by Lawrence Furbish, Sanford Trails Committee chair
You may know how to ride a bike. But do you really? Bicycle riding is a terrific activity for many reasons. First of all, it is fun! How great is it to zip down the street on your road bike or hybrid or pedal along a trail in the woods on your mountain bike. Second, it is great exercise, burns those calories and works your cardiovascular system. Third, it is great for the environment and transportation with none of the carbon emissions one gets from motor vehicles. But unfortunately, some everyday observations around town will amply demonstrate that many riders do not know, or choose not to follow, the law or recommended safe-riding practices. So, here is a little refresher:
- Unless you are a youngster, do not ride on the sidewalk. There are too many teenagers and adults that ride down a sidewalk oblivious to the risk to pedestrians.
- When riding on streets and roadways, ride on the same side of the road as motorized traffic not against the traffic. Pedestrians walking in the road are urged to walk against the traffic so they can better see approaching vehicles, but bicyclists are required to ride with the traffic.
- Bicyclists are supposed to follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicle drivers, which means obey traffic lights, follow stop and yield signs, don’t ride the wrong way on one-way streets and signal your intentions, including turns, slowing, and stopping.
- In turn, bicyclists have a right to the road. So, for instance, when you are making a left-hand turn at an intersection, “take the lane” by getting in position to make that turn and to let motorists have a clear idea what you are doing.
- Next are a few suggestions, that while not required by the law, make great sense in terms of your safety. Wear a helmet. If you fall or get into a crash, it will provide great protection from a head injury. I once knew a man who was cycling, had a minor collision with a curb, fell, hit his head and died. That’s not how we want to end up.
- Wear bright colored clothing so you show up to motorists, and if you are riding at night have some sort of flashing light on your bike.
Finally, Sanford has made a few modest improvements in striping some of our roads and streets for cyclists and there are some new projects in the works to create bike paths to get cyclists off the road. But as taxpayers, we need to urge the city to do more. Sadly, most of the United States lags far behind countries in Europe in making bicycling safe and easy – encouraging more people to do it. So, don’t forget, there is more to riding a bike than getting on, pedaling, and not falling off.