinn Sprint from CL. It is very much stock, but I have very slowly built it up over a few years into a solid commuter. The latest addition is a pair of SKS Longboard Fenders. I’ve also added an old Pletscher rack, an old Basil pannier, and a Brooks B17. Right now, I’m too nervous to ride through the Detroit after dark, but through the suburbs I light up the way with some Planet Bike Blaze lights.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Before you even start commuting, you have to love riding your bike just for the sake of riding.When you begin commuting, there are a ton of obstacles that will creep up: lack of time; sweatiness; long distance; heavy locks/lack of safe parking; less-than-great routes; hills; etc…. If you don’t love riding your bike in the first place, each of these will eventually turn into an excuse not to ride.
Ride after work and on your days off just for fun. Take your bike to a museum, a new restaurant, or ice cream stand. Test different routes to work on the weekends. Slowly build up a bike with the equipment you will need. Try riding with traffic that travels at different speeds to find your comfort limit. Don’t be afraid of the rain (my rule is that if it is not raining or doesn’t look like rain when I leave, the weather won’t change quick enough before I’m at work in 45 minutes). Become a cyclist first, then you can be a bike commuter.