This Week's Newspaper Column:
May is National Bike Month and the League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike-to-Work Week May 11-16 culminating in a national Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 15th. Riders across the country will be taking advantage of the beautiful early summer weather to take to the streets, many for the first time.
Why ride a bike to work instead of taking a vehicle? Consider your overall health and economics; when you ride a bike, you burn calories, not gas.
Americans are getting fatter and fatter due, in part, to lack of exercise. Once upon a time, before the automobile was ubiquitous, exercise was part of the daily routine. Most people walked to work, walked to the store, and walked to school.
Now, after half a century of transportation planning with a “car-only” ethic, American cities have spread out (much like our wastelines) and walking in many places is not an option. But a very long walk is an easy ride on a bike. You could say that biking is the new walking.
Here are a few biking rules for the road.
Keep in mind that bicycles are ruled by the same laws as cars. You are expected to stay in the same lanes and obey the same road signs and stoplights as automobiles. The exception is that bikes are not allowed on the interstate highway.
Never ride on the left side of the road. Besides the illegality, drivers always look to the left before making a right turn but they may or may not look to the right before pulling out into the street. As a general rule, bikes are no match for moving fenders.
Check your route ahead of time to make sure you’ll feel safe. When dedicated bike lanes are not present, you may opt for utilizing secondary streets rather than compete with fast-moving automobile traffic. The route you select may be a little farther, but safety and comfort are important factors.
Avoid sidewalks. As tempting as it is to ride the walk, pedestrians and bicycles do not easily mix.
If your schedule puts you out at night, make sure to have both a front and rear light mounted to your bike. Although only 4% of bicycling occurs at night, half of biking fatalities happen after dark.
It’s important to remember that you may very well work up a sweat en route. Leave a change of clothes at the office along with a towel and some soap for the sake of comfort and collegiality.
And remember to wear a helmet. Head injuries are the most serious of biking mishaps, and a helmet might just make the difference between a dust-off and a trip to the hospital (or worse) if an unfortunate accident occurs.
So hop on a bike this month and enjoy the scenery and fresh air; your heart and wallet will thank you.
Special thanks to James Moore of Moore's Bike Shop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi for some invaluable information and feedback on this essay. Mention that you read this article, and get a 10% discount on all bike assessories throughout the month of May.
Moore's Bike Shop
1607 Hardy Street