Hop on your bike, it’s National Bike Month!

This spring, consider joining others in National Bike Month activities and events and swap your car for your bike to get to work, school or run errands.

2013 Bike to Work Day in Detroit. Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan

2013 Bike to Work Day in Detroit. Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan

May is National Bike Month and is a time for individuals, organizations, schools and employers to promote bicycling as an active, healthy form of transportation. In fact, National Bike Month includes an ever-expanding number of local events and activities promoting cycling in communities across the nation. In 2015, Bike to Work Week is May 11-15 and Bike to Work Day is May 15.

Before jumping on the bike for the first time this spring, here are some tips to help ensure your ride or commute is safe, fun and rewarding:

Check your bike. The League of American Bicyclists suggests conducting an ABC Quick Check to ensure your bike is working properly.

Plan your route. Before setting out, think about the best route to get to your destination. Dedicated bike lanes or bike paths may not carry you all the way to your destination. Perhaps there is public transportation part of the way, such as a bus route, that accommodates bikes. When navigating city streets, think about traffic volumes and other barriers to riding. Are there any major roads or highways that you must cross? What are the alternative routes to take? Some communities have bike maps that detail the streets with bike lanes and paths while other maps depict the safer streets to travel vs those with higher traffic volumes or faster speeds.

Dust off that helmet. Sure, your helmet may cramp your hairstyle, but helmet head is better than a serious head injury. Also, it’s not necessary to wear tight-fitting cycling clothing, but it is safest to add some bright colors to be as conspicuous (visible) as possible. Consider an ankle strap or roll your right pant leg to keep your pants from rubbing or snagging in the chain.

Refresh on the rules of the road. Michigan laws pertaining to bicyclists include:

  • Ride in the same direction as traffic and obey all laws and traffic control devices (remember, sidewalks are one of the most dangerous places to ride).
  • Use hand signals to indicate turns (in Michigan, bicyclists can signal a right turn by extending their right arm horizontally).
  • Ride in the furthest right lane that travels in the direction you’re going and recognize that you have a right to move away from the curb to avoid debris or to prepare for turns.
  • Equip your bike with front and rear lights when riding in low light or poor visibility.

National Bike Month is intended to introduce individuals to another way of getting to work, school, or around town besides the automobile. It is meant as a way to encourage more people to bike. Of course, there is also a role for government agencies to enable more people to travel by bike too. Sure, bicyclists are legal users of most roadways, but additional facilities, including the appropriate application of bike lanes, bike parking and signage, are important for creating a safe and welcoming cycling environment. Also, communities or other organizations may want to consider installing small bike stations on well-traveled routes in case riders need to repair a flat tire or make a quick fix.

Several Michigan State University Extension articles provide more information on local governments’ role in accommodating all forms of transportation in land use and transportation planning, including:

Enjoy your ride!

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