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The Ten Commandments Of Bike Riding In Downtown Grand Rapids

Today is National Ride Your Bike To Work Day, and as a veteran urban bike commuter, I would like to suggest some rules you can follow to bike your bike commute a wee bit easier, and a whole lot safer.

1. Thou Shalt Wear A Helmet. You might think that this is a no brainer, and the truth is, from my experience, you won’t have much of a brain left if you don’t. It’s saved my life on at least two occasions. So, yeah, it looks cool if you don’t wear one, like you’re some kind of rebel, but really you’re a dumbass.

2. Thou Shalt Be Wary Of North Monroe. The north Monroe business corridor heading out of downtown is currently a mess. From the construction zones that squeeze out the bike lanes, to the residents who are inclined to open their car doors in your face, to the delivery trucks who feel the bike lane is their parking space, be very, very careful.

3. Thou Shalt Light Yourself Up Like A Firework When Riding At Night Or Early Morning. I learned from experience that the more you’re lit up, the better off you are. Once upon a time I eschewed lighting myself up, then I got clipped by a truck, now I feel naked if my light’s battery goes out on the way in.

4. Thou Shalt Wear Bright Colors. I’m aware that most of the urban riders downtown like the look of black, but the more people can see me, the safer I feel. I’m partial to florescent orange or highlighter yellow.

5. Thou Shalt Live By The Following Rule: ‘They Don’t See You And They’re Not Stopping For You’. This is very simple, when riding through the downtown area, assume the driver at any intersection can’t see you or won’t stop for you. Especially those coming out of any of the parking garages. Try and make eye contact with the driver, and always be anticipating a bad move by them.

6. Thou Shalt Honor And Support The Spoke Folks. The co-op shop on Logan Street off Grandville is the best friend a downtown bike commuter can have. They are fully stocked with parts and tools so you can fix a flat or a broken chain yourself, and for a nominal fee. God bless them and their staff for being there, and for being so helpful. They’ve saved me from a long walk home many times.

7. Thou Shalt Not Have Your Earphones Plugged In. If you’re riding up the White Pine Trail, that’s one thing, but if you’re riding through rush hour traffic downtown why would you want to give up one of your senses? Sure, I sound like Grampa, but nine times out of ten when you read about a bike/car collision, the article will mention that the cyclist was wearing headphones. Coincidence?

8. Thou Shalt Be Wary Of Debris in The Bike Lane. Grand Rapids has over 80 miles of bike lanes, and while they are very important to you, no one else gives a rat’s butt, that’s why you need to be alert to broken bottles, storm debris and dead animals in the bike lane. It sucks, but it’s a fact of life.

9. Thou Shalt Not Ride On The Sidewalk. Okay, if it’s four in the morning, go for it, but slaloming between pedestrians at noon is not cool.

10. Thou Shalt Not Ride The Wrong Way In The Bike Lane. Most of the bike lanes are on both sides of the city streets, traffic stays to the right. You certainly wouldn’t drive on the wrong side of the street, so why would you think it’s okay to ride your bike against traffic? This causes issues for those of us going the right way. And if you use the bike lane to run or jog against traffic, yield to the biker by stepping out of the lane, otherwise your forcing them into traffic, and that may not end well.

For the most part, biking downtown is a fun and great experience. Here’s some great info on biking downtown from DowntownGR. 

Jojo Girard/TSM
Jojo Girard/TSM

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