The USA Pro Cycling Challenge started earlier this week down in southwest Colorado. The 7-stage, 683-mile race has wound its way through nine Colorado mountain passes. The teams spun a couple of laps through Golden today, and are now heading up the hill to Boulder and Estes Park before culminating the race in downtown Denver tomorrow. The enormous crowds that have turned out throughout Colorado to observe the previous five stages are indicative of the enthusiasm with which Coloradans embrace cycling as both a sport and a commuting choice. And why not? The benefits of cycling are many:
- It’s efficient – riding your bike for short trips saves you time. In the time a motorist scopes out a parking space and walks through the parking lot of your local grocery store, you will have already zipped into the store, purchased your milk and ridden away.
- It’s economical – the cost of operating a bike is about a nickel per mile. The average cost of a gallon of gas is close to $4 in some parts of the country. You do the math!
- It’s enjoyable – you have the opportunity to enjoy your natural surroundings, plus you don’t experience the frustrations of commuting and traffic.
- It’s healthy – aside from the benefits of weight loss, a UCLA study found that bicycling relaxes the central nervous system, improves mood and blood pressure and sharpens mental acuity. Driving, on the other hand, raises our blood pressure.
- It’s good for the environment – according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, bicycling a four-mile round trip prevents nearly 15 pounds of auto air pollution from contaminating our air.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has developed the “Share the Road” campaign, an innovative program designed to promote road safety between walkers, bikers, skaters and skateboarders, and motorists. Many states have developed a similar set of guidelines. Following are a few tips and rules of the road to help make your next bicycle excursion safe and enjoyable:
- Before you begin, check your breaks and gears for proper working condition and grab your helmet.
- Ride in the right lane with the flow of traffic, about 18 inches from the curb.
- Ride in a straight line; don’t ride in the crosswalk and suddenly reappear again. Scan ahead about 40 feet.
- If there’s no shoulder on the road, ride your bike in the center lane so that you’re more visible.
- Riding 2 abreast is okay, but only if no motorized vehicle is approaching within 300 feet in front or behind you or if you’re on an exclusive bike path.
- Don’t pass on the right. You need to be behind a motorist where you can see turn signals.
- Obey traffic signs and signals.
- Use proper hand signals. Signal 100 feet before your turn and if you’re waiting at a stop, keep signaling until you’ve completed your turn.
- Never ride double – one rider per bike, unless it’s a bicycle built for two.
- It is against the law to attach yourself (whether you’re on a bike, skates or skateboard) to a moving vehicle.
- The law requires that if you’re riding in the dark your bike must be equipped with reflectors on both sides that can be seen from 600 feet away.
- Be aware of road hazards such as sand, gravel, snow, and ice. Parked cars can be especially hazardous and you should stay a car door’s width away from parallel parked cars. Avoid at all times irate dogs and motorists.
- Check your community’s ordinances before riding on the sidewalk. If you do ride on the sidewalk, be sure to give an audible passing signal when passing pedestrians (say, “Passing on your left” and ring your bell if you have one).
- Yield to pedestrians under all circumstances. They have the right of way, whether the crosswalks are marked or not.
Motorists have another set of responsibilities:
- Take extra care when backing out of driveways and driving through alleys to watch for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
- Allow three feet between your vehicle and a bicycle.
- If you must honk, do so from several hundred feet in advance so as to avoid startling the bicyclist.
- Be aware of cyclist’s whereabouts and intentions before turning.
- Yield to pedestrians under all circumstances.
More and more communities nowadays are building shared-use paths, suitable for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. Signs will indicate the designated use of each path, whether for walking only, or multi-use. Because of this, you need to know who yields to whom:
- Bicyclists, skaters, walkers and others all yield to equestrians and other animals.
- Bicyclists and skaters yield to walkers
- Bicyclists yield to skaters
- Downhill users yield to uphill users
- Faster users yield to slower users
Being prepared is crucial to the success and enjoyment of your trip, whether you’re walking or bicycling. Here’s a checklist of items recommended for your outings:
- Helmet, if biking (wearing a helmet can reduce brain injury by 88%)
- Water and nonperishable snacks
- Sun block, sunglasses, and headwear to block the sun
- Rain gear – watch for lightning and get away from your bike if lightning is close by
- Bike tools for quick repairs. Also schedule your bike for regular maintenance, the same way you would for your car. Carry a small pump and treat your tires with a tire sealant (Slime) that helps tires self seal after minor punctures
- A change of clothes and toiletries, if commuting to and from work
- You might equip your bike with a front basket or saddle baskets to carry your bags and packages
So that’s your refresher course in how to share the road. As Coach Stacy always says, “When you’re moving, you’re improving”…..and now you’re saving gas, too!