There are many ways to get from point A to point B. Often times, the go-to method is to hop in the car and go a mile down the street. Other means of transportation are seldom considered. Around Greensboro, my main method of travel is biking.
Biking is a healthy alternative to going short to medium distances without using public transit. While there is nothing wrong with public transit, I prefer the autonomy of biking. However, often there are reasons why others would not consider it.
Many people I talk to tell me that biking is unsafe, inefficient, or just too tiresome, but many of the people telling me this have rarely gone out onto the road and ridden over 3 miles at a time, perhaps because they have fallen victim to their own thinking.
There are, of course various safety precautions that need to be taken into account when biking. Firstly, always wear a helmet. You can screw up your head badly just by tripping on concrete; add more momentum from riding quickly, and you’ll wish you had a helmet if you didn’t already wear one.
Secondly, between any car and a bike, the car wins. If you’ve been taught how to drive defensively, those skills will be incredibly important. If you’re uncertain about how a driver is going to act, keep your distance, keep your breaks tight, and be predictable. Often, misunderstandings between cyclists and drivers can result in collisions.
This leads to my third point, and it is a hard one for many cyclists, myself included, to stomach: on the road, you are a vehicle. This means you need to obey traffic laws, like stopping at stop signs and yielding to pedestrians—my frequent personal failure.
This helps you to remain safe and predictable for others on the road. If someone has the right of way, let them have it, and if they wave you on, ignore them. You’re a vehicle. You have your time. Many drivers are as uncertain about cyclists as cyclists are about drivers. Do not add to that confusion by disobeying traffic laws.
Lastly, in regard to safety, lock up your bike with something secure. Cable locks, ill-fitting U-locks, and combination locks all have their downfalls and can be undermined in only a matter of seconds with the right know-how. Although it might be more expensive, get the right lock for your bike. Some lock companies, like those from Kryptonite, offer compensation in the event of theft due to the failure of their product.
Biking is also an efficient way to get where you need to go. It’s faster than walking and allows for nearly the same freedom. Many times, bikes can go where cars can’t, allowing for more efficient routes.
By making use of greenways, back alleys, sidewalks, and maybe a few bouts off road, cyclists are able to get places faster than cars. For instance, I can bike to the Friendly Center much faster than driving by getting to the Lake Daniel Greenway. I avoid traffic completely and, during rush hour, that can mean a difference of up to 10 minutes on a very short trip.
Biking is also an efficient way to spend your time. Even if a route takes longer than driving, you are working out the entire time. Although you’re building up more endurance and speed of recovery for your muscles, it’s impossible to skip leg day if you’re biking frequently. Even if you work out frequently, biking can mean less time working on legs or on endurance as well.
The last critique I mentioned, that biking is tiresome, is unavoidable. Biking is a workout. It is hard, and you probably ought to spend some time on the greenways before you go onto main roads for that purpose. Although it is hard, it serves as a great way to build up confidence on the road and on your own physical abilities to get yourself from one place to another.
Even though Greensboro isn’t currently the best for widespread bike transportation, efforts are currently being made to expand the greenway system, allowing for people to safely commute by bike. Also, if more cyclists behave responsibly, lots can be done to allow for drivers to understand cyclists more.
There are currently many options for cyclists, but if we want them to be expanded, we need to let the city and others around us know of the greater demand for biking options. So get your bike, get out there, and maybe help fight the fears that keep many from biking around Greensboro.