Solo Cycle: Tips for Bicycling Lawyers

shutterstock_300607565Welcome back, Peter T. Anderson, D.C. Bike Lawyer  whom we profiled last week about his niche bike practice. This week, Peter discusses the recreational side of biking, sharing his expert tips on must-have bike gear for commuting lawyers, safety of bike shares and great bike routes. By the way, if you’re a biker, whether in DC or not, please chime in with your advice for lawyers looking to put some pedal into their practice

Q. Increasingly, I have noticed cities in many parts of the country becoming more “bike friendly” – with bike shares and dedicated bicycle lanes.  Is this a trend – and what factors do you think are behind it?

A. This is definitely a trend. Bike share programs all over are exploding in popularity. D.C. has led the way in bike share programs, having the first one in the country. First it was called SmartBike, but they later changed the name. I’m definitely not a transportation expert, but I think there has been a lot of research recently about how to improve cities and one great way to do that is to decrease the number of vehicles on the road and make cities more walkable. Cars cause pollution, gridlock, and sprawl. A way to reduce all of those bad things is to increase the number of people getting around on bikes. I think young people in particular are driving the move toward more walkable and bikeable cities.

Q. Many years ago, I posted about a lawyer, Enricho Schaefer who bought a “law firm” bicycle to get around town for lunch meetings and errands. Do you or any of your colleagues use bikes for short-term errands?

A. I definitely do. I have biked to Arlington County Circuit Court on a Capital Bikeshare bike, argued a motion, and then biked home. Now that my office is in D.C., I’ll be able to bike to D.C. Superior Court and back to my office. It’s kind of funny cycling in a suit, but the front basket on bike share bikes allows me to carry my files, so it’s not that bad.

Q. Have you ever used one of the bike share programs? Can you tell us a little about how they work – and in what situations does a bike share work best for?

A. I am a big proponent of bike share programs and most people are familiar with D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare program. It has gotten really convenient recently because they have added so many stations. Capital Bikeshare is awesome for shorter commutes because the bikes only have three gears. At least for me, three gears is tough if the terrain is hilly. I’m not trying to get all sweaty biking to court.

A new service that I’m really intrigued by is Riide. It’s not a bike share program, but a subscription service that lets you use an electric bike for $79 per month (after a deposit). I think that is a great idea for longer bike commutes. For people going from Arlington (or farther) into D.C. every day with no shower, it’d be nice to have a motor option at times.

Q. On the bike share topic, I’ve had several lawyer colleagues express concern that the bike share program doesn’t include helmets – should that be concern?

A. While I’m in support of people wearing helmets, there are a couple of things to consider on this issue: First, having helmets in bike share programs would increase the operating costs and, therefore, the cost to the consumer. This could potentially reduce the number of people using the bikes, which is the entire point of the programs. We want to reduce car congestion and make cities more fun. Second, requiring helmet use may also decrease the number of people using bike share. Some people just don’t like helmets (I hate helmets, but use them anyway). Third, there are actually data to suggest that wearing a helmet may increase the risk of accidents because having a helmet on makes you engage in more risky behaviors.  Finally, there may be liability in providing helmets. What if the helmets break or fail to prevent injury? The flip side is, there may be liability in not providing helmets. I do not believe any court has tested that issue because of potential defenses in contributory negligence and assumption of the risk (although that depends on the state – a failure to wear a helmet cannot be used as evidence of contributory negligence in D.C.).

Q. What about commuting to work by bike? How would someone go about selecting a route – should they stick to bike paths or bike on the road? What routes do you recommend for commuting in the DC metro area where you live?

A. The most important thing is to look for designated bike lanes in your city. Check your local maps. Biking in marked or protected lanes for bikes makes things much safer.

I recently moved, but I used to bike commute along the Custis Trail from Arlington into D.C. That’s a great option because the Custis Trail is separate from the highway along residential neighborhoods. You don’t have to worry about any car traffic until you reach the Key Bridge. From the Key Bridge I navigated around Georgetown and onto L street, which has an awesome protected bike lane.

business bikeQ. As you know, lawyers often travel with laptops and documents – and may need to dress more formally than the rest of the population. What tips do you have for lawyers who wish to commute by bike but may need to carry gear or a change of clothes?

A. A few things:

(1) I suggest investing in a good bag. Go to and look at their reviews. What a great site! I’m thinking of getting the Aer Duffle Pack. It has a shoe compartment and laptop sleeve. It opens easily like a duffel bag, but has backpack straps, so it is great for bike commuting. A full suit and dress shoes should easily fit in it.

(2) If you don’t like the idea of a bag on your back, or have a lot of gear, invest in a rack for the back of your bike and paniers. Paniers are bags you see that hang from the back of a bike. The lighter the better! They are also good for supplies in case you have a flat or breakdown. They are also big enough to fit dress clothes and a laptop.

(3) Work in an office that has a shower. My new office has a shower, luckily. I keep deodorant, soap, razor, etc. in my office.

(4) Have a light bike. It sucks lugging a heavy bike uphill after a long day of work! Road bikes are good for commuting because they are very light.

(5) Consider the weather before you leave. If it is raining, you can still commute by bike, but it will require more prep. You may need a rain coat, waterproof shoes, etc.

Q. As you also know, many lawyers work late hours, so they may bike home after dark. Are there any special precautions for night time riding?

A. Everyone who wants to commute by bike in D.C. should read WABA’s Pocket Guide to D.C. Bike Laws. If you want some quick info, do a search of my website, (shameless plug).

Night cyclists should equip their bikes with a lamp on the front that has a steady or flashing white light visible from a distance of 500 ft. The back of the bike should have a red reflector, or red flashing light. Reflective clothing or a vest is also a really good idea.

If you’re in D.C., check DCMR Title 18, § 1204.2.

Q. Believe it or not, many lawyers actually like to have fun!  Can you recommend any fun or interesting recreational bike routes in the area where you live, or cities where you’ve traveled that stand out?  

A. To me, the best trail in my area is the Mount Vernon Trail. It goes along the Potomac River and has views of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington monument. You can ride it from Georgetown to George Washington’s house! It is best around sunset in the summer. Amazing views.

Q. And what about longer, multi-day bike vacations or tours. Have you been on any that are interesting – and are there trips available for a range of skills?

A. Probably the coolest bike trip I will ever do was the trip I took to Israel in November of last year with three of my best friends. We flew into Tel Aviv, then took a train to Nahariya. From Nahariya, we biked 43 miles to Tzfat – all uphill. That was a tough climb! From Tzfat, we went to the Finger of Galilee. Then we biked downhill to Tiberias and went halfway around the Sea of Galilee. I’m not the strongest biker, so I was dead on the last day. But the trip is something I’ll never forget. We stayed in several kibbutzes and hotels along the way, ate great food, saw amazing views and learned some history.

Q. Finally, for lawyers who are simply interested in getting started on biking and want to buy a bike — with the intent of using it for short work commutes and weekend rides — would you have any suggestions on what type of bike they might consider to start out with?

A. I like simplicity. If I lived in a relatively flat area (downtown D.C.), I probably would’ve bought a fixed gear or single speed bike. They do not have multiple gears, and therefore, are very low maintenance.

If you don’t live in a flat area, I’d invest in a simple road bike or another type of bike that is very light. Commuting on a bike that is already heavy is no fun because you are adding weight with all of the work gear. I really want to get the Priority Eight, but can’t justify the purchase right now! I have a Windsor Wellington 3.0 that I got really cheaply. It doesn’t have the most reliable components, but it is very light for the price. I might upgrade some parts eventually.

Q. Any final thoughts?

A. Thanks for the interview!


Bicycle images courtesy of Shutterstock