Tips for Cycling in KW

04Aug10

So in an effort to make healthier lifestyle choices, help the environment, and save gas money, I’ve made the decision to bike to work daily next week.

I still need to work out some details, such as borrowing a bike, obtaining a helmet, and finding storage for the bike. But my biggest problem is that my route goes along Bridgeport or Erb. I drive on these streets daily, and honestly I know for a fact drivers on these streets are a bit crazy.

As a long-time driver and pedestrian, (my experience as a cyclist is limited to a few semesters in university before some idiot stole my bike) I  understand the general hate that exists out there for cyclists, and I don’t want to become a hated cyclist who is inconsiderate of others and general road safety. On the other hand I don’t want to put myself in a dangerous position by sharing the road with crazy people who will likely injure or kill me in the event of a collision. Additionally, I know that with the exception of Uptown Waterloo, the sidewalks of Bridgeport/Erb are very underused by pedestrians, and used habitually by cyclists. Therefore I’ve decided to bike on the sidewalk. I’ve been doing some light research, and Bill Bean’s blog, Take the Lane, has been a very informative. It also seems that there are others who feel cycling on the sidewalk is necessary for this route.

My plan is to bike at a relatively slow pace, always give right of way to pedestrians and overall be aware of my surroundings.

This being my first endeavour in cycling in an urban environment, any tips or criticisms of my rationale, (yes I know sidewalk cycling is technically illegal) would be highly appreciated.

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7 Responses to “Tips for Cycling in KW”

  1. I’m generally inclined to sacrifice directness of route for a nice ride when I’m cycling. On the sidewalk or on the road, I don’t think Bridgeport or Erb are going to be very nice rides.

    I don’t know much about your route, but could you take the trail behind the Bridgeport Sobeys plaza or Allen Street to the railway tracks?

    If you’re on the sidewalk, keep a slow pace, stay on the right side of the road and be very mindful of cars turning. They won’t see you. Be prepared to dismount at intersections. Statistically speaking, sidewalk riding is considerably more dangerous even though it feels safer.

  2. 2 Nick

    Cycling is great, I wish you luck!

    About a year ago I made an effort to bike to work, but quickly gave up on it. I have a very short trip to my office from my apartment (even by foot it’s about 10 minutes unless I’m feeling particularly lazy) but it involves driving down Weber (near King and Columbia) but having cars zoom by right next to me instead of moving into the next lane is a pretty terrible experience. Especially while I’m going downhill and praying I don’t hit a bump or something to send me off course.

    The other part that bothered me is that with all of Waterloo’s hills I’m always going to be going uphill at some point on my way to and from work no matter what route I take. But maybe that’s just my particular area. I honestly never thought I’d miss the boring flatness of Windsor!

    I suppose I could always just get on the sidewalk, I just had the silly idea that every bicyclist on the street could serve as a reminder to drivers that the street is where bikes belong. Bicyclists on the sidewalk don’t really upset me that much, I just get surprised when they pass me since I’m usually walking along with headphones.

    Anyway, I’ll be interested in reading about your experiences, hopefully they’ll be better than mine.

  3. I would take the sidewalk over the road any day on Bridgeport and Erb – those aren’t streets, those are highways. From my reply to a comment about sidewalk cycling on my last blog post:

    I think it’s a fine solution (and often use it myself), but you do need to exercise caution and not treat it as a safe zone. The reason cyclists vilify sidewalk riding is that it can be very dangerous — drivers do not expect fast-moving traffic on the sidewalk. So you should be alert at driveways to cars that may be trying to turn out of or in to those driveways (especially when they’re preoccupied with turning left across traffic). Similarly drivers may not expect you at a crosswalk, so you should go slowly and make eye contact; honestly I’d say the same goes for walking as well. If you’re moving over to the roadway, be very careful that drivers see you. Courtesy to pedestrians is a given, of course. So there you have it: defensive sidewalk cycling.

    Don’t go too fast, don’t worry too much, and enjoy your commute.

  4. Thanks everyone for all the comments and suggestions! I will definately look into some better routes, (crossing HWY 85 is the biggest problem) as well as follow all your safety precautions and tips!

  5. Sorry to resurrect this older post, but I would like to know how this turned out.

    I’ve been cycling and/or running to work for a couple of years now and there’s definitely some techniques that can help.

    • I chickened out! I did start cycling in general, (KW is much more hilly on a bike compared to in a car). After a few “Trial rides” (not going all the way to work, but biking in the vicinity), I realized I’m not comfortable doing the long-ish commute. Yes, a colossal failure on my part. But I am riding somewhat regularly these days, which is good. I’ve also quit my job, so I’ll likely never have an opportunity to try this commute. I have been biking to school, but 80% of that commute is on bike trails, so it’s really no stress.

      Rob: Fantastic blog! I am forced to like to such greatness. Keep up the good work!

      • I know the feeling. There’s no welcome with open arms on the roads around here. I always call cycle commuters like me commuter non-gratas. We’re not welcome anywhere.

        The blog is about promotion. Trying to stay on task with that. Lots of bike blogs are actually about hating cars. Besides the odd post, we’re hoping to not go down that path.

        Stop by and drop us a line.


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