Women & Bicycles Tip: Your Helmet May Not Be Protecting You

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming.
Click here to learn more and get involved.

We recommend and teach responsible, predictable, confident biking. We teach you to bike where you are most visible,  bike in visible clothing, and bike so that other road users can predict your behaviors.

We also teach that helmets are really your last line of defense on the road. So we definitely recommend them. But there’s a good chance your helmet isn’t protecting you at all, because so many people don’t know how to fit them properly.

If your helmet is not fit to your head properly, it’s not doing you any good.

 

Six Common Helmet-Fit Problems:

Helmet 11

Problem 1.)  You forget to buckle your helmet!
If it’s not buckled, it’s the same as wearing no
helmet at all.


Problem 2.) You have not adjusted the helmet clasps
(the plastic piece that joins the two straps on one side)
to fit below your ears. This woman’s helmet clasps are
nearly below her chin.


Problem 3.)You have not shortened the helmet straps
to sit snug around your face so that the buckle
sits securely below your chin. The straps should
be tight enough such that you can only fit two fingers
between your chin and the buckle.


Helmet 3Problem 4.) You’ve adjusted your helmet properly,
but you put it on backwards, a mistake countless
bicyclists in the D.C. area make every day.


Problem 5.) Your helmet straps are too loose,
so the brim of your helmet isn’t sitting level across
the top of your eyebrows.


Helmet 6
Problem 6.) Your helmet straps and clasps are too loose,
so the brim of  your helmet is not just above your eyebrows.
This woman’s helmet is sitting at the top of her forehead instead
of just above her eyebrows.  Her forehead would not be protected in a crash.


Perfect Helmet Fit Looks Like This:


The helmet is facing forward and buckled
The helmet clasps sit right below her ears
The helmet buckle is snug below her chin
The helmet brim is level and  just above her eyebrows

 

To make sure your helmet fits properly, click here to watch a tutorial by the League of American Bicyclists.

And please remember, just because you’ve strapped a helmet, doesn’t mean you’re any more safe on our roads. Fit your helmet properly and attend a WABA class to practice visible, predictable, and confident biking (classes are $10 and hosted throughout the region).

 

 

 

Women & Bicycles Tip: Bring Back The Romper!

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

All the buzz  over the Penny In Yo’  Pants #CycleHack has me buzzin over my personal preferred bike-friendly feminine formal wear: rompers.

Rompers are lovely to bike in. I own six or seven. Rompers are like dresses except the bottom half is shorts or pants. They’re comfortable, lightweight, and dress-like plus you don’t have to worry about pulling a Marilyn Monroe or getting your skirt caught all up in yo’ wheel spokes.

So, yes, by all means continue rocking your skirts and dresses on your commute, and if you haven’t worn a romper since 1987, bring it back!

 

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Are You A Bike Ninja?

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Bike Nin·ja noun \ˈbīk\ˈnin-jə, -(ˌ)jä\

Definition of Bike Ninja: Bicyclists who ride unlit at night, or under low visibility conditions. They can go undetected by other bicyclists and motorists…like a ninja. This practice puts many people at risk, and should be avoided whenever possible.

On Wednesday, July 9th, Bike Ambassadors are riding to the NoMa Summer Screen viewing of The Muppets to hand out surprise goodies to people who biked.

This is a great opportunity to meet REAL LIFE Bike Ambassadors. We’re the folks out on the streets promoting respectful everyday biking, and we thank other road users who share the road with us. Talk to us, find out what we’re all about, and consider becoming a Bike Ambassador yourself.

Join us for a Bike Ambassador Orientation on July 15, at 6 pm at the WABA office. To find out more or sign up, click here.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Steer Clear of Streetcar Tracks

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming.
Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

DC Streetcars on Pennsylvania Ave

Image courtesy of Flickr user DC Streetcar

Even though  Streetcar won’t be up and running until 2015 (at the earliest), people who bike along the H Street corridor interact with the system on a regular basis. These interactions are not always friendly.

Since the  installation of tracks along the H Street corridor, WABA has received many reports of bike crashes involving the tracks. Here are the three most important tips for avoiding hazardous encounters with streetcar tracks:

1. Never ride between the tracks.

seguiMI

Image courtesy of Flickr user SeguiMI

2. Always cross at a 90 degree angle.

Streetcar tracks

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jonathan Maus

3. Use alternative routes.  Contraflow bike lanes on G St. and I St. NE offer safe alternatives for bicyclists going east and westbound.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Approaching Kidical Mass

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This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

Kidical Mass
Family biking is becoming more popular, more normal, more safe, and more fun thanks to the Kidical Mass groups forming throughout the United States.

Kidical Mass groups are volunteer-run initiatives that organize family bike rides for all ages and all experience levels. The groups find flat (or flattest), short, and scenic routes that start or end with treats.These adorable and lively events help demystifying family biking and encourage more Americans to take it on for recreation and transportation.

In just a few years we’ve seen a surge in these groups here in the D.C. metropolitan area. Find one closest to you, tell your friends, volunteer, start your own, join the ride!

Women & Bicycles Tip: Try This One Great Grocery Trick

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwI

This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

Do you have panniers, those bags that clip on the side of a bike rack? After years of using a messenger bag, I am now a faithful pannier user and call them my Mary Poppins bags.

Here’s a trick for other pannier users: When grocery shopping, clip your panniers on the front, inside, or outside of your shopping cart during checkout. It’s a simple way to load up and make sure the heavy stuff goes to the bottom, the lighter stuff stays on top, and that weight is evenly dispersed between the two bags.

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My friend Meredith demonstrating the pannier method of shopping.

Panniers turn your bike into a pickup truck: They offer the carrying capacity of nearly two weeks’ worth of groceries, everything but the kitchen sink for a family trip to the park,  or simply all the odds and ends that you need daily. And with panniers, you don’t have to worry about the strain, weight, or sweat from carrying a backpack.

If you’re in the market for panniers, click here to read Momentum‘s reviews on over a dozen different options to choose from.

And speaking of groceries, biking, and WABA’s Women & Bicycles program, are you coming to the Women & Bicycles happy hour tonight at Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont? We’ll be there from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Click here for more details.

Women & Bicycles Tip: The 15-Minute Bike Wash

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwI

This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

I went 5 years without thinking much about bike maintenance or repair.  I figured, hey, if ain’t broke don’t fix it. I was frugal, but mostly lazy.

After learning this 15-minute bike wash technique, I’ve saved time and money. Keeping my bike clean–especially my chain–has prevented my bike from rusting, maintained my shifting, and minimized the amount of bike grease buildup on the right legs of my pants.

Frequency:
While  some folks religiously and meticulously deep-clean their bikes, I stick to my lazy ways and wash my bike after every major rain or about once a month, whichever comes first. 

Materials:

  • Liquid degreaser: I use SimpleGreen. It’s affordable,  non-toxic, and biodegradable.
  • Bike lube: Click here for Bicycling  magazine’s review of lubes
  • Rags (old T-shirts make great ones)
  • Bucket or wide bowl
  • Water
  • Used toothbrush

Be sure you’re wearing clothing you’re willing to get messy, and consider plastic gloves if you want to avoid grease-stained hands.

Location:
Turn your bike upside down in a backyard, patio, or driveway space. If you don’t have access to outdoor space, put down some towels or newspaper in your kitchen, soap up your steed in your bathtub, or ride to your local car wash.

Bicycle cleaning

Photo via Flickr user osto

Step 1: Rinse
Rinse with the hose, showerhead, or your bucket of water to get rid of the big dirt and the grit. This rinse is important because any bit of gravel or sand left behind will scratch your paint when you go to scrub.

Bike wash

Photo via Flickr user Cyclelicious

Step 2: Scrub
Spray or lather up your entire bike with degreaser (using a 1:1 water:degreaser solution) then scrub the dirtiest parts first, like your drivetrain. Use your toothbrush or any other bike-specific scrubbers on your chain, chain ring (front gears), and sprockets (rear gears).

Week 14 - Cleaning the Chain

Image via Flickr user MVCornelius

After you’ve given your drivetrain a thorough scrub and removed all the gunky buildup, use the rag to get into the nooks and crannies of your frame.

bike washing day

Flickr image via Thalia Kamarga

Step 3: Rinse
Rinse gently while removing as much of the degreaser as possible. The more degreaser left around, the more dirt it will attract later on

Wash down.

Image via Flickr user MFGCyclocross

Step 4: Dry
Dry your bike thoroughly. The bike experts recommend drying off your bike, especially the drivetrain, every time they’re out in wet conditions. Rusting is bad news. I keep a hand towel by my door and where I store my bike.

Bike Wash

Image via Flickr user J Holland

Step 5: Re-lube your chain
Lube up your chain while your bike is still upside down. It’s nice to get a good rhythm here. Hold the lube bottle in one hand and hold your pedal with the other. Rest the tip of the lube bottle in the middle of one of your chain lines, then start to slowly turn the pedal so that you’re getting a drop of lube in every chain link.

After you’ve lubed up every chain link, rotate your pedal a couple times so the lube settles down into the chain. Don’t shift here, just rotate the pedals. I used to shift my gears around thinking I needed to get lube in the gears and the derailleur (the mechanism that shifts your chain). But no, the chain is the only part that needs lubing.

Chain Lube

Image via Flickr user Garrett Lau

Step 6: Remove the excess lube
This is essential! Take the rag you used to dry off your bike and remove as much lube as you can from your chain. The most time efficient technique is to lightly hold the rag around the chain while slowly pedaling with the other hand.

cleaning bike chains is so hot

Image via Flickr user Amy

Things I’ve Learned Along the Way:

  • Never use WD-40, ever
  • Don’t spray your bike down with too much force or you’ll waterlog your parts
  • Always remove as much lube and degreaser as possible or your bike will quickly collect more dirt
  • Cleaning your bike is like changing a flat tire: We all have different approaches and tips to share
  • Remember to appreciate your smooth-shifting, good-looking, squeak-free ride!

Resources: Biking Visibly

This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.

Staying visible on your bicycle is extremely important, but easy to overlook: You may not think you’ll ever get caught biking in the rain, dark, or fog, but the more you ride your bike, the more likely it is to happen! In the winter in particular, if you’re not lit up, you’re nearly invisible. Today, we’ll cover the basics on some obvious (and maybe not-so-obvious) ways to stay lit up.

THE OBVIOUS
Front Light

Mount a light on your handlebar and let your light shine where your bike is heading. This should be sufficient if you’re biking around town and have the added benefit of streetlights to light the way. A helmet-mounted light will shine where you’re looking. Consider doubling up if you’ll be out alone on a trail at night!

Rear Light
Flashing, or not flashing, put a red taillight to your rear. It’s a personal preference if you wear it on your bag, jacket, or mount it to your seat post, but the higher the light, the more visible it is to drivers. Remember to only use a red light behind you. Just like a car, a red light indicates a bike’s rear.

Consider a light set like these Planet Bike blinkies.

Reflectivity
At the very minimum, bicycles are required by law to come equipped with standard reflectors, front and back. If you purchased a used bicycle, or yours have fallen off over time, consider adding reflectors to your wheels, pedals, under the seat, or on your handlebars. If you want to add something more unique or stylish, there are plenty of creative options out there from reflective stickers, bike wrappers, tape, and reflective wheel stripes. Check out more about reflecting on your bicycle.

Hi-Vis Clothing
Safety black is not a real thing. While your all black coat may be stylish, it camouflages you in the dark. Consider wearing bright colors, or adorning your outfit with high-vis items such as a vest, ankle straps, leg or wrist bands. Many bicycle-specific clothing companies have reflective stripes built into their clothing and bags, but you can achieve the same function much more affordably by adding reflective tape to the gear you already own.

To test what you’ve got, have someone else ride your bicycle in your high-viz gear so you can get have a clear picture of how easily you’re seen.

THE NOT-SO-OBVIOUS
Reduce Your Speed
Slow down! This is less about you being visible and more about being able to see any obstacles in front of you. Particularly on roads you are less familiar, obstacles and debris are more difficult to spot in the dark.

Lane Positioning
Where in the lane should you ride to be most visible? Hint: Don’t hug the curb! Taking the lane (or riding in the center of a travel lane) is your legal right, and helps keep you visible to drivers. If no designated bicycle lane is available, riding in the center of a traffic lane not only allows you to avoid hazards near the edge of the road, but prevents oncoming vehicles from turning directly in front of you or passing too closely. And doing so keeps you out of the door zone (the area three to four feet away from parked cars).

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Women & Bicycles Tip: Know Your Bike Infrastructure

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This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

There’s a good chance the bike infrastructure we use today wasn’t around when you learned to ride a bike (and it probably wasn’t mentioned in your drivers’ ed course).  This week, we’d like to help you familiarize yourself with some different types of bike facilities out there.

Sharrow
Madison Dr closed to traffic - lovely! #bikedc #shutdown
Sharrows are street markings that serve as reminders to road users that bicyclists have rights to the lanes on these routes—even though cyclists may, for the most part, legally ride in the road. Sharrows are often placed on routes that see more bike traffic or on streets that are too narrow for drivers to pass bicyclists safely as reminders.

Bike Lane
Spectacular bike commute weather this morning, but riding directly into the sun is a challenge!
Bike lanes provide a dedicated space for bicyclists on the roadway. Without a lack of physical barriers, however, cyclists still must be wary of riding in the “door zone,” the 3 to 5 foot area along parked cars, double-parked vehicles, road debris, and turning vehicles. Parking in bike lanes is illegal in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Cycletrack
Penn Av bike lane
Cycletracks are protected bike lanes. Some provide physical barriers from other road-users and effectively form an on-street bike path. Click here to check out 19 creative ways cities are protecting cycletracks.

Wayfinding
Metropolitan Branch On-road Trail Sign
Yes, if you build it, they will come. But first, people need to know what you’ve built! Wayfinding encompasses things such as street signs placed throughout the region to direct bicyclists to trails, paths, and other amenities.

Bike Box
2012 11 22 - 5189 - DC - L St at 11th St NW
Bike boxes give priority to bicyclists at intersections by providing a designated space to queue up in front of cars. Bike boxes improve the visibility of bicyclists and can help prevent right-hook collisions.

Mixing Zone
Sunny, at this point in the ride
Mixing zones are merging areas. Traffic that is turning at intersections must yield to bicyclists just like they would with another automobile and enter the mixing zone. Sometimes this means the vehicle may need to wait in the bike lane at the intersection before turning. This is perfectly fine as long as the driver yielded to bicyclists.

Bicycle Corrals
Washington, DC bike corral
Bike corrals are an efficient use of on-street bike parking. They transform a parking space or sidewalk area into bike parking. Portland just recently installed its 100th bike parking corral! How many have you spotted in our region?

The future of bike infrastructure?! Bike superhighways, underground bike parking systems, bike overpasses…and maybe even SkyCycle, an elevated bike network of bike paths.

Resources: Basic Bike Commuting Gear

This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.

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Commuting by bicycle isn’t complicated. You don’t need much to get started. Once you have a bike that fits you and is in working condition, you’re almost all set to ride. These basics will ensure that you’re safe, lawful, and comfortable.

A helmet: While a helmet is not required by law in D.C. for riders over the age of 16, there’s nothing wrong with protecting your head.

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U-lock: Unless you are just taking your bicycle out for a spin, you’re going to want to be able to leave your bike outside your destination (i.e. Metro station, restaurant, workplace, etc.) and rest assured it will be waiting for you when you’re ready to head home. Purchasing and properly using the best lock you can afford will provide a sense of security when you don’t have your eyes on your bike.

Lights: Requirements for lights vary by jurisdiction, but regardless, it’s important to keep yourself visible on the road. Make sure to use a white headlight (front light) and a red taillight (rear light) when it’s dark, foggy, or in wet weather. There are several types of bike lights, and the one that suits your needs depends on your ride. Riding a dark trail at night? You’ll want the brightest one you can find to help illuminate the path in front of you. Riding down a heavily light cycle track? Maybe you can get by with smaller blinky lights. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever ride at night, you never know when you may leave work later than you planned, get caught in the rain, or decide you need to take your bike out after dark.

Some bicycle commuters often find that it’s nice to have a few extras beyond what’s absolutely necessary. These nice-to-have items include:

Bell: Bells are not only for your safety, but for the safety of other bicyclists and pedestrians out on the road. A bell can communicate to others that you’re passing, warn jaywalkers that you are approaching, or grab the attention of a passenger hopping out of a cab before they door you.

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Fenders: Avoid loking like a skunk after your rainy day rides by adding fenders to your bike. A wet and puddle-filled ride becomes more enjoyable when you’re not working about getting your clothes filthy on the way.

Gloves: Plenty of riders use cushioned gloves on their everyday commute throughout the year. Protecting your hands from the cold, wet, and wind is crucial during the winter months since most braking and shifting control comes from your hands and fingers. For most short commutes, your usual winter gloves will suffice.