It’s no secret that I’m an avid cyclist. This past weekend I rode over 90 miles on my 2002 Fuji bike and because of this I feel marvelous today. Cycling is great exercise and I find that it’s a wonderful mental exercise as well. I lose myself on the back roads and find that I can resolve issues that are causing me stress. It’s a good feeling. I’m very happy that it’s cycling season in these parts.
As an avid cyclist, I tend to think that I know how to navigate the roads of Upstate New York (and occasionally other places around the country) on my bike. I learned many of these skills as a youngster; I remember my first bike ride to school, which was five miles away, on a three-speed with a banana seat. I was in grade six at the time. I had no close calls then and for the most part, my rides have been accident free. I’d like to take a moment to remind cyclists and motorists on how riders should be behaving themselves on the road.
Cyclists should be following the rules of the road. Some people get confused about this, but bicycles are just another vehicle and they should be moving in the same direction as all the other vehicular traffic. Cyclists should not be doing the pedestrian thing and riding against the flow of traffic. That’s a no no and dangerous. Should you encounter a pedestrian on the road, the pedestrian should be walking towards you and they would be the farthest away from the center line of the road. Remember, you’re a vehicle, you’re not a pedestrian.
Because you’re riding a human-powered vehicle, you should be following the rules of the road. This includes stopping for stop signs and appropriate traffic signals, riding only where you’re allowed to ride and keeping off the sidewalks. Unless specified by local ordinances, don’t ride on the sidewalk unless you would drive your car on the sidewalk.
Wear a helmet and brightly colored clothing. In the chillier months in Upstate New York I have a heavy rain jacket that I wear that is a dark green. Because this isn’t the most visible piece of clothing I could be wearing, I also wear a fluorescent yellow safety vest that Earl brought home from one of his manufacturing plants. You can’t miss it. If you’re riding when it’s dark out, put some lights on your bike and use them. The discount department stores have them for as little as $20 and they don’t even require tools to mount them on your bike. Make yourself REALLY visible. Folks barely pay attention to their driving these days as it is, be flashy so you don’t get hit by someone that’s more preoccupied with their hands free unit.
Now here’s where you have to be a little aggressive. If you ride in areas where there are multiple lanes at an intersection, for example, a left turn only lane, use that lane just like a car would. There’s an intersection close to the house where there are three lanes moving in my direction: left turn only, straight ahead and right turn only. When I want to go straight ahead, I get on the right edge of the center lane. This way, the cars that want to turn right can still use their lane without worrying about me cutting across to go straight, the cars going straight through can pass by me as if we were anywhere on the road and the folks turning left can do their business without a care in the world. Use the lanes as if you were driving your car or truck. Act like another vehicle and people won’t have to guess what you’re going to do due to unpredictable or erratic lane movements.
Be kind to pedestrians. Don’t terrorize the woman at the gas pump who is struggle with self-serve by cutting across the parking lot at a wild speed. Don’t cut in between cars and bushes and buildings just to save time. Be respectful of those around you so they’ll respect you.
As the opportunity arises, stick to the marked bike lanes and the myriad of bike paths that are cropping up all over the Empire State. I’m quite critical of NYSDOT but they are doing exceptional things when it comes to accommodating those of us moving about by human cycle power.
Follow the signs. Obey the one ways and the do not enters and the “No Bicycles Allowed” signs on the freeway entrances. In New York State if the speed limit is 65 you’re not allowed on that stretch of road with your bicycle. Other states vary with this, but that’s the way it works around here.
Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your bike ride. If you find riding around the city to be too stressful, find a nice country ride and enjoy the view, say hello to a cow and breathe in some fresh country air.
Share some zen with me.