National Bike Month

National Bike Month Poster

May is National Bike Month in the U.S.  During the month, the benefits of bicycling are highlighted in an effort to encourage more people to get their bikes out of storage and onto the roads and trails.

Urban Bicycling

People around the world enjoy bicycling on a daily basis and you can too.  If you live in or near a city, you will spend most of your time bicycling on roads or bike lanes.  That means you must operate your bicycle following all the rules of road that apply when driving your car.  Here are a few common things I have seen:

  • Riding on the sidewalk
  • Riding against traffic
  • Running stop signs and signals
  • Weaving in and out in traffic
  • Failure to signal turns

These are not things one would do in a car so I wonder what it is about bicycles that makes people imagine that these things would be safe to do.  The bottom line with safety is to obey the rules.  Drivers of motor vehicles expect that of you.  If you defy their expectations,  you are endangering your life – motor vehicles win every time!

Here’s a short video that shows the joy of urban bicycling around the world.  perhaps it will inspire you to get out there. (vimeo.com/86581964)

 

Mountain Biking

If you can get out of the city to the public lands of the U.S. you will find an entirely different experience.   Here, the rules of the road give way to the rules of the trail.  The International Mountain Bicycling Association offers six basic rules:

Ride Open Trails – If a trail is on private land, ask permission to use it first.  If it’s closed, it’s closed for a reason – even if you don’t know the reason.  Respect the trail and the property rights of others.

Leave No Trace – This is the same concept that applies to hiking and backpacking in the wilderness, with some special twists.  For example,  a muddy trail can be severely damaged by by a bicycle.  If you come across a muddy spot, find a better way to get through it – even if you have to walk.  If the whole trail is muddy, go elsewhere.

Control Your Bike – In most places you will be sharing a trail with hikers and animals and you will come across a lot of hazards in the trail.  You don’t need to fly through the air, but you do need to be aware of the people, animals and conditions around you.  You are responsible for your own safety as well as the safety of others you meet on the trail.

Yield Properly – Yield the right-of-way to hikers, pack stock and the like.  Let them know you are coming and in the case of horses or other pack stock,  stop, step off the trail and let them pass without harassment.  Yield to uphill traffic and pass carefully.

Never Scare Animals – Be especially careful around horses, llamas or other livestock.  They may not be familiar with bicycles and can react poorly.  Give them space.  Do not harass wildlife – give those animals space too.

Plan Ahead – Mountain biking is the same as any other outdoor adventure in this regard.  You must have the proper equipment in proper working order and use it properly.  Carry rain gear and always wear a helmet.

We’ve featured some crazy mountain biker videos in our weekly newsletter, but most of us aren’t into that kind of mountain biking.  You don’t need to fly through the air to have an outstanding experience.  Here’s a more reasonable video that illustrates some spectacular country you can experience on a bicycle.(vimeo.com/9537073)

Get Out There

The bottom line for National Bike Month – or any month for that matter – is to get out there and do it.  If it’s been awhile since you were on a bicycle,  start by tooling around your neighborhood.  You will soon find yourself traveling farther every day.  You might try commuting to work on your bicycle – in some situations it’s faster than a car.  Before you know it you’ll be in shape and eager to hit  the mountain trails.  Have fun!

 

National Bike Month is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists.  That’s a group that was formed in 1880 as the League of American Wheelman with the purpose of improving roads so that bicycles could use them.  The group was instrumental in creating the improved roads that literally paved the way for our modern road system.

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