Spring is here, and what could be nicer than getting the bike out for a ride. Well, riding doesn’t only have to be on the weekends, and only for recreation. Riding to and from work can be a great way to wake up in the morning, decompress on the way home, get in your exercise, and save money.
Riding bikes to work in the Pioneer Valley presents many options for route selection. Our growing network of rails-to-trails means even the shyest rider can get around and avoid tight streets. Going between Amherst, Easthampton, Hadley and Northampton is easily done on the Norwottuck and Manhan Rail Trails.
If you don’t live close enough to bike to a rail trail, driving or busing to the trails is an option. There are parking lots at many places along the trails, and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, PVTA, has bike racks on buses.
Should you choose to bike to the trail, consider your route carefully. A route which makes sense in the car might not be your best bet on the bike. Choose a road which has a good shoulder, light traffic, and perhaps even better scenery. Pick up one of the Northampton area biking maps put out by Friends of the Northampton Trails and Greenways. The 2011 version will include the new trail bridge connection between Easthampton and Northampton, and the new trail through downtown Northampton, the Manhan connector path in Florence on Ice Pond Drive, the path extending from Look Park out to Leeds. The new map is scheduled to become available at the Northampton Bike Week Breakfast on May 18.
Riding smartly on the road requires learning where to position yourself, how to use hand signals, learning to be alert for motor vehicles. MassBike worked with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to create this brochure with bike commuting riding tips. If you aren’t sure of yourself, take a road riding skills class. They are offered through MassBike Pioneer Valley, and through the new Pioneer Valley Bike School in the Florence section of Northampton.
Commuting to work or to school requires carrying stuff. There are many options, from simply using a backpack, strapping a milk crate to the rear rack, buying or making your own carrying bags, called panniers. I’ve been making my own bags and panniers for years to save money, and because I like making them! I’ve put together a post on the many carrying options, including a how-to on making bike buckets.
Other things to consider are making sure you are seen by using lights and reflectors, and keeping comfortable in the rain.
I’d like to hear any other bike commuting tips and concerns you have. Leave a note in the comments.