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Cycling etiquette and courtesy, or you are not going for a prostrate exam for crying out loud!

A subject that has bothered me for some time is cycling etiquette (or the lack thereof) as demonstrated by some riders.

It is enough of a disadvantage that some of us dress kind of funny; cycling jerseys reminiscent of a NASCAR driver or professional bass fisherman and spandex shorts (not a good look for most of us, but that is a whole other blog). I am not knocking one’s choice of apparel, just pointing out that some non-cyclists (and cyclists) may be put off by the apparel we choose to wear. But some riders seem to unconsciously or deliberately alienate others with their actions.

The popularity of cycling in some area has also brought with it an animosity towards cyclists based on the actions of a few morons, who seemed to have left common sense behind the moment their rear ends hit the saddle. Thankfully these folks are not the norm. What is not so rare is the few minor infractions, when compounded among many cyclists that frequent an area or trail, that may alienate other cyclists and those non -riders whose support we need. Few if any of the bike trails in this country are 100% privately funded. Most or all rely upon public sector support and funding to some degree. Think about the next time additional trail access, or a needed bike path or lane comes up for a vote in a town council meeting and one of the councilmen has had a bad experience with a cyclist.

Some things we can all do.

  1. We should not even have to discuss this, but DO NOT leave trash behind.

  2. When passing other cyclists or pedestrians, a verbal warning of "passing on your left" is appreciated in advance as to not startle folks. Flying past pedestrians without a warning will not endure you to them.Some trails like the C&O Canal actually (suggest) that riders have a bell.I thought this kind-of dumb until I was given one. A quick “ding” of my bell about 25 yards behind approaching pedestrians is appreciated, and I have actually had folks thank me for this. Bells are inexpensive and unobtrusive and there is really no excuse for not having one on your bike.

  3. Something I have witnessed mostly among some of the “serious cyclists”; (see the Nascar jersey spandex clad cyclist in paragraph 2), but not limited to them, is not knowing how to great people or smile. Granted when one passes hundreds of cyclists or pedestrians while on a ride, you may not say hello to each and every one, but I have experienced this lack of courtesy while riding on trails like the C&O Canal or Great Allegheny Passage where it is rare to see many cyclist or pedestrians outside of the towns. The painful grimace on some of these riders I see, does not exude much in the form of camaraderie or goodwill. And not acknowledging a friendly hello is just plain rude and speaks volumes for the life he or she must be living. You are riding a bike outdoors in beautiful scenery for crying out loud…not undergoing a prostrate exam!

  4. Help a stranded cyclist. Asking a person if they need any assistance can be done without stopping your bike. Who hasn't had a second flat, forgotten to replace a spare tube or patch kit, or just been unprepared for a problem? Loaning your tools or offering some advice or assistance will only take a few minutes, tubes are cheap enough to give one to a stranger. It's usually a long walk home, and we all hope someone would stop for us.Karma!

  5. No amplified music. Yes, I sometimes listen to music when I ride, but would never-ever think about subjecting others to my music tastes (Classic rock, Jimmy Buffett, John Prine, etc.) with a speaker! Many riders, myself included not only ride for exercise, but for the peace and tranquility of the areas that we choose to ride.If you must listen to music, consider using headphones or ear buds.And, do not listen to music when the trail is crowded, or use only one ear bud. You want to be able to hear riders who are courteous enough to say “passing on your left” that are approaching you from behind.

  6. Move over. On most trails and streets, you are supposed to ride single file.On most trails we do not. Biking can be and is a social activity. When you are riding side by side, listen for riders approaching from behind or better yet in combination with a mirror. I have had good experience with an that straps to my hand grip.

  7. Common Sense. When riding in crowded conditions with other riders, make sure to telegraph your intentions in advance. Use hand signals and verbal warnings.I cannot tell you how many times I have approached a group of riders who are riding side by side and unaware of their surrounding or my approach, or those who ride single file and as I near, one of the riders oblivious to approaching bikers decides at that point to ride side by side, or pass the biker in front of him!This potential or realized accidents could easily be solved by the group’s leader or front-rider shouting rider(s) approaching!

  8. Pay attention to your surroundings and approaching crossings. Many of the trails I ride offer jaw dropping beauty that is distracting. They also offer potholes, road crossings, loose surfaces, sticks, roots and wildlife.Nothing like not seeing that five foot timber rattler on Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Trail at the last moment, to get your heart beating faster!

Enjoy the ride, stop taking our selves so seriously and practice a little civility. To paraphrase Jerry Garcia (ok, maybe Timothy Leary) “the trip is the trip,” enjoy it while you can!

What did I miss? What can we all do to many the ride more pleasant and non riders more understanding?

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