How to Bike in the City: Tips for the Bicycle Curious

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You say you want to get around the city without spending the $9,000 to maintain and operate a car each year, and maybe get some exercise while you’re at it? You don’t have that kind of cash. And you know, the planet. But those bike lanes can look pretty intimidating, with all the mustachioed hipsters on their superbad fixies, the spandex-clad adrenaline junkies, and the cars whizzing by.

What you need is a video that squeezes basic bicycle skills into four action-packed minutes, replete with a sick sound track and just maybe a crazy stunt or two.

Matty Lang

About Matty Lang

Matty Lang has been interested in land use, transportation, and cities since he fell in love with Paris, France while studying there in 1998-1999. He is a filmmaker living in Minneapolis. He loves film, bicycling, and basketball. Follow him: Vimeo | @MattyLangMSP | Facebook

6 thoughts on “How to Bike in the City: Tips for the Bicycle Curious

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        No. All the stuff at the beginning. Planning a route on a computer, helmet and other special clothes, inspecting the bike, etc. Riding a bicycle is not this complicated nor should it be. Who wants to go through all of that every time they ride to the store or cafe?

        It then shows all of the dangers of bicycling. Yes, people need to be aware of these things, but I think the way they did it and the expressions on her face aren’t very positive. And if people in the Twin Cities see all the door zone stuff in this and then go out and ride along Summit or any number of places with a bike lane in the door zone where they’ve been told is dangerous to ride, what are they going to think (besides what numscull put a bike lane in a door zone)?

        If I was new to bicycling I don’t think I’d have the slightest interest in riding after seeing this.

        1. Brian U

          Couldn’t disagree more.

          This woman is confident, prepared and empowered. No city biking virgin should ever go out for the first time blissfully unaware of general traffic rules (like how to properly take a left), how to handle encounters with inattentive driver, with a bike that’s going to fall apart within 1 mile (much more likely to happen to that person who digs their old bike out of the basement for the first time in 10 years).

          And planning your route, at least your first time out, is not only fun, but vital. Here’s a little anecdote about one of my first times really biking:

          When I was a freshman in high school, I decided to bike to school one day. The high school was in the neighboring exurban town, much farther away from my house than my middle or elementary was. This was pre-googlemaps obviously, so I pretty much just used the same route that my bus used to get to school (lots of very busy roads with no shoulder, brutal intersections, etc). Unbeknownst to me, there was a regional bike trail very nearby that would have taken me the lion’s share of trek.

          Coming up on a busy intersection, I saw the light ahead of me turn yellow. Having the judgment of a 14 year old, I figured I could make the light…failing to realize that the acceleration potential of a bicycle is far different than that of a car. I nearly got plowed over, cars’ brakes were squealing, it was one of the scariest moments of my life. I am lucky I am not in a wheelchair now.

          A simple video like this would have helped me in so many ways, and certainly wouldn’t have scared me off. Rookie urban cyclists NEED to be made aware that there is indeed some inherent danger in the activity. You also need to consider the audience, if somebody clicked on this video, they probably already want to go riding. If this very tame video scares them off, that’s probably a good thing…because they’re just going to get scared off the first time they get cut-off, doored, lost, or their bike falls apart.

          1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

            Brian, all good valid points. However, a perspective bicycle rider seeing this will more likely be dissuaded from riding rather than encouraged. The few who would not be discouraged by watching this are perhaps the 1% on the bubble between confident and enthusiastic.

            First, this video does not apply to the vast majority of bicycle trips. For about 99% of my trips I simply hop on my bicycle and go—without route planning, special clothes, helmets, mechanical checks, drivers trying to kill me or kids running in front of me. Yet someone watching this will get the impression that all of this is necessary to arrive alive for any trip.

            Further, most of this is common-sense for the majority of the population and I doubt that this video will change that for the rest. Most relatively sensible people are going to watch out for kids, wear a jacket if it’s cold, and check a map if they’re unsure where they’re going. e-maps have become a routine element for most.

            Once someone begins riding they’ll quickly learn most of this by experience anyway, without having been scared from never riding first.

            In the end this video makes riding a bicycle seem complicated and dangerous without providing any benefit that nearly every person will gain safely and quickly anyway—without it. Rather than encourage more people to ride a bicycle instead of drive, which will improve safety for our viewer and all of us, we’ll simply encourage them to stick with their cars that they’ll view as safer, simpler, and more convenient.

            We may encourage a few of the 1% on the bubble but will discourage a good chunk of the other 97%. Not a good trade off IMO.

  1. Mitch Vars

    I agree with Walker. The takeaway from this is: Biking is a dangerous fringe activity. As an added bonus on occasion you should expect to be ridiculed and have things thrown at you. But hey, if you just believe in yourself and become more confident you can conquer your fear of being killed on your way to work.

    When was the last time you saw a car commercial where they said last hear over 30K in the US people died while doing this?

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