We asked two Harvard bicyclist commuters, from the Harvard and Longwood campuses, to share their top ten tips on how to commute to work safely and efficiently. 

David Havelick is a program manager for Dr. Mucci’s prostate cancer research team in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is also a member of the HSPH EcoOpportunity Green Team and founder of the Harvard Longwood Bicyclists group. David Havelick is a program manager for Dr. Mucci’s prostate cancer research team in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is also a member of the HSPH EcoOpportunity Green Team and founder of the Harvard Longwood Bicyclists group.

  1. Know your ABCs (check your air, brakes, and chain each time before riding). You can find out where you can fill up your air or make minor adjustments (Harvard's Longwood Campus has 2 repair stations) and always carry a small pump and a patch kit (and/or an extra tube), just in case. It also helps to know where the closest bike shops are.
  2. Safety first. You need a light for the front and back of your bike (I prefer rechargeable lights).  Also, anything reflective on you (clothing) or the bike is helpful to drivers. And, of course, always wear a helmet (and remember to get a new one every five years)
  3. If you're taking a new route, try to practice it when you're not in a rush. Take extra care if you ride along Huntington Avenue. There is often not enough room to share a lane, so if you choose to ride Huntington, be prepared and comfortable with controlling a lane, as the sharrows suggest.
  4. Always assume that a truck or a bus driver (or even a car driver) cannot see you (VIDEO)
  5. Always obey the vehicular traffic signals unless you walk your bike using the pedestrian all-walk signal—to send a message to drivers that bicyclists are law-abiding and to better protect your safety. Always stop for pedestrians crossing the street—even if they are not in a crosswalk
  6. Use a U-Lock to secure your bike, cable locks do not provide enough protection.
  7. Do not ride in the door zone (stay at least 3 feet from parked cars)
  8. Look and signal before making turns, and indicate slowing/stopping not at a light/stop sign—the biker behind you will appreciate this! If you intend go straight through an intersection, do not ‘hug’ the right as cars will assume you are making a right turn
  9. Announce when passing another cyclist (“passing on your left”), and only pass another cyclist on the left
  10. Look ahead for road hazards (e.g. potholes, sand/gravel, glass, drain grates) so you have time to negotiate around these

Thomas Lingner is an Imaging Technican at the Harvard Library. He is a Leader of the Green Team for Widener Library and an avid bicyclist. Thomas Lingner is an Imaging Technican at the Harvard Library. He is a Leader of the Green Team for Widener Library and an avid bicyclist.

  1. Get on the bike. Seems simple, but that’s the first step. You might think the ride will take too long, you’ll need new clothes, or that it’ll be too hard. Try it for a week, and you may find those fears are groundless.
  2. Ride in whatever clothing you want. I often wear jeans and a t-shirt, but I have a friend who bikes in a suit and tie. A backpack, a courier bag, or a rack and panniers can hold a change of clothing and a lunch.
  3. Ride at a pace that is comfortable. That same bike friend says the trick is in not breaking his "sweat threshold." Commuting isn't a race, and a nice, easy ride twice a day can be quite relaxing.
  4. Plan your route with some care. For me, the quickest route from Belmont to Harvard is Concord Ave., but that gets congested and is too narrow for comfort between Walden and Huron. Instead, I ride the Concord Ave. bike track to the light at Vassal Lane. There, I safely cross Fresh Pond Parkway and follow a quieter street that parallels Concord. Going a little out of the way on a bike doesn’t add much time at all, and can make the whole journey a pleasure.
  5. Allow yourself a day off now and then. If you are going out after work, you feel like walking instead, or if it’s pouring and you can’t face the puddles, then leave the bike at home for a day. I do recommend, however, that you ride home in the rain at least once. There’s a strange joy in getting thoroughly soaked on a ride.
  6. Know the rules of the road and follow them. Cars will respect riders who act responsibly and predictably, and mutual respect makes the roads safer for everyone.
  7. Get a bell and use it. Cyclists appreciate advance warning when being passed by another bike, and it’s also helpful to alert pedestrians, or just to say hi.
  8. Stay alert. You’ve planned your route, you are following the rules, you’re wearing safety equipment—now ride confidently, but always pay attention.
  9. Take advantage of the Bicycle Commuter Act. Harvard reimburses cyclist commuters for bike-related expenses. It’s $20.00 for each month that you ride and don’t also get a bus pass or other commuter benefit, up to $240.00 per year. So get that tune-up, a more comfortable seat, or a bell. It’s covered!
  10. Don’t gloat. Riding to and from work will make you healthier, happier, and more self-confident—and you’re practically getting paid to do it! Your co-workers will notice a change in your demeanor, but try not to rub it in. Instead, tell them your secret, and let them experience the transformation for themselves.