Now that the weather here in New Jersey is finally taking a favorable turn, cyclists (myself included) are itching to hit the road. In order to promote safe riding, here are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Have you scouted the road conditions? A great many roadways here in NJ are currently in poor conditions. Potholes seem to lurk around virtually every corner. And road work is equally prevalent. So, before you head out for a ride, try to drive your intended route first to scout the road conditions for hazards which may have developed over the winter. This is always a good practice when venturing out to ride an area or route which is new to you, but is equally critical for familiar routes given the impacts of a hard winter.
- Consider the traffic flow. Roadways which are subject to high traffic volume, even if only at certain times, present an increased risk to cyclists. There can be an element of safety in numbers from a visibility standpoint, so group rides can be somewhat safer if busy roadways are unavoidable.
- Consider the road width, presence or absence of shoulders, and density of roadway foliage. Motorists are obligated under the law in NJ to “share the road” with cyclists. However, as I trust many of you will agree, motorists are often reluctant or unwilling to abide by this duty. As such, it’s safer to employ roads which have ample shoulders, wide lanes, and as few blind corners as possible. On this last point, be sure to take the foliage into account as it can create blind corners at certain times in the year.
- Gauge the ride to your current fitness level. While some riders maintain an excellent level of fitness over the winter, most of us will need some time to restore our fitness. As you head out, don’t simply assume you can ride as you did at the end of last season. Choose the difficulty of the terrain and duration of your ride to match your current level of fitness. And don’t forget about the impact of the wind! When in doubt, its better to UNDER-estimate your fitness when planning your initial rides.
Have fun. And be safe.