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Getting Started as a Bicycle Commuter

Getting Started

  • Have your bicycle checked over by your local bike shop.
  • Make sure your tires are firmly inflated. Do this whenever you ride, to help prevent flat tires.
  • Always wear a helmet to protect your head.

On the Road

  • Be visible and predictable at all times. Avoid sudden movements.
  • Look around you before changing position on the roadway, and before turning. Indicate your intentions with hand signals.
  • For left turn, hold left arm horizontally, palm flat.
  • For right turn, hold arm horizontally, bend at the elbow to a 90 degree angle, palm facing forward.
  • For slowing or stopping, extend left arm toward ground, palm facing back.

For Self-Starters

For self-starters, many resources are available online through the Idaho Transportation Department’s Bike/Pedestrian Page. The site offers guidance through a variety of media including a printed Bicycle Commuter Guide available in PDF format. Following are some tips taken from that guide.

  • Let your supervisors, friends, or roommates know that you plan to start bicycle commuting, and ask for their support.
  • Get a good-fitting, comfortable bicycle helmet that complies with U.S. CPSC safety standards. Your local bike shop is the place to start. The shop will help you find a product that you can wear willingly (as opposed to grudgingly).
  • Wear the helmet whenever you ride. Today’s helmets are lightweight and well-ventilated.
  • Invite a co-worker, or a friend whose workplace is near Boise State, to start with you. Your commute will be more enjoyable, safer, and easier to strategize with a partner. Which of you lives closer to campus? How might the two of you take advantage of that?
  • Plan your route, and test it on a day off, before your first ride to work. Be sure to time the trip.
  • If the dress code is informal, you might be able to ride wearing some or all of your work clothes. In summer, or if you must dress more formally for work, try storing some clothes at the office. The Bicycle Commuter Guide offers several tips.

Advice for Riding in Groups

  • If you have joined a group, stay with the group. Avoid being left behind, and avoid leaving people stranded at traffic lights behind you.
  • Look before you change position in the group. Indicate your intentions with hand signals and verbally.
  • For left turn, hold left arm horizontally, palm flat. Say, “left turn.”
  • For right turn, hold left arm horizontally, bend at the elbow to a 90 degree angle, palm facing forward. Say, “right turn.”
  • For slowing or stopping, hook left arm around your backside, palm facing back. Say “slowing” or “stopping.”
  • Expect the group to obey lane markings and to approach stop signs and traffic lights as prescribed in Idaho laws.
  • Have a good time! A group ride can be an enjoyable social environment. Cyclists are permitted by law to ride two abreast. If this can be done without impeding other traffic. In places where single-file is necessary, a person in back should call out, “single up!”

In Case of Emergency

Sometimes you do need transportation in a hurry, but that doesn’t mean you need to bring your car. Commuteride offers a Guaranteed Ride Home to anyone who has arrived at work using an alternative to driving alone. The program offers reimbursement for a taxi ride home and is expressly intended to help bicyclists, walkers, bus riders, car-poolers, and vanpoolers when emergencies create a need for immediate transportation. Rides are also available for unscheduled overtime situations.

To be eligible for guaranteed rides home, you must be registered with the Commuteride Office using a one-page form. There is a maximum of six taxi rides or $300 in fares annually per participant.

Do You Live Farther Than 7 Miles* from Campus?

If so, try commuting intermodally! There are many ways to do this; we will emphasize two.

  1. Leave home on your bicycle and ride to the nearest Valley Ride bus route. Valley Ride buses all have safe, solid racks for bicycles; bus drivers will gladly help you learn how to load. Boise State University faculty, staff, and students are eligible for passes that permit free riding (with or without bike!) every day of the regular academic year, late August through mid-May. Discount passes are available during summer months. A seven-mile perimeter around Valley Ride’s service area would enclose a large region generally east of Linder Road, south of the foothills, downstream of Discovery State park, and north of Kuna-Mora Road. Even if you live within 7 miles of campus, you might find intermodal commuting attractive. Many commuters bicycle from home to the nearest bus stop, load the bicycle and ride the bus for the inbound trip so that they arrive at work pressed, dressed, and fresh; and in the evening they change clothes and cycle the whole distance home. It’s a great way to stay in shape and arrive home with a positive attitude.
  2. Using a rack, the back of your pickup, or the back seat of your car, haul your bicycle to a Park-and-Ride lot located at a chosen distance from campus. Finish the trip on your bicycle. There are four Park-and-Ride lots located within 7 miles of campus. Six other lots are within four miles of a bus route that serves the Boise State campus.

* In our experience, a one-way trip of seven miles or less can be accomplished on city streets by a bicycle almost as quickly as in a car. This observation takes into account traffic, stopping at signals, and parking. A bicyclist can better avoid traffic jams, and usually does not need to hunt for parking. There are more river crossings for walkers and bicyclists than for cars. From some neighborhoods, a bicyclist will beat a driver to work, time after time.