So maybe you've been reading all of my posts. Maybe you are thinking of jumping on a bike yourself because I'm just that persuasive. Okay I know it's the gas prices, but let me have my moment. If you have been reading my posts, then you know that biking can be a rewarding activity. Starting something new can sometimes be very daunting. Here is a guide to you, the novice city commuting bicycler.
The most important thing, outside of the bike itself, is a helmet. Get one, and get used to wearing it. If you need it to, it WILL save your life. There is a good reason that a euphemism for it is the "brain bucket." Even if you don't normally ride in traffic, a helmet is a good idea because anything can happen at any time, and it usually does. Serious injury can result from even the most benign crash, so you might as well be prepared for the worst. Listen to this rider that has been hit by numerous cabs, a ford escort, and a garbage truck: wear your helmet.
The next indispensable piece of equipment that a successful rider needs is a good lock. I recommend Kryptonite's U-Lock. Stay away from thin chains and the cord locks, as they are easy targets for thieves. Unfortunate as it is, there has been an epidemic of disappearing bicycles lately and as Mama always said, an ounce of preparation is worth an ounce of cure. Additionally, if you must leave your bike outside for extended periods of time, try to change the location if you can. This way, if someone has their eye on your wheels, they won't know exactly where to find it all the time.
If you plan on riding at night, Michigan law dictates that you need proper lighting, the same as an automobile. I wear a light on my back that is both a flashing light and a reflector and am thus compliant. You will also need a headlamp, generally mounted on your handlebars. This is a good idea as the many potholes in the city streets are capable of swallowing your bike whole and they tend to disappear in the darkness of night. The lights will also alert drivers to your presence, and drivers may be the most dangerous things facing the cyclist.
Now drivers, maybe you see bikers as another obstacle to avoid among all the potholes, busses, and oblivious pedestrians. Fear not, intrepid motorist, but bikers are more afraid of you than you are of them. Please realize that bicycles have the same rights as you in your cars.
Bikers, stay off the sidewalks, they are for pedestrians. Not only is it illegal for bicycles to use the sidewalks, but also it might actually be better on the street. There is less broken glass in the street and broken glass is the bikers' archenemy. As a bicyclist, you have to realize that you are a target, although seldom on purpose, of many drivers. You need to be more cautious than the radio-fiddling, cell phone-talking, McDonald's-eating, distracted driver. Your survival depends on it.
Yes, it may seem like biking is a complicated and daunting hobby, but little kids do it all the time. So get a bike, get some exercise, rediscover your youth, and save some gas money. You won't regret it. See you out there on two wheels!