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A Short Bicycle Commuter Resource Guide
By Santa Cruz Bike to Work

Courtesy of

Bike Buddy Services

Bike Safety Videos


Need a crash-course on the latest trends in bicycle and pedestrian safety? The following slides are courtesy of the Health Transportation Network and were presented at an all-day workshop at Ecology Action in December 2011.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Trends

Improving Bike & Pedestrian Safety

Designing Safe Multi-use Trails

Designing Safe Sidewalks

Designing Safe Sidewalks, part 2 

Crossing the street: General Principals

Crossing the street: General Principals, part 2 

Intersection Geometry 

Roundabouts & Road Diets

Safe Cycling Education



Why Bike Commute?

• Its good for your health.
• Saves you money on gasoline, vehicle maintenance, parking fees and parking tickets.
• Reduces air, water and noise pollution associated with driving.
• Reduces automobile traffic.
• Its good for the community by making our streets safer, quieter, and cleaner.

Once you discover the freedom, convenience, and fitness benefits of biking to work, you'll wonder why you didn't start riding sooner. Bicycling can be a convenient, dependable, and virtually free mode of transportation. And bicycling burns about 500 calories an hour, so you can commute and stay fit at the same time.

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Before You Ride

Always wear a helmet - it may save your life.

A good helmet (with ANSI or SNELL safety certificate) can be purchased for as little as $20-50. Make sure the helmet fits your head. Have bike shop employee fit the helmet. The extra $10-20 on a lighter, more breathable helmet is worth the cost in comfort. It should consist of an outer polycarbonate or fiberglass shell, an energy-absorbing inner liner made of semi-rigid foam, comfort pads, and an adjustable strap. Replace your helmet if your helmets hits anything hard.

What route will you take?
Check the Santa Cruz County Bike Way Map (available free at most bike shops or through Bike to Work). This comprehensive bike map, is produced by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. Use a map to draw a potential route that avoids busy main streets and steep hills. Explore the area for alternate routes with bike paths, bike lanes, and quiet neighborhoods. These routes might not be the most direct but they are more enjoyable.

Where will I park my bike?
Does your employer offer bike lockers or indoor parking? If not, you could try storing your bike in a public bike locker. Contact Cheryl Schmitt, City of Santa Cruz's Bike Coordinator: 420-5187. On street bike parking has increased considerable in downtown Santa Cruz. A good u-lock or a very thick chain link lock is essential especially if you bike is worth over $350. Make sure your lock fits into an enclosed part of your frame. If you lock just your wheels, the rest of your bike is prone to theft. Many employers want to help employees use alternatives to driving alone, so ask your employer if lockers or showers can be installed or provisions can be made for bicycles inside your building.

Essential items include a well running bike that fits you properly, a helmet, bright clothes, a front and rear light, and a strong lock. A breathable windbreaker or rain jacket is essential for cool, foggy mornings and evenings. Sunglasses not only keep you from squinting but also protect your eyes from debris.
Carrying baskets and saddlebags mounted on a rear rack are great for carrying briefcase/work supplies, lunch, a change of clothes, and grocery items. Increasing your bikes carrying capacity allows you to take weight off your body and let the bike do the carrying of heavy items. For larger items bike trailers can handle four to five full grocery bags.

Ask neighbors or co-workers if they ride their bikes to work...If not contact our Bike Buddy program
Friends who ride to work can give you tips on routes, safety, and parking. If they live near you, ask if you can ride with them for the first few days while you get used to your route and traffic patterns.

Bike maintenance and safety check
Be sure your bike is tuned-up. If you don't have a bike, or want recommendations about the best types of equipment, ask friends and co-workers who ride to work. Talk to fellow bicyclists and check with your local bike shop. They can show you all the newest models and equipment.
Make sure your brakes are in good working order, your wheels don't rub the frame or brake pads, and your handlebars are tightened down. Check the tire pressure - many cyclists ride with under inflated tires which makes the ride slower and potentially unsafe.

Ride the route on your day off
Carry the same amount of clothes and other items as you would on a work day. Is the route too steep? Explore alternatives. Imagine traffic conditions during regular commute hours, and remember that your route will look different after dark.

Know the rules of the road
You are recognized as a legal driver of a vehicle. Therefore, drive your bicycle as you would any vehicle. Obey traffic laws. Both the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California State Automobile Association can provide you with rules for cyclists.

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Safety Tips

• Share the road. Don't assume motorists can see you.

• Ride on the right, but leave enough room for a car door to open. Drivers might open a car door without seeing you.

• Be predictable. Avoid sudden swerves.

• Be Alert. Predict other road users movements.

• Don't ride against traffic. Motorist don't expect to be on the wrong side of the road, therefore are not looking for you.

• Follow signs, signals, and pavement markings.

• When turning left, merge with left-turning traffic or walk your bike across as a pedestrian if you are uncomfortable merging into automobile traffic.

• Inform others of turns by using hand signals. These are the same as motorists' hand signals except that for turning right you can use your right arm and point.

• Slow down and yield for pedestrians.

• Common sense, courtesy, and caution are the three C's of good cycling.

• Look for road hazards - potholes, broken glass, rocks, etc.

• For fun and informative bike safety videos check out You can purchase great safety videos for kids, teenagers, and adults.

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Bike Commuting Concerns

Riding a bike in traffic during commute hours is dangerous.
For maximum safety, take your rightful place in traffic and obey all traffic laws. With advance planning, you can find a route that avoids heavy traffic and other potential hazards.

Biking will make my commute take even longer.
Most commutes will take longer by bicycle although some people have found it actually cuts down on their travel time. If it does take longer, consider that the time you spend on your bicycle is probably more relaxing and rewarding.

I don't own a bike and my commute is already expensive.
You may need to make an initial investment, but even if you buy a new bike and equipment, it should pay off in lower commute costs in no time. It's best to purchase a bike from a bicycle dealer who will fit the bike to you and provide follow-up adjustments and repair. Some dealers carry used bikes.

My clothes will be wrinkled when I get to work.
On a short, relatively flat ride, you may arrive in good shape. For longer rides, you'll find that racks, bike bags and special panniers are great for carrying a change of clothes to work wrinkle-free. You can also leave your work clothes at the office, or take the bus when you have special meetings that require dress attire.

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Commuting Tips

• Under the California Vehicle Code, drivers of bicycles are required to follow the same rules as automobiles.Drive your bike like a car. Ride with the flow of traffic, never against. Always ride in a straight line, moving to the left or right only after checking behind you for traffic. Signal your turns, including lane changes. Ride to the right, but not so far that you might get hit by a car door that someone might open in front of you. California law allows you to "take the lane," forcing motorists to change lanes to pass you, if the lane is not wide enough for a car to pass you safely within it. The law also allows you to move to the left when approaching an intersection to make you more visible and to prevent motorists turning right from behind you, thus cutting you off, a bicyclist has the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles. Be careful squeezing between buses and the curb as bus riders are embarking and disembarking. It is advisable to pass buses on their left, using the lane provided.

• Always wear a helmet. It should fit well and feel comfortable. Always fasten the strap. A helmet should sit on top of your head in a level position and should not rock back and forth or from side to side.

• Equip and inspect your bike for safety. Keep your bike in good working order or take it to a bicycle shop for regular tune-ups. Also consider carrying a lock, water bottle, padded gloves, a bike pump, and a patch kit. California law requires a white headlight for bicyclists riding in the dark, but a red back light is recommended for added visibility.


Photograph by Shane Porter


• Santa Cruz county is blessed with mild winter weather which makes this a great place to ride year round. But the temperate rain and cold does require additional equipment and clothing. Be prepared by checking out our Winter Riding Tips page.

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Commuting Resources

Downtown Bike Lockers and Secure Bike Cage Spaces Available:
The City of Santa Cruz has bike lockers and bike cage space available for downtown employees who need a secure place to lock their bikes. The lockers rent for $5 month. For more information contact City's Bike Coordinator, Cheryl Schmitt, at (831) 420-5187.

Bike Safety Training Classes
Many beginning cyclists are hesitant to bike in traffic because they don’t feel safe. Learn the skills and techniques to confidently and safely maneuver your bicycle on busy streets. Attend a free bike safety class offered by Ecology Action. To sign up for a class call 831.426.5925 ext. 128 or email

The Santa Cruz County Bicycle Map locates bike paths, bike lanes and safe bike routes. To get a printed map visit a local bike shop or contact the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission at 831.460.3200. Maps may also be obtained by contacting Ecology Action at 831.426.5925 ext. 128. provides mileage, elevation gains and a bird’s eye view of your route (provided by Google Earth). You can also discover new routes created by other users.

Join the Bike Buddy service electronically by going to and sign-up to find someone to bike to work with. This list is great for beginning cyclists who want on the road cycling advice.

Click here to download advice on preventing bike theft and solutions to the U-lock problem (PDF file)

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Driving Down (Courtesy of

According to the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. motorists are driving substantially fewer miles for the first time in 26 years. The decrease is credited to high gas prices, changing demographics and greater availability of public transportation.

Not mentioned was bicycle use, although that didn't seem to diminish the delight of Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, the nation's cycling advocacy organization.

In a Bike to Work Week address, Clarke called the new stats "good news for America and good news for the planet. . . we might finally be turning the corner and reducing our over-dependence on cars for most of our trips."

That said, Clarke added, "Let me be clear, [LAB is] not anti-car. There are a lot of trips and a lot of tasks for which a car is ideally suited and often the only option.

"What we are saying is that more than 40 percent of all trips in the country are two miles or less. These short trips -- which are by far the most polluting -- are ideal distances to do on a bike. . . What better way to save money, get some exercise, reduce pollution, and have some fun into the bargain?"

According to Clarke, Americans who participated in Bike to Work Day last Friday . . .

---saved more than 56 tanker trucks of gasoline
---saved $5.7 million in driving costs
---prevented 4,580 tons of carbon dioxide and 230 tons of carbon monoxide from entering the atmosphere
---burned 410 million calories

Check out “Riding Predictably"
A bicycle safety film produced by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.  It’s a great introductory video for new commuters!

Need a new bike or help fixing the old bike? Click here for a list of local bike shops.



Bike Safety Videos

Check out some bicycle safety videos created by Ecology Action. These clips show some great tips for bicycle commuters.

Urban Cycling: Left Hand Turns for Cyclists

Urban Cycling: Taking the Lane with Sharrows


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