Pedal Power

Smart Cycling Tips for the Start of Riding Season

Because the rules of the road apply even when you're on a bike.

By Allison Pattillo May 16, 2018

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It requires a bit of climbing to get to McClain Flats, but the smooth road and big sky views are worth it. 

With the arrival of warm weather--and the fact that May is National Bike Month and Friday, May 18, is Bike to Work Day--now's a good time to brush up on cycling safety and etiquette.

The road to Maroon Lake is open, Independence Pass is being prepped for it’s pre-Memorial Day opening, and the Rio Grande Trail is smooth sailing all the way to Glenwood. Plus, mountain bike trails are drying out and beckoning riders. We checked in with Aspen Police Sergeant Rick Magnuson, who is also a bike instructor for the department, and Tyler Newton, president of the Aspen Cycling Club, for their take on cycling safety. 

“Sharing the road is a big issue," says Magnuson, whose favorite ride is to the top of Independence Pass. "Everyone has to get along in what can become a congested urban area even though it’s in the mountains. Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles, yet they sometimes assume the rights while ignoring the responsibilities.”

Did you know that you can get a ticket for a moving violation while biking? To maintain good (and lawful) cycling habits, Magnuson suggests, if you’re ever in doubt while on a bike, ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation if I was in my car?”

Newton adds that as we each enjoy being outside in our own way, it’s important to respect some common ground. For example, don't hesitate to self-police when you’re riding with a group. “If someone is doing something that’s making you crazy or is unsafe, say something.”

And remember, cyclists must yield to pedestrians and equestrians, and those going uphill have the right-of-way over downhill traffic—counterintuitive, but true.

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When cruising around town, cyclists can use the "stop as yield" law as long as no cars are present and they aren't merging onto Highway 82. 

Here, Magnuson’s and Newton’s top 10 tips: 

 -Always ride single file. Riding next to your friends may be more fun, but single-file pedaling allows more room for oncoming riders and cars to pass safely. If the roads and trails are busy, you may need to save your catching up for a post-ride beer or coffee.

-Announce when passing—not just as you’re going by, but by giving people as much advance notice as you can. Says Newton, who prefers bike bells (get ’em for free at the city Parks and Open Space office while supplies last!), “It’s a lot like hiking Highland Bowl. You tell someone you would like to pass and then give them the opportunity to react.” 

-Ride only the right direction on one-way streets; don't ride on sidewalks or the pedestrian malls. Magnuson asks his officers to model responsible bike etiquette by either riding on the street or walking their bikes on sidewalks.

-Stop at stop signs and stop lights, and signal when turning. Magnuson reminds us, however, about the stop as yield law in town. Within Aspen city limits, as long as no other traffic is present, cyclists are not required to come to a complete stop at signs. In other words, when they cruise through the West End, for example, it actually is legal for them to treat stop signs as yield signs.The exception: any road that goes into Highway 82. 

-Check your bike. Before every ride make sure the brakes work and tires are inflated. And have your bike serviced regularly. As Newton points out, preventative maintenance is less expensive and worrisome than having a mechanical issue on a ride. 

-Wear a helmet. Newton prefers those with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology, which reduces the rotational and concussion-causing forces that can result from certain impacts.

-Be smart about earphones. Newton never rides with two in his ears so as to maintain awareness of what’s happening around him. (The Aspen Cycling Club doesn’t allow racers to wear them during events.)

-Be visible! Consider adding reflective dots or tape to your bike, helmet, and/or clothing, and wear high-visibility apparel. A daytime running light and red rear light will also help you be seen.

-Plan your ride, and ride your plan. Then share it! Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

-Treat others well. “As a cyclist, being friendly is key. It disarms people if they're mad at you, and you're friendly to them,” says Newton. “Talk to people on the trail the way you would like people to talk to your mom.”

P.S. For any frustrated drivers out there, it’s not okay to yell at a cyclist to, “Get on the bike path!” Just because there's a multi-use path doesn’t mean cyclists have to use it (unless they're in places, like a freeway, where bikes are prohibited). A cyclist may be choosing the road over a path for reasons including crowds, the speed he or she wants to ride, trail conditions, or mere preference.

For more information about rules of the road, visit Bicycle Colorado and Roaring Fork Cycling.


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