Biking 101: The Commute

May is National Bike Month, and what better time to try your hand at a new commute? More than half of Americans live within five miles of their office, which is about a 30 minute bike ride. Biking to work offers many benefits: it saves time and money and is good for the environment. Plus, you’ll getting a workout in!

drive less

If you’re thinking about biking to work, but don’t know what you need or where to get started, we’ve gathered some best practices and good habits for your bike commute:

Bike to Work 101

Get your gear: You don’t need to have a full bicycle kit to ride to work. However, we do recommend wearing a sturdy helmet and finding a reliable bike lock. Many urban offices have a bike room you can store your bike in during the day, so be sure to utilize that if it’s an option.

Test ride: Google Maps offers routes for an optimized bike commute on streets with bike paths. Test your ride in off-commute hours or on a non-work day to get a hang of your route.

Follow the rules of the road: Always bike in the same direction of traffic, and keep a pulse on the cars, bikes and pedestrians around you. Read more bicycle safety tips here.

Good Habits

Keep the phone out of sight: You’ll want to keep your eyes on the road and your ears out for honking, approaching cars and ambulances.

Use clear hand signals: Using your left hand to signal while biking helps communicate your route clearly with the drivers around you.

Dress for the ride: Make sure the drivers around you are aware you are there, and on two wheels. Wear bright colors during the day and reflective gear at night.

National Bike to Work Week is May 16-20, 2016. Bike to Work Day is May 20, 2016.

Don’t have a bike? Many urban areas have bike share programs, which allow riders an allotted time for transportation for a small annual fee. If you find yourself on two wheels more often than four, pay-per-mile car insurance could be a great option for you. Find out more here.

Surviving Traffic Do’s and Don’ts

The following is a guest post from Marina Myshkina of the IMPROV Traffic School, an online traffic school that entertains and educates about traffic laws and driving safety.

We all know the rules of the road and we follow them — at least most of the time. With winter weather making travel increasingly cumbersome, it’s important we avoid making these seemingly small mistakes that could lead to big accidents. Here’s our recommendations for safely surviving traffic.

driving_in_traffic

  1. Ditch distracted driving. This includes texting and talking on the phone, jamming out to your favorite tunes on the highest volume possible and eating a tasty burger. There are a bunch of other distractions we could mention, but you probably get the picture. According to the CDC, approximately nine people are involved in auto accidents per day due to distracted driving — and that’s in the United States alone.
  2. Don’t swerve while trying to avoid hitting an animal. If you spot a deer, raccoon, squirrel or some other creature on the road, don’t swerve to miss it! We understand that it’s an innocent animal and everything — but when the alternative is swerving into traffic or slamming on your brakes, we think you should just carry on with driving as you always do to avoid a possible ten-car pileup. Note that deer and other creatures are most active from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and that using your high beams can help to spot the animals early (which will allow you to safely coast into the next lane to avoid it).
  3. Take a nap. Believe it or not, driving while you’re sleepy is illegal in some states, and it’s seen as just as bad as drunk driving by the law enforcement of those states. It’s called “drowsy driving.” It’s estimated that drowsy driving causes approximately 100,000 crashes per year in the United States (according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). It’s better to just grab a hotel room than to risk it.
  4. Stop speeding. Not only can it land you a speeding ticket, but for every one mile per hour that you clock on the speedometer, the likelihood of getting into a car accident increases by four to five percent.
  5. Understand assumptions aren’t accurate. People put their turn signals on and forget about them — and it doesn’t mean they are going to make a turn. And not everyone you drive next to is practicing safe, undistracted driving.
  6. Always wear your seat belt. Did you know that seat belts actually go through a ton of testing to ensure that they can keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible on the road? Seat belts are designed to stop you from catapulting forward if the car makes a sudden stop, and the stopping distance is 4 or 5 times greater with a seat belt than if you were not wearing one.
  7. Give pedestrians the right-of-way. There are a lot of laws surrounding the right-of-way of pedestrians, and they vary state by state. It would be useful to read about the pedestrian laws in your area. Pedestrian deaths make up approximately 14% of total driving-related deaths.
  8. Make room for bicyclists. Always leave enough room for them when there is a dedicated bike lane or a bicyclist riding beside you.
  9. Give other drivers the right-of-way when they have it.
  10. Stash a winter survival kit. This is key to have in your car in case your car breaks down, or in case you get stuck in traffic. If you have small children this is even more important — keeping snacks, candy or small toys in the kit can save you a lot of stress. A kit should also include a lighter or matches, first aid materials, a flare or two, a flashlight, and food and water. A blanket wouldn’t hurt either.

 

How to Beat Thanksgiving Traffic

There were 46.3 million people in the US traveling during Thanksgiving last year, with 89% of those people traveling by car. That’s a lot of people on the road, but there are certain days and times that are less congested than others. Since we want to equip the Metromile community to be the smartest drivers possible, we’ve crunched some numbers to give you an idea of the best and worst times to drive, based on 2014 trips by Metromile drivers.

beat_thanksgiving_traffic

We looked at Metromile trips during the weeks before and during Thanksgiving in California, Washington, Seattle and Illinois (we weren’t in Pennsylvania and Virginia at the time). While trip mileage varied by each state, the most miles were driven on Thanksgiving day across all states. The average miles driven that day was 27 in California, 23 in Illinois and 22 in both Washington and Oregon. For context, the average Metromiler typically drives 13 miles a day.

It seems that folks definitely make a weekend out of Turkey Day. In California, Oregon and Washington, the Sunday after Thanksgiving was the day with the second largest amount of miles driven. Illinois drivers logged their second heaviest mileage day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, perhaps getting a head start on the journey or covering a longer distance.

The whole week surrounding Thanksgiving was filled with high mileage days, but we did find that Monday and Tuesday had the smallest mileage spike in all states. The average miles driven in California on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving was 16 and 17 miles respectively, which is about 60% less than on Thanksgiving day. So if Monday and Tuesday are the best days to drive, what about the best times? Check out the handy infographic below to drill down into the details (it’s interactive, so you can even view by city). As indicated by the darker colors, mid afternoon to early evening tends to be the most congested.

In short, according to trips taken by Metromilers last year, it is best to drive on Monday or Tuesday, and earlier in the day (before noon). If you do have some big holiday road trips in the future, you are in luck if you are a Metromile pay-per-mile car insurance customer. We have a daily mileage cap so you won’t be charged for over a 250 miles a day (150 in certain states), but still will be totally covered all the way to grandma’s house!

Commuting in Illinois: The Major Headaches for Drivers

Owning a car is liberating, but it can also try your patience. Since we’re all about making car ownership as easy as possible, we recently ran a survey to uncover the habits and headaches of Illinois drivers (one of the states where Metromile offers per-mile insurance). We hope to use these insights to guide future innovations, and maybe these stats will encourage drivers to drive a little less and walk (or bike) a little more!

Of the 500 people that responded, more than 62% commute less than 20 miles by car per day, with nearly 30% commuting less than five miles per day. Despite the low daily mileage, 36% said that what bothers them the most about driving a car in Illinois is traffic and congestion.

Illinois Car Insurance

According to TomTom data, Chicago is one of the top 10 US cities with the most congestion, with a 27% increase in overall travel time compared to driving without any traffic. There is a 43% increase in time traveled during the morning commute and a 59% increase in the evening, which explains why Illinois drivers are so frustrated with the traffic they face in such a short commute. In 2014, the average commuter spent an extra 100 hours traveling during rush hour alone. That could have been one awesome long weekend!

We also found that the costs of driving and car ownership are frustrating. 25% stated that gas prices were one of the biggest problems associated with car ownership, and another 10% don’t like the cost of parking and parking tickets.

This is where per-mile insurance comes in. We’re learning that Illinois car insurance customers who pay-per-mile actually drive less (more on that soon!). Fewer cars on the road results in fewer traffic back-ups and ultimately fewer accidents. It also means paying for gas less frequently, and probably fewer parking tickets. Plus, when your monthly bill is based on miles driven, if you drive less then you will pay less! You can learn more about how per-mile insurance works here.

Lane Courtesy Month: Why You Should Care

 

At first glance, Lane Courtesy Month might seem like a trivial occasion, joining the likes of National Accordion Awareness Month and Turkey Lovers Month (also in June). We aren’t saying that you have to care about all of these “months”, but we are saying that certain occasions might deserve more attention than what they first suggest. Lane Courtesy Month is one of them.

 

Smart Driving - Lane Courtesy

 

So what exactly is “lane courtesy”? It isn’t letting someone cut in front of you in the cash-only toll booth lane. Lane courtesy is defined as the practice of yielding to or moving over for faster-moving traffic. It’s an often undervalued yet important aspect of smart driving. There’s a good chance you will get a ticket for driving 85 MPH on a road with a 65 MPH speed limit, but did you know you could also be cited for driving too slow in the left lane? Every state has a law restricting left lane usage and police are starting to crack down. It might sound like an inconsequential offense, but hogging the farthest left lane can lead to unnecessary traffic and accidents.

The reason why it is so important to leave the left lane clear is because it primarily used for passing, and if there are too many cars or a car is going too slow, it makes it much more dangerous to do so. In fact, 10% of all highway accidents are caused by changing lanes. It’s fine to use the left lane to pass a car, but once you do, move back over to the right as soon as it is clear. Even if you think you are driving at the correct speed limit, or above it, chances are there is still someone that’s going faster and wants to pass you.

A benefit of practicing lane courtesy is that you could get to your destination faster. Smooth flowing traffic means that highway capacity is optimized, which means less traffic. It’s also better for gas mileage. Vehicles use the most fuel when accelerating, so if you aren’t lane hopping, there will be less volatility and less gas usage. We can’t say road rage will totally diminish, but hopefully there will be fewer angry drivers!

If you want to continue on your smart driving endeavors, try downloading the Metromile driving app. It helps organize and optimize your trips by allowing you to see how your speed varies on each trip, how much you spend on gas and how long your drive is.

Beat the Traffic: How Does Your City Rank?

 

Metromile app users in Los Angeles spend an average of six hours per week in their cars. And a new study from TomTom finds that coincidentally (or not coincidentally) LA is the most congested city in the US and the 10th most congested city in the world. So what does that mean for your commute? And more importantly, what can we do to reduce all of this congestion?

LA has a 40% increase in overall travel time compared to what TomTom classifies as “free flow”, which means driving without any congestion. Other major west coast cities are up there too: SF at 34%, Seattle at 31% and Portland at 26%. All of these cities have more traffic on local roads versus highways. Interestingly, all of these cities also have about a 15-25% increase from morning peak hours to night peak hours. Portland has a 35% increase in travel time in the morning but jumps up to a 61% increase in the evening. Meaning, your morning commute might not be that bad, but be prepared for some evening gridlock.

Beat Traffic

So what is the takeaway from all of this data? Do whatever you can to drive less. Nearly all of these cities have great public transit systems, and many are focusing on making their roads more bike friendly. A national Bike to Work Week (which happens to be next week!) is also helping to raise awareness. And if you do need a car to get to work, try to avoid commuting during peak evening hours.

Here at Metromile, we believe that pay-per-mile insurance incentivizes people to drive less, therefore removing cars from the road. While we are currently seeing that our LA app users spend six hours per week in their cars, our per-mile insurance customers are averaging four and a half hours. If you only get charged for the miles you drive, there’s more reason to find alternative transportation methods, like biking or taking the train. Fewer cars on the road results in less traffic, which means less commuting time for people that do have to drive!

Want to see how much you could save with per-mile insurance? Learn more here!