You've recently started college and your primary means of transportation is your bike.
Or maybe you have a car, but are considering bicycle commuting because paying for parking is expensive and paying for parking tickets even is worse.
Does either of these describe you? If so, congratulations! Whether you are riding by necessity or choice, you will find that bicycles are a fun and inexpensive way to get around and Savannah.
Here is some prerequisite information to get you started:
Drive your bike
Under state law, bicycles are considered vehicles and their operators are drivers. Sound strange? Wait, it gets better.
As drivers of vehicles, cyclists are required to obey all traffic regulations, including riding with traffic, stopping for stop signs and traffic signals, and using lights at night.
While you’ll see enforcement of these laws is sporadic, avoiding a traffic ticket is not the main reason for following them.
This is: Complying with traffic regulations will significantly reduce your chance of being hit by a car.
Wear it even though you don’t want to
Bicycle helmets look stupid. Numerous scientific studies published in scholarly journals have confirmed this. Wear one.
They also mess up your hair. Wear one.
Here’s the thing, a bicycle helmet can save your life or save you from the type of post–accident life you most certainly won’t want to live. Wear one.
Protect your ride
Ask different people about the ideal bicycle for use in Savannah and you’ll get all sorts of answers. However, most will agree that the best bicycle for you is one that has not been stolen from you.
Unfortunately, there are people in Savannah who specialize in separating college students from their bicycles. Your job is to frustrate them. This means using both a cable lock and a u–lock to secure your bike’s frame and wheels, locking your bike to something that cannot be moved or storing your bicycle inside if you can (I know this is not always an option for dorm dwellers).
You should also register your bike through the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department website (www.scmpd.org), so that it can be returned if it is stolen and recovered.
Try a hybrid commute
If you live relatively close to campus and the streets you use to travel back and forth are relatively safe, your bike can get you to class on its own. But if you live a significant distance away, a bicycle–only commute may not be possible. A similar problem can arise if the only roads between you and campus are decidedly bicycle–unfriendly.
If either of these is the case, try what transportation planning nerds call a multimodal commute. All Chatham Area Transit buses are equipped with racks to carry your bike.
Set your bike into the rack, lower the locking arm and climb aboard. Once you have reached a point from which riding the rest of the way to class is viable, get off the bus, retrieve your bike and pedal away.
You can also do this with your car, if your bicycle will fit in the hatchback, backseat, trunk or bed. If not, racks are available at all local bicycle shops and make frequent appearances at yard sales.
Don’t be a jerk
College students get unfairly blamed for lots of things. Causing problems with their bicycles is often one of these, despite the fact that every college student on a bicycle represents a parking space that someone else can use.
Still, every student who blows through an intersection against the light, rides on sidewalks frightening local pedestrians, or rides against the flow of traffic reinforces the incorrect idea that bicycles don’t belong on the streets.
And that kind of thinking can undo the significant progress made recently toward making Savannah better for bikes.
If you believe in bicycling, don’t do things that hurt the cause.
Speaking of causes, the local cycling scene needs you. Even if you plan on leaving Savannah as soon as that diploma is slapped into your hand, the four (or five, or six) years you spend in college might be the longest time you live in one city for some time.
And even four years is more than enough time to get involved in Savannah’s varied and vibrant bike culture.
Don’t wait, participate.
John Bennett is vice chairman of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign (bicyclecampaign.org)