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The decision to try to bike to work during Bike to Work Week didn't take too long to make. An e-mail from the MSU wellness coordinator asked employees to take part. I quickly replied "yes," hit send and then thought, "what have I done?"
My hours aren't typical, and I knew I'd be riding to work in the dark. But my co-worker reminded me that at least there would be very little traffic. And she was right.
After I strapped on my helmet and headed to work on my bike the first day of the campaign (with a flashlight duct taped to the frame since I hadn't planned too far ahead) I had very little traffic to deal with. When a car would approach from behind, I quickly pulled onto the sidewalk scared that, even with a light, the driver wouldn't see me in the dark.
After I (barely) made it through the first major intersection, following a car that had triggered the light to change to green, I was home free. The 4.2 miles sped by fairly quickly, and I could actually still walk (though my legs were pretty rubbery) once I got to work.
The ride home was uneventful, too, since I followed the rules of the road and didn't do anything to make anyone mad. I stopped at a four-way stop, and the driver was pleasantly surprised after he motioned me to go first (even though he was there before me), and I motioned for him to go on.
My experience as a bicyclist sharing the road with motorized vehicles prompted me to seek out a cycling expert to find out what things you need to know before heading out on a bike.
Andy Cline is an associate professor in the Media, Journalism and Film Department at Missouri State University and a cycling enthusiast involved in several biking organizations. He bikes to work every day, to friend’s houses, to the grocery stores and to the movies.
According to Cline, there are some basic rules of the road that every cyclist should follow…
"The first thing is just to get out there and ride, but the second thing, which is also super important, is that a bicycle is a legal vehicle on the road in Missouri. It is defined as a vehicle in the law, and, since that is the case, a bicycle driver is obligated to follow the law, which means you stop and stop signs, and you stop at red lights, and you travel on the right, and you yield right-of-way when appropriate to do so."
As far as whether or not you should ride on sidewalks, he says that’s the most dangerous place for a bicyclist to be, though it’s only illegal in business districts such as Downtown Springfield. But he says it’s ok to use a sidewalk for a short stretch if you need to.
Cline says Springfield is a fairly bicycle-friendly community with its grid system and low speed limits within city boundaries.
If you’d like to try cycling instead of taking the car this week, Lori Tack with Ozark Greenways has some advice…
"Figure out your route--what is the best route to take? It's often not the same route that you would take in your car, and the City of Springfield right now is expanding its on-street marked bike routes and so you can check out all the routes on our website ozarkgreenways.org to see what all's expanding throughout Springfield."
You can register to take part in Bike to Work Week, which runs through Friday, at ozarkgreenways.org.
As far as this bicyclist, my time on a bike this week ended the 2ndday of Bike to Work Week after I rode to work and home for lunch—I’ll need my car here the rest of the week.
But I now know I can handle the 4.2 mile ride to work—and who knows? You might see me riding to and from work in the future.