It’s time to ride bicycles

Commentary

May is National Bike Month!

It’s finally starting to feel like spring, and that means shedding some layers, breaking out the sunglasses and dusting off the bicycle.

As cyclists trade their indoor trainers for outdoor trails and roads, we’re already seeing packs of cyclists enjoying the scenic central Pennsylvania highways and byways this spring; and you can expect to see even more as the season rolls along.

Statista reports the recreational sport of cycling in the U.S. is growing by leaps and bounds over the last decade, with just over 47 million bike riders reported in 2008 to more than 66 million as of last spring. The same study reveals that Americans are buying twice as many bicycles each year than passenger cars; with bike types growing in specificity to include road bicycles, trail and mountain bikes as well as hybrid or comfort bikes. Even electric bike sales are increasing.

In our region, cycling is largely recreational, while in more urban areas bikes are growing in popularity among business commuters. Either way, the health benefits are many. Cycling is low-impact, providing valuable cardio fitness and increased strength and mobility, as well as stress relief, all which contribute to prevention of disease.

Cycling is also environmentally and pocket-book friendly, with no emissions, fuel expenses or parking fees.

And as our region has recognized the benefits of cycling, central Pennsylvania has become more bicycle-friendly, with the development of trails like the Lower and H&BT Rail Trails, among others, capitalizing on the region’s beauty and natural resources.

Pennsylvania as a whole is also working to ramp up resources for the cycling community with an effort to update the bicycle and pedestrian master plan, expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

PennDOT has mapped thousands of miles of bicycle routes throughout the commonwealth, and notes a commitment to improving bicycle safety while also promoting the many ways to enjoy the roads on two wheels.

An interactive map is available on the PennDOT website, which now also includes an elevation option so cyclists can map out their rides based on their level of ability and experience, avoiding (or finding) more challenging climbs as they see fit.

PennDOT also provides extensive information about bicycle safety and laws concerning riding on the roadway, most notably asserting that people riding “pedal cycles” are legally granted many of the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of motorized vehicles.

So while it may be frustrating at times to find ourselves driving behind a bicycle, they have the right to share the road. With cycling growing in popularity and participation, more and more bikes will be doing just that, so let’s watch out for one another during National Bike Month and beyond.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays

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