Spring has sprung! It’s time to get out your bicycle, pump up the tires and take it for a ride. Bicycling is a favorite activity of mine because every time I go for a ride, I feel like a kid again. With the sun shining on me and the wind in my face, it feels like the closest thing to flying.
One of my favorite rides in the Twin Cities is the West River Parkway path, that section of the Grand Rounds which follows the west bank of the Mississippi all the way from Fort Snelling to the North Loop and beyond. I also love riding along Summit Avenue just around dusk, when the nostalgic beauty of those old victorian mansions really comes alive.
Bicycling is a great way to be active for so many reasons. Apart from the fun factor, it’s a non-impact aerobic activity that almost anyone can do. It’s also one of the few forms of exercise that can be useful in other ways – you can bike to work or to run errands or, my favorite, to check out the area’s newest restaurants and microbreweries.
Speaking of biking and drinking, there are a few safety tips you should remember every time you head out, like never, ever cycle under the influence. We all have different tolerances to alcohol, but if you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of your car, then you definitely shouldn’t get on your bike.
Whether you’re biking for fitness or for fun, definitely wear safety gear. This means wearing a helmet on your head and brightly colored and/or reflective clothing, even in the daytime. It’s also a good idea to have both front and rear lights on your bike, regardless of what your local ordinance requires. According to the National Institutes of Health, over 90% of adult bicycle accidents that required a trip to the ER were the result of the bicyclist being hit by a motor vehicle. Being seen by motorists is your best defense!
It’s also a good idea to have your bike tuned up or to do a basic safety check yourself at the beginning of the season. Local bike shops offer these services at a pretty low cost, and many have free classes where you can learn bicycle maintenance basics yourself.
Finally, for your own safety and for the reputation of cyclists everywhere, please, please, please follow the rules of the road! No one can read your mind, so you need to act predictably when riding. This means stopping at red lights, signaling your turns well in advance and yielding the right of way as you would when driving a motor vehicle.
I got my bike out for the first ride of the year two days ago and I’m hoping to ride about 50 miles per week this season. I hope to see you out there on the bike paths!