Summertime brings warm temperatures, beautiful days and daylight well into the evening. These are all great conditions for bike commuting, but if you’re new to bike commuting, or just getting started, it can be a little daunting to figure out your system. Below are some tips to make your summer commuting safe and low hassle.
Heavy duty raingear and warm, bulky clothing isn’t needed in the summer, which makes dressing and packing for the commute quite a bit easier. My commute is relatively short, so I typically commute in the clothes I’ll wear to work, sometimes swapping out a different shirt for particularly warm rides to or from work. Many skirts are actually easy to bike in, and often are more comfortable than pants. I typically throw on a pair of spandex shorts or other fitted shorts underneath my skirt for modesty. For women wearing longer skirts, there many ways to wrap up a skirt to keep it out of the chain and tires, including the recently popular “Penny in your Pants” method, which you can see demonstrated here. Reflective Velcro straps are helpful for keeping your pant legs away from bike chain grease, and can be purchased cheaply from local bike shops or GoLloyd.
Footwear is another consideration. You can bike in any shoes, although shoes with a stiffer sole will be more comfortable and efficient on the pedals. This means that some otherwise fashionable summertime shoes may not be your best bet. In those cases, I put on a pair of sneakers for my commute and put the work shoes in my backpack. You might be surprised to find, however, that stiff soles on men’s dress shoes and some women’s shoes like wedges or dress shoes with low heels actually work quite well for biking.
For those with a longer commute, shorts, a t-shirt, sneakers and perhaps a light windbreaker jacket make great bike commuting gear. There’s no need to buy a fancy spandex outfit, and once you start commuting regularly, you’ll realize that there are people of all ages wearing many different kinds of clothing while biking to work in Portland.
Despite the long daylight hours, safety is still an important priority in the summer. A strong front white light and rear red flashing lights are must-haves. I recently purchased a bright yellow Bell helmet that makes me more visible to motorists, and comes with two red flashing lights pre-installed on the back of the helmet. It was an on-sale steal at $20, but typically retails for about $30.
We are lucky to have streets with bike lanes here in the Lloyd District, but with lane changes and a lot of traffic, it can still be intimidating to ride close to the cars and trucks that roll through daily. Try riding your route to work on a weekend or at a low-traffic time of day to familiarize yourself with your course. I also find myself hopping down to Multnomah Street and taking advantage of the protected bike lanes there during high-traffic times on Broadway and Weidler. Regardless of where you ride, it’s best to ride without distractions like headphones or phone earbuds, and be hyper alert to anticipate what traffic will be doing. Always use hand signals when turning or slowing down.
Finally, a flat tire or other technical issue is inevitable at some point. Carrying a small, lightweight repair kit with you can help you troubleshoot the most common issues. Carry an extra bike tube, tube patches, tire levers, a compact bike pump and 1-2 small rags to start. This equipment will help you out in a pinch if you get a flat tire, and the rags are great if your chain falls off at an inconvenient time. There are lots of places to learn how to change a flat and do basic bike maintenance. REI offers monthly free classes, and Go Lloyd sponsors workshops as well. The next one is on August 14 at Holladay Park from 5:30 – 7pm. Go Lloyd is also sponsoring Bike Service Stations this summer on August 21 at Holladay Park from 4:30-6pm, and September 18th at the Lloyd Center (Nordstrom Plaza) from 4:30-6pm. Metropolis Cycle Repair will be providing free minor bike repair at those events.
Supporting different commute methods is one of the ways that Lloyd EcoDistrict is working to make the district a great place to live, work and play. As the Lloyd District grows with more residential housing and new businesses, commute traffic will continue to increase. Our work focuses on making that growth sustainable by prioritizing active transportation, promoting the use of low or zero emission vehicles, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and improving access to different commute methods. We frequently partner with GoLloyd to help the people who live and work in the district find new ways to commute.
Biking commuting in the summer can be a fun and healthy way to get to and from work. Try it at least once this summer, and you might get yourself hooked!
Alison Hopcroft is the Program Manager at Lloyd EcoDistrict. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.