Many people who begin commuting by bicycle have either been off a bike for a long time or have ridden primarily for recreation, maybe on protected trails. In my case I'd been off the bike for about 20 years.
I live in Fort Worth, Texas, which is the 17th largest city in the U.S. So there is a lot of traffic to deal with and there isn't always a protected trail to ride where I want to go. I went through an evolution in my cycling style, and I'm still evolving. I started out on sidewalks (which resulted in the only accident I've had since I started riding again), then progressed to gutter bunny, and now I'm becoming more of a vehicular cyclist.
Some of the best conversations I've recently had on the blogs (such as this one and this one) have been about vehicular cycling, which is essentially driving your bike like a car on the road. There are debates as to how safe it is to be out there among speeding motor vehicles, but the consensus among those who have tried VC seems to be that there an increase in safety, largely due to the effect that VC has on giving the cyclist more control over his situation.
I didn't really want to do a whole post on vehicular cycling, except to lead in to some information I wanted to highlight. If you're new to commuting, you, like I was in the beginning, may be scared to death of getting squished by a car and try to avoid them at all costs. Vehicular cycling isn't for everyone, but it is worth knowing about. It is a tool you should have in your cycling toolbox. I recently discovered an article entitled Smart Moves: You Lead the Dance, written by Keri of CommuteOrlando Blog, which serves as an excellent introduction to the basics of vehicular cycling. And while I'm at it, I'm going to add CommuteOrlando to the blog list here at BBC.
Thanks to CommuteOrlando for "The Confident Cyclist" illustration