Happy trails are safe trails

The weather should be breaking soon and hot summer days perfect for road riding and cruising across the paved trails of Northern Colorado should be upon us. With that in mind, this is a reminder about safety tips for riding on paved trails as well as the road.

Always ride, walk and skate on the right side of the trail. Teach your children the same. Obey all signs, particularly stop signs at busy intersections. It is difficult for cars to see you as you approach the intersection.

Always give an audible warning before passing other trail users. You should ring a bell or loudly and clearly call out “passing.” Why call “passing” instead of “on your left?” Many people actually move to their left when they hear you say “on you left.”

Next, listen up. Headphones can help you pick up your tempo and pass the time but they also prevent you from hearing warnings. If you do wear them, keep the volume low enough so you can hear others.

Use hand signals to indicate turns and stops. In Colorado, pointing left or right is considered a legal signal. Holding your palm down and out is the universal signal for slowing and stopping.

Do not stop on the trail. If you need to stop, pull off the trail so as not to block other users. Also, it is best to ride single file so other trail users can pass safely. Watch for the unexpected, especially with kids or dogs. It is important to slow down when the trail is crowded.

If you want to pick up the speed and expand your horizons, ride the road. When you are riding on the road, it is best to ride as though you are a car and obey all traffic laws, signs and signals. Ride on the right side of the road ideally on the shoulder or in the bike lane, but you do not have to ride in the gutter.

It’s actually safer to ride slightly closer to the white line as there is less debris to avoid and cars tend to give you more room rather than trying to squeeze by. Drivers should note that Colorado law stipulates you allow 3 feet to pass a cyclist.

A lot of new riders don’t know how to make a proper left hand turn. Before you initiate the turn, look over your shoulder, signal and when it is clear move into the left lane or turn lane as though you are a car. Once you have a green light or it is clear, proceed with your turn and move into the right side of the right lane or bike lane.

We are lucky that in Colorado you are allowed to ride two abreast as long as you are not impeding the flow of traffic. On curving canyon roads without bike lanes or shoulders, you’ll want to play it safe and ride single file.

Another safety tip is to make eye contact with drivers. You never should assume motorists see you or that you have the right-of-way. Protect yourself by wearing a helmet, glasses and gloves. Also, it is the law in Colorado to use a headlight, taillight and reflectors at night.

Finally, expect the unexpected; staying alert is key to being safe on the bike. See you out there on the trails.

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