Author Topic: on biking to work in heavy traffic  (Read 6459 times)

kmb501

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on biking to work in heavy traffic
« on: January 16, 2016, 10:03:38 AM »
How is this accomplished? I would like to bike to work, but I'm worried that fast-moving traffic and people who are used to seeing bicycles on the side of the road (as that's where the trails are) would make it quite a hazard.

kudy

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2016, 10:16:50 AM »
Do you mean in places where you've had to take the lane and there are no bike lanes?

I try to bike along routes that have a bike lane, but on occasional stretches I ride in the right-hand traffic lane. I wouldn't want to do this for any extended period of time in a stretch that is heavily trafficked, but the best tactic seems to be to ride in the middle of the lane so that cars need to properly pass you (not barely brush past you, while trying to stay in the same lane that you are occupying). You should also make sure that you are *very* visible.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2016, 10:21:38 AM »
There are few, if any, bike lanes on the way to work, but we have a few close to where I live (right on the side of the road); mostly, they exist so that the college students who live in the area can bike to the local university, but there are none that I've seen on my way to work; it's mostly just a huge busy road with three or four lanes of traffic. I'm thinking taking a bicycle might be a suicide mission, unless I want to take a chance and ride on the wide sidewalks. 

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2016, 10:26:45 AM »
You will most likely have to go out of your way to find a safer route. I rode my bicycle to work last year. The car route would have been straight down a super busy 3-lane each way road, with no shoulder. So I pulled up Google Maps and found a better route. It may have added about .5 miles to my route, but it got me there a lot safer than otherwise.

johnny847

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2016, 10:30:55 AM »
Do you mean in places where you've had to take the lane and there are no bike lanes?

I try to bike along routes that have a bike lane, but on occasional stretches I ride in the right-hand traffic lane. I wouldn't want to do this for any extended period of time in a stretch that is heavily trafficked, but the best tactic seems to be to ride in the middle of the lane so that cars need to properly pass you (not barely brush past you, while trying to stay in the same lane that you are occupying). You should also make sure that you are *very* visible.

I wholeheartedly agree (so long as we're talking about a road with more than one lane on each side - otherwise you'll piss off drivers way too much). If you don't assert yourself over the lane, more drivers will pass within inches of you.


I bike 5.5 miles through Atlanta city streets for my commute. It's all pretty busy roads, and Atlanta drivers suck. But I've never had a problem. You can increase your safety by wearing a reflective neon vest (even in broad daylight. You'll look like at idiot, but if somebody says hey look at that idiot, at least they see you're there), having flashing lights even in the daytime (they must be flashing, sustained light just doesn't stick out enough in the day), and avoiding common collisions like the right hook.
I also recommend getting a bike horn. It's saved my butt a couple times. You need to have it fully pumped for it to do anything in the winter (because the pressure drops with temperature) but you can just pump it with a standard Schraeder bike pump. And it's as loud as a car horn!


And OP, you should look up whether it's legal to ride on the sidewalk in your state. Plenty of people do it anyway, but in many states it is illegal (at least for adults, quite a few states make exceptions for children).

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2016, 10:33:46 AM »
There is another route to work that might not be as busy. I might try that one, but it's got a lot of hills, and I don't want to do something stupid, like slide into a car when stopped. Plus, it rains A LOT around here, and I would either have to get used to biking in the rain or consider taking my car on those days.

Also, I think it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk, but at least it looks safe. Some of the sidewalks are extra wide.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 10:38:42 AM by kmb501 »

johnny847

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2016, 11:43:27 AM »
There is another route to work that might not be as busy. I might try that one, but it's got a lot of hills, and I don't want to do something stupid, like slide into a car when stopped. Plus, it rains A LOT around here, and I would either have to get used to biking in the rain or consider taking my car on those days.

I don't see how hills mean you're going to slide into a car when stopped. Just use your brakes earlier and you'll be fine.
Also, riding in the rain is really not a problem. So you get wet. Big deal. Again, use your brakes much earlier, and you'll be fine.

Also, I think it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk, but at least it looks safe. Some of the sidewalks are extra wide.

It certainly appears safer. But the reason riding on the sidewalk is illegal in most states is because when cars pull out of driveways or cross streets, they don't expect people on the sidewalk moving faster than the average runner's speed. A bicycle can easily hit 20+ mph. And to a driver, a cyclist coming 20+ mph will appear as if out of nowhere.

Obviously it is possible to ride responsibly on the sidewalk. If you decide to do so, you should use caution at all cross streets and driveways.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2016, 11:50:08 AM »
I guess I should also confess that I'm out of practice and would probably opt for the three-wheeled version, which costs a couple of hundred dollars new. It's not that I have trouble keeping my balance; it just seems that a more stable bicycle might mean an easier time watching out for other hazards. Plus, it takes up a little more space on the road, so it might be more visible.

I'm also wondering how to keep my bike from being stolen. I don't want to lock it in a coworker's trunk. I already get teased for being childish at work as it is.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 11:55:29 AM by kmb501 »

Ricky

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2016, 02:46:26 PM »
Also, you'll get varying opinions on what is the limit of what one should bike. Some people wouldn't care to bike on an interstate if it were legal, others won't go past greenways. Staying visible and riding smart are the two best things you can do regardless of where you bike. It's not like no one has never got hit in a bike lane. Until we get completely separate bike lanes starting to pop up more places, it's never going to be completely safe.

Casey Neistat from YouTube rides his boosted board through any damn street in NYC. Yes, it's slower moving traffic, but that's still probably as dangerous as anything. He's done it on skateboards and bikes for years no with little to no problems. Just depends on your comfort level. There's also a level of skill you'll need for that type of riding too though.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2016, 03:05:42 PM »
I'm curious enough to really want to try riding my bike to work, but I think I should wait a week and try to take the path on the weekend to find out if it's doable. I need a few supplies; does anyone know where I might be able to get these?
neon safety jacket (like the kinds the street workers wear)
bicycle blinkers
bicycle horn (good quality and loud)
bicycle headlights (the flashing kind)

Plus, does anyone have any ideas where I can store my bike without causing too much commotion for the gossip vine?
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 03:08:32 PM by kmb501 »

Ricky

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2016, 03:09:44 PM »
I'm curious enough to really want to try riding my bike to work, but I think I should wait a week and try to take the path on the weekend to find out if it's doable. I need a few supplies; does anyone know where I might be able to get these?
neon safety jacket (like the kinds the street workers wear)REI/LBS/Amazon
bicycle blinkers Any Walmart or Target
bicycle horn (good quality and loud)  Same
bicycle headlights (the flashing kind) Flashing headlights are not really necessary. Not much chance of a car swerving over into the other lane hitting you. I would only get headlights if you plan on riding in the dark.
traffic helmet (sturdier than a regular bicycle helmet)   Heavier/thicker does not mean more protective. I mean you could wear a full face motorcycle or dirt bike helmet if you really want, but literally no one does. Buy from REI or a bike shop. Or Amazon. Gyro is a good brand.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 05:49:44 PM »
These are my options:

Fix the car for $300 and continue to pay about $220 per month on gas and insurance for the car.

Invest in a quality bicycle and safety equipment for the same initial price but (if I can ride it on the city streets without becoming a pancake) pay nothing else. It might be a good idea for me to experiment with a used bike one weekend before I commit to getting a fancy new three-wheeled one.

Invest in a $40 per month bus pass, but be prepared to use the car for situations that will not allow me to take the bus.   
 
In all circumstances, I think I should keep the car for emergency situations anyway, so that means paying $80 car insurance each month (the title is rebuilt), so it's not eligible for lower insurance rates.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 05:55:35 PM by kmb501 »

csprof

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2016, 06:40:14 PM »
Do you mean in places where you've had to take the lane and there are no bike lanes?

I try to bike along routes that have a bike lane, but on occasional stretches I ride in the right-hand traffic lane. I wouldn't want to do this for any extended period of time in a stretch that is heavily trafficked, but the best tactic seems to be to ride in the middle of the lane so that cars need to properly pass you (not barely brush past you, while trying to stay in the same lane that you are occupying). You should also make sure that you are *very* visible.

+this.  I like to think of it as being assertive - not aggressive, but stand up for your #@*ing rights and space.

(a)  If there's no good shoulder, take the WHOLE lane, and make sure the cars know it.

(b)  Front and rear blinkers, day and night.  I'm a big fan of:
   (b.1)  Cygolite Micro rear red blinker;
   (b.2)  Cygolite Dash 320 (or thereabouts) front.

The dash has a "daytime flasher" mode that's ruthlessly bright.  I've noticed a pretty marked decrease in cars trying to turn right into my lane since I started using it.  Not 100% -- drivers are still idiots -- but it helps make you really obvious.

(c)  Go fast.  The closer you are to the speed of the rest of traffic, the better.

(d)  You didn't mention the speed limit on the roads you're talking about.  If it's > 40mph and not somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I start to think it's time to find a new route.  I'll ride on 50 or 55mph roads to get somewhere, but it's stressful, and not something I'd want as part of my daily commute.  A 35mph road, on the other hand, if you're at 20 or 25mph, isn't too bad.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2016, 06:49:07 PM »
Speed limits around here are about 35-45 miles per hour.

Tundra_Man

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2016, 07:09:42 PM »
Another great resource for your bicycle commuting questions is http://www.bikeforums.net/commuting/. Tons of knowledge from people who commute thousands of miles through all seasons and all sorts of road situations.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2016, 07:17:51 PM »
Do any of you have an opinion about motor powered bicycles and scooters? Some can be driven without a motorcycle license, if I recall correctly.

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2016, 08:52:34 PM »
These are my options:

Fix the car for $300 and continue to pay about $220 per month on gas and insurance for the car.

Invest in a quality bicycle and safety equipment for the same initial price but (if I can ride it on the city streets without becoming a pancake) pay nothing else. It might be a good idea for me to experiment with a used bike one weekend before I commit to getting a fancy new three-wheeled one.

Invest in a $40 per month bus pass, but be prepared to use the car for situations that will not allow me to take the bus.   
 
In all circumstances, I think I should keep the car for emergency situations anyway, so that means paying $80 car insurance each month (the title is rebuilt), so it's not eligible for lower insurance rates.

I'd personally sell the car, buy one with a normal title, and then drive that. You're paying an insurance tax that's not ever going to go away, and it doesn't sound worth it to me.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2016, 09:17:28 PM »
It looks like I'm going to have to keep the car until I save up enough for a decent one, then.

ditheca

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2016, 11:18:08 PM »
In all circumstances, I think I should keep the car for emergency situations anyway, so that means paying $80 car insurance each month (the title is rebuilt), so it's not eligible for lower insurance rates.

Don't know if this is an option for you, but surely it's worth a little time on the phone?

We own a second car for 'emergency situations.'  USAA Insurance allows me to designate it as 'parked/in storage' meaning that I won't drive it without telling them first.  Insurance for that is only $4/month.  I pulled it out of storage to drive to the airport a few months ago, and then put it right back in storage after my trip.

Winter biking is cold, but I haven't needed it since!

$80/mo insurance seems awfully excessive.  Minimal insurance on my clunker is only $20/mo when I'm actually driving it.

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2016, 11:27:14 PM »
$80/mo insurance seems awfully excessive.  Minimal insurance on my clunker is only $20/mo when I'm actually driving it.

Agreed.  It sounds like you're insuring for more than just liability. 

ditheca

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2016, 11:30:34 PM »
Do any of you have an opinion about motor powered bicycles and scooters? Some can be driven without a motorcycle license, if I recall correctly.

I broke the bank for a facepunch worthy e-bike, but definitely no regrets!  Cost me about $2000, and I've put about 2500 miles on it so far.  At 80 cents per mile it hasn't saved me any money over driving (yet), but it gave me the extra kick I needed to commit to biking 15 miles a day to work every day.  I'm am saving on car insurance and gas, and eventually the bike will break even and then start paying for my retirement.  My back problems are completely gone thanks to the exercise... guess I can count the savings from not needing a chiropractor too!

As always, there are cheaper options available.  I ride a Trek 7.2 hybrid using a motor from ebikekit.com and a battery from pingbattery.com

E-bikekit has a 'mmm' (or maybe 'MMM') coupon for a small discount on your order.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #21 on: January 17, 2016, 04:12:22 AM »
It's not just liability; it's a form of full coverage that only provides roadside assistance. Yes, I need roadside assistance. I've had too many instances of the battery giving out and tires failing (I changed the battery and am fully intending to either pay to have the car fixed (the control arm is bent) or just not use the car frequently enough to worry about fixing it.


Also, I might want to opt for an e-bike so that I can more easily keep up with traffic, but I don't have a motorcycle license and it's ridiculously hard to get one in this area. We have no road test, but the written test is unnecessarily complicated. 
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 04:19:27 AM by kmb501 »

Ricky

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #22 on: January 17, 2016, 06:11:32 AM »
Also, I might want to opt for an e-bike so that I can more easily keep up with traffic, but I don't have a motorcycle license and it's ridiculously hard to get one in this area. We have no road test, but the written test is unnecessarily complicated.

Huh? You won't need a motorcycle license...as long as you're not adding bigger tires, an engine, a gas tank, etc.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #23 on: January 17, 2016, 06:18:14 AM »
Also, I might want to opt for an e-bike so that I can more easily keep up with traffic, but I don't have a motorcycle license and it's ridiculously hard to get one in this area. We have no road test, but the written test is unnecessarily complicated.

Huh? You won't need a motorcycle license...as long as you're not adding bigger tires, an engine, a gas tank, etc.

That's good to know. I know they have electric scooters that have the option to be ridden like bicycles. I was wondering if an e-bike was like one of those.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #24 on: January 17, 2016, 02:55:03 PM »
Do any of you have an opinion about motor powered bicycles and scooters? Some can be driven without a motorcycle license, if I recall correctly.

I broke the bank for a facepunch worthy e-bike, but definitely no regrets!  Cost me about $2000, and I've put about 2500 miles on it so far.  At 80 cents per mile it hasn't saved me any money over driving (yet), but it gave me the extra kick I needed to commit to biking 15 miles a day to work every day.  I'm am saving on car insurance and gas, and eventually the bike will break even and then start paying for my retirement.  My back problems are completely gone thanks to the exercise... guess I can count the savings from not needing a chiropractor too!

As always, there are cheaper options available.  I ride a Trek 7.2 hybrid using a motor from ebikekit.com and a battery from pingbattery.com

E-bikekit has a 'mmm' (or maybe 'MMM') coupon for a small discount on your order.

E-bikes sound like an excellent option. Would you recommend a particular brand or company? Do they have options to convert your existing bike or trike into an e-bike?

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #25 on: January 17, 2016, 07:05:28 PM »
OP, you're all over the place in this thread.  You have not (unless I've missed it) given a general idea of where you live (general area of the country, climate?), what sort of urban or suburban environment you'd ride through, how long the prospective commute is, or whether you can ride a bike at all currently. 

Buying an expensive E-bike when you haven't even gotten some seat time on any bike at all is probably a bad idea.  An adult trike is almost certainly a bad idea unless your commute is very short and you can do it all on sidewalks, very slowly.  That's what they're designed for.

Start simple, buy or borrow an inexpensive bike, ride a bit, work up the distance and time, elaborate from there.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #26 on: January 17, 2016, 10:09:17 PM »
OP, you're all over the place in this thread.  You have not (unless I've missed it) given a general idea of where you live (general area of the country, climate?), what sort of urban or suburban environment you'd ride through, how long the prospective commute is, or whether you can ride a bike at all currently. 

Buying an expensive E-bike when you haven't even gotten some seat time on any bike at all is probably a bad idea.  An adult trike is almost certainly a bad idea unless your commute is very short and you can do it all on sidewalks, very slowly.  That's what they're designed for.

Start simple, buy or borrow an inexpensive bike, ride a bit, work up the distance and time, elaborate from there.

I'm out of practice. I can ride, but I have a bit of trouble staying in my lane.

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #27 on: January 17, 2016, 10:34:08 PM »
OP, you're all over the place in this thread.  You have not (unless I've missed it) given a general idea of where you live (general area of the country, climate?), what sort of urban or suburban environment you'd ride through, how long the prospective commute is, or whether you can ride a bike at all currently. 

Buying an expensive E-bike when you haven't even gotten some seat time on any bike at all is probably a bad idea.  An adult trike is almost certainly a bad idea unless your commute is very short and you can do it all on sidewalks, very slowly.  That's what they're designed for.

Start simple, buy or borrow an inexpensive bike, ride a bit, work up the distance and time, elaborate from there.

I'm out of practice. I can ride, but I have a bit of trouble staying in my lane.

If you can't stay in a bike lane, do not get on a road with cars. You are a danger to yourself and everyone around you.

Borrow a bike and practice until you can stay in a bike lane, and then practice some more. Biking on roads that take traffic over 25mph is not for the faint of heart or the unskilled.

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #28 on: January 18, 2016, 06:51:13 AM »
Yeah I'd be looking at other routes to avoid the major roads.

I used to live on a three lane each way main road with an 80km/h speed limit and no bike lanes. I avoided riding my bike on that road because I felt it was unsafe. I could still take the back roads to the shops though.

Maybe it you can't find a practical, safe route (a bit of work with Google Maps might help you find something), then consider sticking to taking public transport or driving, at least until you can move :)

Also, maybe write to your local council (or whoever is responsible for your local roads) requesting more bike lanes are added. :)

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2016, 07:54:48 AM »
Cycling in traffic (even heavy traffic) is not really a big deal, you will learn to read the flow of stuff and when it's necessary to take the lane.  In fact, I sometimes prefer heavy traffic on some routes because very heavy traffic is usually moving slower.  Sparse traffic means that you're more likely to have people blasting along way above the speed limit . . . which can be unnerving as they often aren't very observant while doing this.  45 mph roads are bikable, but it is much more pleasant to ride 35 mph ones.

All that said, you absolutely want to be able to control your bike very well before you cycle in traffic.  You want to feel confident riding in a straight line.  You will need to be able to start your bike properly while heading up an incline.  You will need to know how to use your brakes properly to slow quickly (that means getting very used to your front brake).  You need to be able to mount and dismount your bike fluidly and easily.

All of that is simple to learn, but none of it should be learned in traffic.

kmb501

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #30 on: January 18, 2016, 09:21:38 AM »
Cycling in traffic (even heavy traffic) is not really a big deal, you will learn to read the flow of stuff and when it's necessary to take the lane.  In fact, I sometimes prefer heavy traffic on some routes because very heavy traffic is usually moving slower.  Sparse traffic means that you're more likely to have people blasting along way above the speed limit . . . which can be unnerving as they often aren't very observant while doing this.  45 mph roads are bikable, but it is much more pleasant to ride 35 mph ones.

All that said, you absolutely want to be able to control your bike very well before you cycle in traffic.  You want to feel confident riding in a straight line.  You will need to be able to start your bike properly while heading up an incline.  You will need to know how to use your brakes properly to slow quickly (that means getting very used to your front brake).  You need to be able to mount and dismount your bike fluidly and easily.

All of that is simple to learn, but none of it should be learned in traffic.

I would feel a little self-conscious about joining a bike club, I think. Well, I guess I could just tell them it's to get more exercise, but I'm sure I could probably develop more self confidence in riding as well as get exercise; I might also make some new friends. I guess maybe I'll look to see if there's an adult cycling club in the area.

GuitarStv

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Re: on biking to work in heavy traffic
« Reply #31 on: January 18, 2016, 09:29:27 AM »
You don't need to join a bike club.  You just need to go somewhere quiet and practice bike handling until you have developed the skills needed to confidently ride in traffic.