Cycling down a beautiful bike path can be a wonderful thing. It is good for your heart, your physique and for your mental state. Riding a bike also carries inherent risks that need to be recognized and minimized.
There are a few simple things that can help reduce these risks:
- Have a trusty bike
- Have the basic safety equipment
- Wear bright colors
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Keep your speed down
- Stay alert
- Watch out for obstacles
- Know your route
- Don't travel too far
- Keep an eye on the time of day
- Keep an eye on the weather
- Take care at street crossings and driveways
- Stay to the right side of the trail
- Announce yourself when passing
Have a trusty bike
Be sure that you bike is in good working order. Be familiar with how it handles, how the brakes work, how the gears shift, how to take turns. Each type of bike is going to be a little different. If you choose to wear pedal clips, be very sure that you can get out of the clips in an instant.
Have the basic safety equipment
Here is a checklist of the minimum things you should have with you on a ride:
- Spare inner tube
- Eye protection
- Headlamp or bike light
- Credit Card and cash
- Cell Phone
- Tire changing tools
- Pump and/or CO2 Inflator
- Map or GPS device or Cell Phone Map App
Besides having the right equipment, you should have the proper attire. Wear brightly colored shirts, comfortable pants and properly fitting shoes. Be sure your pants and your shoelaces aren't going to get into your bike chain. If the temps are cool, bring a jacket and proper gloves. You will be much cooler on a bike that you will be walking due to the wind-chill.
Wear bright colors
You are more likely to be noticed if you have a bright yellow or orange top. One solid color is better than a mixture of various bright colors. Even if you are just on the trails, there likely will be street crossings.
Be aware of your surroundings
It is easy to get distracted while riding, but it is best to always keep an eye on your surroundings. Watch for groups of people on the trail that are not moving out of your way. Keep an eye on unpredictable children or pets. Are you in a safe area? Are there suspicious people hanging about? This is Colorado, there can be wildlife at any time of the day, watch for elk, snakes, raccoons, rabbits, etc. Knowing what is around you can also help you from getting lost.
Keep your speed down
If you are on a multi-use bike path, you have a responsibility to watch your speed. There can be pedestrians, small children and pets that can be in the way. You will lessen the risk of injury with slower speeds as well. On hilly rides, such as in the mountains, it is very easy to let your speed increase to the point that you do not have good control of the bike. Watch your kids' speed if they are on the ride with you as well.
Your endorphins are pumping away and it is very easy to get lost in thought on a ride. You may not notice the crack in the pavement, the sharp turn or the lady with dog on a long leash that spans across the entire trail. You can also be tired at the end of a long ride and not be as aware of what is going on. Staying alert can mean staying alive.
Watch out for obstacles
Something as minor as a branch across the trail can ruin your day if you don't see it in time. Watch for icy spots, cracked pavement, sharp turns, debris and standing water.
Know your route
Getting lost can be easy on recreational trails with many spurs or intersecting trails. Before starting out, make a mental note of things you should be seeing on the route. Make note of intersecting trails, road crossings and other features. If you aren't seeing these things while en route, there may well be a problem. If you are with a group, make sure that you stay together, or that each member has a cell phone for coordinating the group.
Don't travel to far
When you are fatigued, you are much more likely to make mistakes and injure yourself. You are also more likely to make bad decisions. Don't wait until you are already tired to turn around and head back. The higher altitudes of Colorado make it more challenging, and can tire you more easily. Also take note if the first half of the trip is mainly downhill, it will more effort coming back. The same goes for wind at your back vs. riding into the wind.
Keep an eye on the time of day
In summer months, it is best to start out early to avoid the heat of the day and the afternoon thundershowers. Also, if you do get injured or lost, it is still daylight. If you go to far in the afternoon, you could find yourself riding back in the dark.
Keep an eye on the weather
Colorado's weather is famous for changing very quickly. In summer months, afternoon thundershowers are common. In cooler months, the weather can change to be very cold very quickly. There is also the possibility of strong winds. Take protection in case of thunderstorms. If on a river trail, do not shelter yourself at roadway underpasses as flash flooding is always a possibility.
Take care at street crossings and driveways
There can be street crossings that you encounter as you travel the bike paths. Always watch out, the driver may not see you. Watch your kids and other group members as well.
Stay to the right side of the trail
When riding, running or walking on a multi-use recreational path, stay to the right side of the trail. Allow room for others to pass you on your left side. Keep your children and pets close by. Teach your children about staying on the right side and instruct them that people will likely be passing them and that they shouldn't be wandering about.
Announce yourself when passing
Don't expect that the people you are passing know that you are behind them and coming around. It is not only polite to let them know that you are passing, but it is much safer. If they don't know you are there, they might step to one side, stop, or let the dog or the kids wander. They get hurt and you get hurt in a collision. It is very startling to have someone whiz by you without some notice. Say something like "Passing on your left" in a polite but audible manner.
Stay safe and enjoy yourself
It is much easier to have a great time when things are not going wrong. The recreational trails of Colorado offer a wonderful way to get healthful exercise away from the congestion and danger of traffic. Take the precautions and have a wonderful trip down the trail!