Top 10 tips for first-time bicycle commuters in Philadelphia

As  the weather warms up, there’s no better time to start pedal-powering your way to the office each morning.

Beyond the obvious benefits of adding exercise to your day, saving you money on transportation costs, and preserving the environment, new research shows that cycling may  save you time on your morning commute, too. Forget waiting for a delayed SEPTA bus or cursing your way through heavy traffic — hopping on a bike as soon as you get out the door can be a savior when running late for work.

Nervous about hitting the streets on a two-wheeled vehicle? These  tips are designed to help first-time bicycle commuters become comfortable cruising around the city.

Despite the recent death of cyclist Pablo Avendano on Saturday, the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia notes that cycling is still a great way to get around and that improvements are continuously being made across the city to make it even safer.

Obviously what happened this past weekend is a really terrible thing,” Bicycle Coalition spokesman  Randy LoBasso said. “But cycling has always been a quick and healthy commuting option. Just be aware that rules are being broken all the time by people in cars and that you need to stay continuously aware of your surroundings.”

Friday is officially Bike to Work Day in cities throughout the nation, so be sure to save the date and pump those tires in advance. You’ll join many others in Philadelphia kickstarting their day in an energizing way.

Like a wallet or phone, a helmet is a quintessential part of every bicycle commuter’s morning and evening attire. If you’re not ready to embrace the emerging nerdy-is-cool trend, have no fear: plenty of stylish options exist.

Lucas Drechsage, owner of Philadelphia Bikesmith, recommends the ABUS Hyban, a German-designed “urban” helmet that provides plenty of ventilation — a feature absent in many other fashionable options — as well as an integrated rear LED light. Other fun offerings include those from Nutcase, which sells helmets that look like watermelons, that are  covered with images of cats in space, and that have other eye-catching designs.

Grabbing a bite after work? If you plan to bike after dark, rear blinkers are a must, and front lights are encouraged, too. “You should also use lights during the day,” says Fernando Silvestre, manager at Breakaway Bikes. “When you’re traveling unprotected, you need to maximize your visibility — a bright flashing light will help the driver catch you in their peripheral.”

Silvestre recommends two daytime running lights that are designed to blink brighter than traditional options: The Bontrager Ion 100 R/Flare R City Bike Light Set and the Specialized Stix Comp combination set are meant to flash day or night and are both USB rechargeable.

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