If you live off-campus and need a way to get to class in a reasonable amount of time (and for a reasonable amount of money), you might consider biking. Biking is environmentally friendly, and you won’t have to pay for parking or a bus pass. You won’t have to wait for public transportation, but you’ll still go much faster than if you walk. Plus, you’ll get the benefits of physical exercise during your commute.
However, if you plan to bike to campus regularly and you aren’t used to biking, there are some important tips you’ll need to follow to keep yourself safe and academically successful.
Tips for Bike Commuting
These are some of the most important tips for first-time bicycle commuters on campus:
- Always wear a helmet. It may be cumbersome or look awkward on you, but make sure you wear a well-fitted helmet at all times. Bicycle accidents are common, and they can be severe, since your bicycle offers limited protection. In the event you lose control of the bike or a reckless driver hits you, a helmet could save your life. It’s also a good idea to wear gloves and long-sleeved clothes as forms of extra protection in case you wipe out.
- Obey the rules of the road. New bicyclists often attempt to get the best of both worlds, alternating between acting like a pedestrian and acting like a vehicle as it suits them. For example, they might ride on the road, but run red lights if they think it’s safe to do so, or they might ride on the sidewalk, but blaze by people at 15 miles an hour. Bicycles should be treated as vehicles, so as long as it’s safe to do so, stay on the road and obey all rules of the road, even if they’re inconvenient.
- Learn to signal properly. Take the time to learn the proper hand signals for signaling a turn. Most bikes aren’t equipped with built-in turn signals, so this is the only way to communicate with the drivers around you what you’re about to do. There are only a few signals to learn (left turn, right turn, and slowing/stopping), so there’s no excuse not to master them.
- Consider riding with a friend. Commuting to campus with a friend has many advantages. You’ll get some extra motivation to stick with your commitment. You’ll have company for the ride. Riding together could also reduce your risk of an accident. Plus, if either one of you is involved in an altercation, you’ll have the other as a witness and as extra support.
- Invest in a good lock (or two). If you’re leaving your bike parked on campus while you’re in class, you’ll want to make sure you have a good lock to protect it. Understand how to lock your bike to a fixture, and make sure both your wheels are locked in place as well, especially if they have a quick-release lever. Read up on reviews for the locks you purchase, and consider getting both a D-lock and a cable or chain lock. Many locks can be easily picked or cut, so get to know the product before you buy it.
- Be prepared for a flat. No matter how carefully you ride, eventually you’re probably going to deal with a flat tire. In these circumstances, it’s a good idea to have a spare tube ready, and all the tools you’ll need to change the tire. You also have to know how to change a tire in the first place. Consider getting a full-on emergency kit to keep on the frame of your bike at all times, so you’re never unprepared.
- Start slow. If you’re new to biking, or to physical exercise, don’t overexert yourself. Biking too fast, too far, too soon can result in serious injury. Take your time until you’re more confident in your abilities, and make sure to stretch and rest.
- Have a backup plan on important days. If you have an essay due or an exam to take, be sure you have a backup plan for your commute. Leave much earlier than you need to, and know how you’ll get to campus if something goes wrong with your bike along the way.
Finding the Best Bicycle
If you’re serious about biking efficiently, you may consider investing in a new bicycle as well. Road bikes are popular for commuters, but a hybrid bike may be suitable if you’re also interested in trail riding or off-road riding. If you’re not going to invest in a new bike, make sure you get your existing bike tuned up by a professional, especially if you haven’t done so in many years. This will prevent many common problems from affecting your daily rides.