Sometimes, there are problems on our roadways with “shared use” by cars, trucks, motorcycles as well as cyclists and pedestrians. Conflicts arise and accidents occur when road users fail to recognize and respect the rights of others on the roadway. So, that’s the problem. Now, let’s move to solutions for “non-motorized” bicyclists and pedestrians.
What can cyclists and pedestrians do to ensure their safety on the road? There are three possible actions: 1) Stay off the roads — ride, bike or run on trails and backroads where no motorized traffic goes; 2) Use the roads, but be aware of the risks and take precautions; and 3) Advocate for better, safer streets and a more bicycle/pedestrian friendly community.
Last week, we opted for choice No. 1 and went off-road. That’s the only place besides dirt roads my husband will ride anymore. He says there are too many crazy and unpredictable road drivers for him to enjoy the ride. Tuesday, we drove to the Marshall Conservation Area (MCA) off West Side Road. All we had to contend with were very hungry mosquitoes, some mud and the usual rocks and roots. It was a relaxing ride.
Last Saturday, we traveled to Rob Brook Road off Bear Notch Road. We were the only ones there. Riding past the closed Forest Road 35 gate, we rode 7.5 miles on a gravel road with a few washouts and lots of fallen sticks. On the way back, we rode the Birch Hill Snowmobile Trail to connect back to Rob Brook. Finishing the ride in 15 miles, we savored our traffic-free ride.
When choosing option 2 — riding or walking on paved roads, non-motorized users need to make wise choices. Knowing when and where to go increase the safety factor. If you choose to ride the Kanc. on a busy holiday weekend, you’ll have more traffic. Ride it midweek or early morning, and the riding will be more pleasant. Riding Route 113 or Route 302 east out of Fryeburg would be nuts anytime — there’s no shoulder and fast traffic.
Cyclists also need to make themselves more visible to drivers by wearing bright and reflective clothing, using lights on their bikes — white in the front, red in the rear- even in daytime to increase their visibility. They can make their presence on the roadway known by riding predictably and assertively. Hiding on the sidewalk or road edge is not going to get the attention of drivers.
You need to be seen to be avoided. Take the lane if you need to in order to get where you need to go safely.
Thursday night, I’m talking about bike safety to international student workers who come to the valley every summer. Many of them use bicycles as transportation to and from work. Many of us have seen them riding on the wrong side of the road, at night, in dark clothing, with no lights and helmets and have worried about their safety.
The Mount Washington Valley Bicycling Club was asked to do a bicycle safety presentation for them. MWVBC is also giving workers vouchers for free helmets and lights at local bike shops. Hopefully, through education and free equipment, we can help them have a safer summer.
All road users need to know and follow traffic laws. The laws are there to protect everyone. Imagine the chaos if we had no rules about riding on the right, stopping at stop signs or stoplights, or maintaining safe speeds. To use roads safely, cyclists and pedestrians need to know the laws, too. If you don’t know what the laws are in New Hampshire, just download this simple brochure from Bike Walk Alliance of N.H.: tinyurl.com/yywksnls.
The front shows “What Every Cyclist Must Know.” On the backside, there’s “What Every Motorist Must Know.” Share these with all riders and drivers in your family, so everyone knows the laws.
If you’re unsure of how to ride your bike in traffic, watch instructional videos on BWA-NH website: bwanh.org/education: and on the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) website: bikeleague.org/ridesmartvideos. They’re clear, concise and show you how to ride in traffic safely.
Another option for those new to road riding is to take a bike safety class or join a beginner ride group. Through BWA-NH and LAB, you can find classes in your area where you can learn about checking and fixing your bike, wearing your helmet correctly, practicing bike maneuvers, knowing and following “rules of the road” and communicating with drivers and other cyclists. You’ll learn how to ride on the road, alone or in a group. Even seasoned riders can learn new tricks to increase their safety.
MWVBC also has beginner rides on Wednesdays and Fridays. The group rides led by Gail Costello (Wednesday Wheelers) and Pat Higgins (Intro to Road and Group Riding) are a great introduction to safe and confident road riding. Check MWVBS’s website for where and when these rides are happening: tinyurl.com/y6yklo8y.
Sometimes, following the laws is not enough to ensure road safety. That’s when road users — motorized and nonmotorized — need to advocate for safer roads. When many cyclists crashed on Route 302 railroad tracks near Attitash, MWVBC contacted N.H. Department of Transportation.
We showed Larry Keniston, intermodal facilities engineer, the problem when he was here to evaluate the “chip seal” problem on the Kanc, and Route 302. This summer, that crossing got fixed.
Years ago, Bartlett residents on Bear Notch Road complained to then-state Rep. Gene Chandler about traffic speeding through their neighborhood at the bottom of Bear Notch. He contacted DOT and rumble strips were installed near the gates to slow the traffic down.
MWVBC then contacted Chandler and DOT and complained that the rumble strips presented a hazard for unaware cyclists coming down a steep hill. They added warning signs and pavement markings to alert cyclists.
If you recognize an unsafe situation on the road, let your local police and government officials know. Contact the local bicycle organization, MWVBC. Don’t be a silent sufferer. Chances are others have noticed it, too. Sometimes, the solution is simple. Sometimes, you have to go to state representatives and DOT officials for solutions.
I found this site on NHDOT’s website very informative about who to contact and how: nhpedbikeplan.com. Contact BWA-NH for help, too. They can help you find the person or agency to find resolutions.
On the national level, advocating for safer streets and roads often goes through the League of American Bicyclists (LAB). This organization is a powerful lobbying group and has done a lot to advocate for bicycle /pedestrian friendly communities. Following the 5 E’s: Education, Enforcement, Engineering, Evaluation and Encouragement, they help people develop bicycle-friendly communities. Go here for more information: bikeleague.org/bfa and tinyurl.com/y42vldnr.
Ride where and when you feel safe, be a predictable and visible rider, know and follow the rules of the road and advocate for safer streets for all users. Stay safe, have fun riding!
2019 summer events
June 28-30 (Friday-Sunday) — NEMBAFest, Kingdom Trails, East Burke, Vt. Lots of rides, vendors and activities for mountain bikers.
July 9-Aug. 27 (Tuesdays) — Great Glen Trails Mason and Mason Insurance Mountain Bike Race Series, 3:30-7 p.m., for all ages. Choose a distance, course and time that suits you and have some fun riding the Great Glen Trails.
July 13 (Saturday) — Tour de Borderlands-Stop #4 — Mahoosuc Pathways, Bethel, Maine, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Ride free or ride with barbecue for $20. For details, go to tinyurl.com/y22q4u9g.
July 20 (Saturday) — MWV Bicycling Club Mid-Summer Ride and Social. Choice of four rides of 13/30/40/50 miles. Meet at Twin Mountain Gazebo at 9 a.m. Following rides, at 4 p.m., barbecue at Steve Blum’s house in Bartlett. For information, go to tinyurl.com/yy52leex
July 20 (Saturday) — Bike Walk Alliance of NH (BWA-NH) “Bikes and Brews” celebration of cycling and craft beer, starting at Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton with ride loops of 15 and 30 miles. For more information, go to tinyurl.com/y3v7qp5o.
July 27 (Saturday) —Tin Mountain’s Mount Washington Century, rides of 40, 80, 100-plus miles. Rides start from 6-8 a.m. at Tin Mountain Conservation Center on Bald Hill in Albany. For more information, go to tinyurl.com/yygpjndo.
Aug. 10 (Saturday) — Tour de Borderlands — Stop 3 percent — Kingdom Trails, East Burke, Vt. For more details, go to tinyurl.com/yyxw8hfg.
August 17 (Saturday)/(Aug. 18 rain date) — 47th Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb benefitting Tin Mountain Conservation Center. Race starts at 8:30 a.m. For details, go to: mwarbh.org.
Sally McMurdo is a bike safety instructor and cyclist who lives in Conway.