Help The Environment, Your Wallet and Your Health
By Valerie Beerbower
Bicycles and Dayton have a beautiful history together. From the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop to the city’s recent achievement of becoming nationally recognized as a League of American Bicyclists’ Bike-Friendly Community, many of this region’s milestones have rolled in on two wheels. Keeping with this tradition, Dayton has joined the ranks of major cities across the country where cycling has grown beyond the scope of pure recreational purposes to a viable and eco-friendly form of transportation. In fact, Dayton is home to the largest connected system of paved off-street bikeways in the country!
As concerns grow about non-renewable resource consumption and the obesity epidemic, more and more people are choosing alternative forms of transportation — specifically bicycling — as a way to reduce carbon emissions and lead a healthier, active lifestyle. With amenities easily accessible and close to home, it’s a great time to get on a bike and explore the region.
How Will You Ride?
If you haven’t ridden a bike since you sat on a banana seat or stuck a playing card in the spokes, it’s not too late to start riding again for recreation or commuting purposes. Bicycles come in a variety of styles and sizes. Each type of bike has features that make it ideal for a certain kind of ride. Before heading to the shop, consider how you will use your bike. Are you mostly going to ride it on paved trails? Long distances or short trips? Off-road adventures or relaxed-pace jaunts? Will you need to carry cargo and if so, how much? Once you determine how you will use your bike, you can sort through the options and find one that best suits your needs.
Another consideration is gear. A helmet is essential. Today’s market offers a variety of sizes, styles and amenities for comfort. A properly fitting helmet should sit straight across your forehead along your brow line. It should not tilt forward, impeding your vision, or backward, inadequately protecting your face. Other accessories can be added for safety and comfort, such as front and rear lights, gel-padded gloves, under-seat repair kits, pant straps, sunglasses or cycling jackets. Your local cycling shop can help you outfit your bike and gear to fit your needs and budget.
Where to Ride
Because bicycling has such positive impacts on air quality and personal health, city planners and developers are incorporating “complete streets” into their designs, providing ample space for all vehicles, including bikes, as well as sidewalks for walking. That said, it is important to note that bicycles are considered vehicles. Therefore, one should not ride on the sidewalk. Ride on the street with the flow of traffic. Ride as far to the right as possible or in a bike lane. Look for markings for bike lanes or shared lanes in downtown Dayton.
Bike riders must follow all traffic laws, including stop signs, traffic lights and turn lanes. Use hand signals when turning. A hand signal can be as simple as pointing in the direction you wish to turn. You can also use standard signals: extend your left arm straight out to indicate a left turn, or extend your left arm bent up at the elbow to indicate a right turn, and bend your arm down to signal you are stopping.
Once you get the skills down, consider the benefits of using your bike for commuting and errands. Swapping just one two-mile trip once a week, you’ll save at least $40 a year in gas, not to mention the positive impact you’ll have on the environment and your physical health!
Commuting by Bike
There are a few strategies you can use to encourage riding and keep up your habit. Storing your bike in an easy-to-access place rather than up in your garage rafters or behind a wall of boxes and holiday decorations will encourage frequent use. Try a wall-mount rack or a ceiling pulley rack. Both offer convenient out-of-the-way storage and are simple to use. Keep your cargo-carrying utilities handy in case you need to make a quick errand. Removing barriers to riding is an important aspect of promoting healthy cycling habits.
If you work in downtown Dayton, check with your employer or building administrator to find out whether your workplace offers facilities to support commuter cyclists. If not, you can become a member of the RiverScape MetroPark Bike Hub. This secure facility, located at RiverScape MetroPark, features separate men’s and women’s showers and locker rooms, plus bike storage. Members access these amenities via key card. Visit metroparks.org/cycling for more information and details on scheduling a tour.
(Get into the spirit of cycling on Friday, May 18th, when Five Rivers MetroParks celebrates cycling commuters with a free pancake breakfast at RiverScape MetroPark. Cyclists are welcome to a pancake breakfast from 6:30a.m. – 9a.m. before work. Check out local cycling vendors, live entertainment and even a photo booth to commemorate National Bike to Work Day. Log on to metroparks.org/biketowork to learn more about this event or sign up for a group ride or compete against other local businesses.)
Reach DCP freelance writer Valerie Beerbower at ValerieBeerbower@DaytonCityPaper.com.
[Photo: Elzora.com Photography]