Eco-friendly bikes can be shvitz-free


There seem to be more cyclists on valley roads lately, and they're not all wearing tight yellow spandex.

I've noticed a growing number are wearing work clothes. I've seen construction clothes, casino uniforms and even guys in ties.

Part of this recent increase in cyclists is likely due to the end of 100-plus-degree days. And I'm sure there are those folks seeking to help the environment by reducing their carbon footprint.

Still, the most likely influence is the price of gasoline.

I know fuel prices have dropped since the close of summer, but they're still more than 20 percent higher today than at the same time last year.

According to VegasGasPrices.com, the median price for a gallon of regular gasoline this week was $3.42. A year ago the price was $2.73 for a gallon of regular gasoline.

I recently met Ed Thiessen, a 67-year-old air conditioning repairman who commutes on his bicycle 141/2 miles to and from work daily. Thiessen said he saves $60 to $80 a week in gasoline money.

(As an aside, I asked Thiessen how he handles breathing in all the fumes from the vehicles on the road. "I'm breathing the same air you're breathing when you're driving," he said.)

To ensure his safety, Thiessen said he wears bright-colored clothes and a helmet with a rearview mirror hanging down.

Thiessen said he too has seen more people using bicycles for their commute.

The problem with the increase is that many cyclists don't know the rules of the road, he said.

For instance, Thiessen said he's most worried when a cyclist approaches him heading in the opposite direction of traffic.

"They want to hug the curb and that pushes me out into traffic," Thiessen said.

I also spoke with Juan Avila, a 25-year-old library assistant at a local elementary school, another valley resident who recently started commuting to work on a bicycle.

For Avila, his commuting on a bicycle is more about saving the environment than saving money, though the extra cash certainly doesn't hurt, he said.

"I really think about the future" of the planet, he said.

I know what you're thinking: If he keeps riding a bicycle in this town, the way these people drive, what fate awaits him?

Cycling on Las Vegas roads probably isn't for the faint of heart. In my experience, there aren't enough bicycle lanes, motorists seem to drive too fast and erratically, and they tend to be less than courteous toward cyclists and pedestrians.

But even with all that, it might not be as dangerous as you might think. There were seven cycling fatalities in 2007 and in 2006 in Nevada. That same period of time saw hundreds of fatal car crashes.

Avila said, "I'm careful. That's why I think I'm still here."

I met Thiessen and Avila at the Springs Preserve last week, where a "Bicycles-as-Transportation" event displayed the latest technology in hybrid electric bicycles.

I got to try out an IZIP hybrid electric bicycle from Currie Technologies. The bicycle has a battery that gives you an assist while peddling.

So if you're in the type of shape I'm in, specifically, the rounder form, peddling isn't as difficult.

Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., who's endorsing IZIP bicycles, told me that for people looking to use bicycles for their commutes, the IZIP can help them get there "without shvitzing the whole way."

I can confirm that while test riding the bicycle, I felt a surge as I was going uphill at the Springs Preserve and didn't lose my breath once or even shvitz (which means sweat, by the way) more than usual.

The lithium ion battery pack on "The Express" IZIP bicycle I was testing lasted 30 miles before needing to be recharged.

The battery pack can be recharged 600 times using any electrical outlet.

Although the IZIP bicycles aren't cheap -- they cost more than $700 on the low end -- they might help save money normally spent on fuel.

I would recommend these bicycles for folks who are changing their commuting habits.

And here are some bicycle safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Wear a helmet.

Use a bicycle that fits you. Make adjustments to the handle bar and seat as needed. For instance I need one with a wide seat.

Check all parts of a bicycle before riding to make sure they are secure and working.

Ride with traffic and obey all traffic laws, including signs, lights and lanes. Ride on the right side of the road and as far to the right as possible.

Use hand signals when turning.

Be predictable. Don't swerve in and out of traffic lanes.

Be visible. Wear fluorescent colors or reflective material.

Make sure your bicycle has rear reflectors.

Make eye contact when possible with other motor vehicle drivers, so they know you are there.

Use bicycle lanes when available.

Use bells, horns or your voice to alert pedestrians and other bicyclists that you are approaching or passing.

Never wear headphones.

Be aware of the traffic around you.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Francis McCabe at (702) 387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal .com. Please include your phone number.

 

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