These days, it seems like more bikes are out on the roads than gathering dust in the garage. Maybe it's because we're worried about climate change, or maybe we're just preoccupied with our waistlines. But no matter the person, there are plenty of reasons to trade the car in for a bike.
Between 2000 and 2009, the number of regular bike commuters grew 70 percent across the entire United States. In some areas like the Northeast, the increase in everyday cyclists was as high as 127 percent. Those statistics include plenty of diversity—studies show that biking and walking are appealing to children and teenagers as well as working adults. With more bicycles on the road, numerous cities have implemented new infrastructure to make cruising on two wheels safer and easier. Freshly-paved bike paths, freshly-painted bike lanes, handy-dandy traffic signals and bike share programs are cropping up all over the country.
Before joining the party on that rusty old one-speed, make sure you know the rules of the road. Biking can be just as safe than driving—in fact, some studies claim it's the safest transportation for young adults—when everyone follows the law and uses plenty of common sense. Below is a cheat sheet on how to avoid accidents (and tickets) on the road. Happy cycling!
RULES OF THE ROAD
- Bike on the road in the same direction as traffic (only bikers under age 12 are legally allowed to ride on sidewalks). Even though they lack a motor, bicycles are considered road vehicles just like cars and trucks.
- Stop at red lights and stop signs, and obey other traffic signs (i.e. one-way street, yield, etc.), just like you would in a car.
- Use marked bike paths or lanes when they're available.
- When traveling with children, be extra safe. In some areas (New York, for example), babies under one year old cannot be carried on a bike. Kids must sit in a correctly attached child carrier (i.e., no sitting on the handlebars or perching on the back wheel!). All children must wear a helmet at all times—in some states that means all persons under age 18.
- In many areas, biking on highways, expressways, interstate routes and thruways is illegal (although this may be changing soon thanks to new highway systems for bikes in Maine, New Hampshire, Michigan and Alaska).