Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

May 21, 2014

Bicyclists burgeoning, with eyes on safety

TAHLEQUAH — As the weather gets warmer, area residents are venturing outdoors more often, talking walks or riding bicycles.

May is National Bicycle Safety Month, and AAA wants to remind those who take to the roads on two wheels to exercise caution. The organization stresses that risks can be minimized through understanding the importance of wearing proper safety gear, providing regular bicycle maintenance, and operating a bike safely by obeying traffic rules.

The city of Tahlequah is working to provide a bicycle/jogging trail as part of its recently approved bond issue. Mayor Jason Nichols said the council is ironing out details on a land purchase that will complete the final leg of the trail.

“We’ve got one more land purchase to close on, as we also want to make the Basin Street property part of the trail,” said Nichols. “We just have one last piece of the puzzle. Once that’s done, the bicycle/jogging trail will from the Northeastern State University [sports complex] to the old transfer station on Basin Street. Also, the transfer station site will need to be cleaned up, but that’s the plan.”

Nichols said during his tenure as mayor, he’s seen increasing interest in bicycling.

“Every year, we have more and more interest in biking, which is why the trail is in the works and was part of the bond issue,” said Nichols. “There’s a very high level of interest.”

Local resident Rob Bailey has been riding bicycles recreationally in the area for over 20 years, and enjoys being part of the Tahlequah Peloton Cycling Club.

“This group promotes cycling in the area,” said Bailey. “Basically, there’s a Facebook group, and if you take a look, you might see a message from Chris Smith or someone who posts an invitation to ride, with a time, date and meeting place.”

Bailey said the group generally offers a group ride Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they leave from Paceline Cyclery on Muskogee Avenue.

“Mostly what you see in the group are road bikes, with the downturned handlebars and thin tires, but everyone is welcome,” said Bailey. “This year, as the weather improved, we had rides solely dedicated to beginning riders. These were designed with no pressure to go a particular speed or distance and experienced riders helped those who are just getting started learn what to do in traffic situations, and let them know how to feel safe while having fun. If you’re just getting started, you need a little time to get acclimated, and these rides are great for that.”

Bailey said he truly enjoys the environment in the Tahlequah area when it comes to cycling.

“I want to brag a little on the attitudes of the four-wheelers [those driving cars],” said Bailey. “I’ve never been yelled at or felt unsafe. We’re in a great area for biking, and the motorists are very cordial. I’m so thrilled someone in city hall takes that into consideration.”

The Tahlequah Peloton Cycling Club Facebook group touts 130 “friends,” is open to anyone, and serves as a forum for the area cycling community. To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/groups/Tahlequah.Peloton/?ref=br_tf.

According to AAA, selecting the right bike is important for safety. If a person gets one that’s too big, it could be hard to control and dangerous to ride. On the other hand, if it’s too small, it can cause discomfort and injury. Three keys to a good fit are size, seat and steering position.

Devon Whaling, bike specialist at Paceline Cyclery, said there’s an advantage to buying a bicycle locally.

“You can actually come in and get fitted for a bicycle,” said Whaling. “There’s a lot more to fit than just height. The advantage of buying here, as opposed to ordering something online or from a catalog, is that we have basically every style and size of bicycle. We can make sure you get comfort and safety, along with meeting your riding needs.”

AAA also stresses the important of wearing a helmet on every bike ride. According to the organization’s statistics, in 2009, 91 percent of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets. All helmets should meet the safety standards established by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Whaling agrees, wholeheartedly.

“Helmets are huge,” said Whaling. “Most of the organized rides that take place here require you have a helmet. Proper fit is key, and we can help people make sure they’re getting the right fit.”

Whaling said it’s also important for people to remember that rules for bicycle riding mirror those of driving a car.

“Don’t ride against traffic, and use hand signals,” said Whaling.

Paceline Cyclery owner Dave Rogers said people who ride in the downtown Tahlequah area want to take special precautions.

“Due to the parking situation, riders need to look out for car doors opening into traffic,” said Rogers. “I also tell people, helmets are cheaper than hospital bills. You spend hundreds of dollars on footwear for your kids; spend the money on the right helmet. Also, parents should lead by example. If you want your kids to wear a helmet, you should be wearing a helmet. If you plan on riding at dusk or at night, invest in a headlight and taillight. Reflectors are OK, but you have to have a headlight shining on them to be seen.”

tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

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