May usually is the month when we encourage you to get your bicycle out of the garage and enjoy the physical and psychological benefits of one of man’s greatest inventions.
It’s National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. Bike Month was established in 1956 to spread the word about how good bicycling is for you and your community.
However, this year’s bike month will be unlike any other. For starters, the novel coronavirus pandemic forced advocates to move Bike to Work Week to Sept. 21-27 and Bike to Work Day to Sept. 22.
Next, the pandemic has changed the way we live and the way we ride.
Gov. JB Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order allows for people to go outside and engage in outdoor activities, such as riding, walking and hiking, as long as they stay at least six feet apart, do not gather in groups and do not go out if they are feeling sick.
The weather is warming up, so May is a great time to start riding if you haven’t started already. By the looks of the recreational paths in our region, many of you already have made a bicycle ride a daily habit.
Many of us are working from home so our commute is nonexistent, but we have noticed a lot of new riders using their bikes to get a good workout in with gyms and fitness centers closed.
You’re saving time by not driving as much so use that time to get a few miles in on your bicycle. Get into a routine and you’ll increase your cardiovascular fitness, your muscle tone and drop a few pounds. You’ll also improve your immune system, a huge benefit with all the illness around us.
It’s safe to do so as long as you observe social distancing guidelines and don’t crowd your fellow riders.
Safety from illness is one thing, but it’s extremely important to be safe on the road or on the path.
Here are some safety tips from Ride Illinois, a nonprofit advocacy group whose mission is to improve bicycling conditions throughout the state:
• Wear a helmet.
• Signal your intentions to turn or stop. A left turn is your left arm straight out; a right turn is your right arm straight out. Your left arm bent at the elbow pointing down means you intend to slow and stop.
• Don’t ride on roads where the traffic makes you uncomfortable. Bikes have the same rights on the roads as cars, but you need the confidence to assert those rights safely.
• Ride on the right with traffic flow. That’s the law, and it’s easier for drivers to see you, especially at intersections.
• Ride far enough from the road edge to avoid shoulder hazards. Don’t allow drivers to squeeze by dangerously in narrow lanes.
• Ride in a straight line. Don’t dart in and out between parked cars.
• Be aware. People in parked cars might open a door in your path.
• Follow all traffic laws. Stop at stop signs and red lights.
• Watch for cars backing out of driveways. Drivers may not see you.
• Make sure your bike has good lighting and reflectors, especially for night riding.
Bicycling is the main mode of transportation for some who need to get to their jobs even in the midst of this crisis. For others, consider your bicycle as a transportation option when things get back to normal, perhaps by the September events.
Biking to work allows you to integrate exercise into your daily routine rather than struggling to fit in a workout before or after work. It’s also great for the environment. Bicycles don't spew toxic gases or leak oil and antifreeze.
You save money by reducing your consumption of gasoline and maintenance costs for your car.
You don't have to worry about parking.
If you don’t have a bike and want to get started on a new way of life, visit one of the local bike shops in the region. Bike shops are an essential business. The staff members are friendly and knowledgeable and will help you with all your bicycling needs.
Get started today. We hope your rides are filled with plenty of downhill routes and that the wind always be at your back.