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12 steps to get your bike commute started

Need some guidance to get started on your eco-friendly commute?

Biking to work
Follow these 12 steps to ensure a safe and comfortable ride to work.
 
Tips before getting started
1. Start off easy
2. Don't feel you have to go the distance
3. Figure out your route
4. Test it before you commute
5. Find a bike buddy
6. Learn the rules of the road for bicycles
7. Investigate parking
8. Devise a cleanup plan
9. Carry flat fix essentials
10. Learn emergency adjustments
11. Inspect your bike before every ride
12. Perform routine maintenance
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1. Start off easy
Instead of going from driving your car every day to exclusively riding your bike, commute by bicycle on a part-time basis, maybe once or twice a week, and only in fair weather.

Even cycling to work one day per week can substantially decrease your car usage, says Arthur Ross, the pedestrian-bicycle coordinator for the Traffic Engineering Division in Madison, Wis.

2. Don't feel you have to go the distance
If your commute is a long one, you may want to ride part of the way and then finish your commute by bus or train. Many municipalities, including Seattle; Salt Lake City; Austin, Texas, and Eugene, Ore., have bike racks on their mass transit buses or allow bikes on trains to help facilitate partial bike commutes.

3. Figure out your route
Think like a cyclist, not a motorist. That means that the shortest route -- especially if it is on a major highway -- is probably not the best idea. Look for streets with bike lanes, and avoid high-speed routes with no shoulders. To find good routes, check your city's Web site. Many bike-friendly municipalities have maps that show recommended routes. Also consider when the best time to travel is and whether it makes sense to leave earlier or later to avoid rush-hour traffic. Finally, have a "Plan B" route in your back bike jersey pocket in case there's an accident or construction delay.

4. Test it before you commute
Give your route a trial run on the weekend so you can work out the kinks and get an idea of how long it will take you. Then make adjustments as you go. For example, you may wish to find a different route when you discover "pinches" -- overpasses, for example, where there isn't a shoulder to ride on.

5. Find a bike buddy
Safety in numbers definitely applies to cycling -- plus getting someone more experienced to show you the ropes is always a good idea. "Even if you only ride halfway together, having a bike buddy can really help you break into riding," says Elizabeth Preston of the League of American Bicyclists, a bicycle advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

 
 
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