Tips for safe cycling ... and pointers for motorists too.

With spring’s arrival, many local residents have been pulling their bicycles out of the garages after long winter’s dormancy. Below are some Tips for Safe Biking I gleaned from a brochure put out by the Kansas Department of Transportation I picked up at a recent State Fair. I’ve also included personal commentary based upon 30+ years of cycling for both recreation and commuting to work. This is also a reminder to local motorists to be extra attentive when driving around cyclists, especially children, who are still developing their cycling skills.

1)      Wear a good helmet. Even though it sometimes gives you “helmet hair,” a bicycle helmet is essential gear. I was hit side on by a car at an intersection some 15 years ago. After breaking out the windshield and rolling over the car, I landed on my back and my head slammed down onto the pavement. Thank goodness for my helmet. If you don’t know how to fit your helmet properly, go to a bike shop in Great Bend, Hutchinson, Wichita or elsewhere, and shop employees can help you. Helmets should fit snugly on the head with the straps pulled up securely forming a V under each ear.

2)      Dress properly. The biggest key to dressing properly is visibility. Bright colors are the key. Motorists may be inattentive, talking or texting on cell phones, watching a movie, fatigued or perhaps just contending with a screaming child. Anything cyclists can do to make themselves more visible decreases the chances of being hit. When someone roars up to a stop sign, I will wave my hand vigorously in some instances or simply make eye contact in others to ensure the motorist sees me.

3)      Adjust your bike seat properly. Too many people are riding bicycles with their knees almost bumping their elbows. The seat should be adjusted to the height where there is only a very slight bend in the knee when the heel rests on the pedal while seated. Also, when completely stopped, you should be able to straddle the frame with both feet on the ground

4)      Ride with the flow of traffic. KDOT suggests riding two feet from the curb. That’s okay when it’s a two –lane roadway, but on Highway 54 I always ride in the middle of the right lane. That has eliminated being buzzed by motorists, many of whom errantly believe they can squeeze between my bicycle and another vehicle in the adjoining lane. Riding on Highway 54 is not a good idea for children, however, who are still developing bike handling skills.

5)      Use hand signals. These are the same ones you’ll find in the Kansas Driver’s Manual.

6)       Obey all traffic signals and lights. I know others who may disagree with this, but I generally follow this rule, particularly when traffic is present.

7)      Be courteous to people walking, other drivers, and fellow bike riders. That’s more or less the golden rule. Even when someone is not courteous, we can take the higher road but not responding in kind … and, if necessary, dialing 911 on our cell phones.

An important reminder for everyone is that all roadways in Kansas, except for interstate highways, are legally open to both cyclists and motorists. In fact, paved roads in America originally came about in the late 19th Century due to the efforts of the League of American Wheelmen, a cycling advocacy group.

So, please, keep your eyes open and share the road. It’s meant for all of us to enjoy, together, safely.