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Whether on the road as a vehicular cyclist, racer, on the trails, or at the parks and tracks; biking safely is incredibly important. Being on a vehicle that does not remain upright on its own, requiring uninterrupted operation is interesting enough, let alone riding the streets or an extreme downhill. Biking can be fun, extreme and doesn’t require broken bones, if you know what to do. On the road, cyclists fare best when they act as and are respected as drivers of vehicles.
Have you ever been looking for your keys before, you can’t find them anywhere, then you finally discover them right in plain sight? Have you been wearing the sunglasses you were looking for? It’s called perceptual blindness. It is a big reason why motorists often don’t see cyclists.
When cyclists utilize lane positioning as promoted by the League of American Bicyclists, behave as vehicles and follow the road rules; they make themselves and everyone else safe. Side-walk riding, wrong-way riding, gutter-pan riding and other behavior that does not allow cyclists to be visible and predictable are some easily preventable causes of bike-car crashes. For more on safe vehicular cycling check out various classes. If you are curious about the rights and responsibilities, you can visit the laws above.
New Mexico bicycle law and city ordinances cover much of the key principles of bicycle safety, such as cyclists having similar rights and responsibilities on the road. Cyclists are safest and they make everyone around them safer when they act as and are treated as drivers of vehicles. With that said, some of the subtleties can make a big difference. Bicycle lane positioning techniques, for example, can prevent right hooks and left hooks, by motorists in front of cyclists. John S. Allen has written widely used, simple and practical literature on the subject, which is hard to beat.
Albuquerque has more than a few shared unpaved trails. It is important to be smart and courteous. A word from IMBA:
RESPECT: It’s a simple concept: if you offer respect, you are more likely to receive it. Education with friendly respect will diminish negative encounters on the trail for all users.
COMMUNICATION: Let folks know you’re there — before you’re there. Riding up on horses and stock can be dangerous even for the best-trained critters. For bikers and hikers; 1. Make yourself known to stock and rider. A simple “Howdy” works to get attention. 2. Step downhill and off trail.
HORSES UPHILL: Horses and mules are prey animals. That means they think everything wants to eat them; even the hiker with a large, scary backpack and especially the fast-moving biker “chasing” them. When startled, frightened critters go uphill. You should move downhill to avoid an encounter with a 1,000 pound panicked animal. Yikes!
YIELD APPROPRIATELY: Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming – a friendly greeting is a good method. Anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to other non-motorized trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.
REVERE THE RESOURCE: Help protect your accessibility by playing nicely with your neighbors and treating trails with reverence. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics and pitch in to give back – pick up trash, volunteer on a trail project or become a member of your local trail club. Take action and get involved today!
AVOID SPREADING SEEDS: Help keep weeds out of our forests. Noxious weeds threaten our healthy ecosystems and livelihoods. Stay on trail, drive on designated roads, use weed seed free hay, check your socks, bikes and horse tails for hitchhikers when you get back to the trailhead. Let’s keep our forests strong and clean.
BE INFORMED: It’s YOUR responsibility to be “in the know.” Questions about where to ride, trail closures, outdoor ethics and local regulations are important to know before you head out on the trails. Contact your local land manager if you are unsure about what you can and can’t do in a given area.