The starting point

The commuter peloton – Seven rules to pedal by.

Friday, May 18th is Bike to Work Day and the media will be tripping over themselves to cover this event – as started in DC in 2001. Eleven years is a long time – I remember most BOWD rides. See, I commuted by bike for ten of those years. Admittedly, I was/am a fair weather commuter – today my office is in the home.

Before the home office I commuted from Glen Echo Park to L’Enfant Plaza – and in the past three years from Glen Echo to Merrifield, VA. The commuter peloton has grown tremendously over this time.

I have seven learning’s to share for those riders participating in Bike to Work Day – they are as follows:
1) Do a safety check before mounting. Squeeze the brake levers to see if the brakes engage; thumb press both tires to feel if they are hard; at a minimum turn on your rear blinker.
2) Right hand on/Left hand off. – If your bike is like mine – a hybrid, then most likely your right brake lever controls the rear wheel brake pads. Ride with your right hand on the right brake lever and keep your left hand nearby and available to scratch your posterior, or grab the water bottle or to give a hand signal and then to assist in braking. A quick left hand reactive squeeze will throw you over the handlebars – been there, done that, multiple times.
3) Smartphones are not. Nothing is scarier than following (or approaching) someone riding and talking on a phone. Bluetooth enabled or not – it is dangerous. Need to make or take a call – please pull over.
4) Everyone is wearing ear buds. Akin to rule #3 – you must assume that anyone walking or riding can’t hear you – because, you guessed it, they are wearing ear buds as they walk, run or ride. So make some noise, ring your bell, to let them know you are near.
5) ON YOUR LEFT. Say it loud and proud before you pass or overtake a person. See rule #4 above. Alternately, you can wish someone Good Morning, Buenos Noches, or my favorite Buonasera.
6) Lights, Lights, Lights. Hey, who cares how many Blinkies you have on your bike and backpack – You do! Use em’ all.
7) Squirrels are everywhere. Squirrels come in three forms. Four legged, two legged and multi-wheeled. Let’s talk two legged first. These squirrels are runners, Rollerbladers and walkers – it happens to the best of us (runners and cyclists) how all of sudden a runner will stop at a point and turn around to go the other way – ultimately turning into oncoming/passing traffic. My rule is to pay attention to the mile markers on paths – runners will usually turn at a marker. Just stay alert. Now Bladers – just push kick their legs wide and tend to roll in the center path– they are the most aware of their surroundings – but you can never be too sure how far they will swing. Use Rule #5. Ah, multi-wheeled squirrels – they are usually pushing baby carriages – and they stop suddenly to check on junior/missy or to pick up a tossed binkey. In this instance it is best to just start squeezing your right hand – see Rule #2. Now to the four-legged kind. A squirrel will dart and act the same on a bike path (or road side path) as they do while you drive the SUV in your neighborhood. They are unpredictable and will jump out when you least expect it. Do you know what a squirrel sounds and feels like when you run over it? It’s a LOT more personal then when you run one over in your SUV.

So on Friday morning you can find me at the Rockville Fallsgrove Transportation Center Pit Stop – picking up the Bike to Work Day swag, a banana or two, getting my bike checked, eating a bagel and chatting up the local riders. Then, I will turn around and ride back home to the office – but I will make one last stop for a “reward” donut at the Krispy Kreme on Shady Grove Road.

Note to City of Gaithersburg: How come Frederick MD has at Pit Stop this year at the MARC train station and you don’t? When will you join the rest of the jurisdictions across the area and sponsor at least one BOWD stop? Heck, you could even put one at the Montgomery County Public Administration Center on Route 28 or nearby at one of your parks in the Lakelands. Knock, knock – Hello, McFly, ON YOUR LEFT – you are being lapped by the commuter peloton here.

Phil Fabrizio

About Phil Fabrizio

Phil Fabrizio is an event, news and sports photographer in the Washington D.C. Metro area. He lives in North Potomac and has operated Sugarloaf Photography since 1985. He is a member of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of the Glen Echo Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc in Glen Echo. Stop by Phil's PhotoLoaf site or visit his SugarLoaf Photography facebook page or follow him on Twitter @Photoloaf. Find Phil's blog on MyMCMedia here.


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