On May 20, expect to see more Alexandria commuters leaving the cars in the garage. The annual “Bike to Work” day encourages commuters to try out a car-free lifestyle, and some local experts are ready with tips for new riders.
“Wear a helmet,” said Ron Taylor, owner of Wheel Nuts Bike Shop in Alexandria, “That’s just key.”
Wearing a helmet is not required in Virginia, but it is strongly encouraged. Taylor also recommended, before riding, that cyclists check that the quick release on the bike is secure, that the wheel nuts are tight, and that the brakes are functional. Tires should be checked for their condition as well and given the proper pressure (the number for which can sometimes be found on the wheel).
Once you start riding, Taylor said it’s important to follow the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs, an offense that hit one Alexandria cyclist with a $91 ticket last fall. In Alexandria, though riding on the sidewalks is strongly discouraged, it is not illegal except along King Street and along South Union Street.
For safety, Taylor said it’s important to keep visible, which means flashing lights on the front and back of the bike. Visibility and awareness, both of the cyclist and by the cyclist, are the pivotal to bicycle safety.
Riding a bike through an urban environment presents a wider variety of dangers than bicycle trails. Ray Hayhurst, Complete Streets coordinator for Alexandria, said it’s important to be cognizant of parked vehicles nearby.
“The number one source of bicycle injury is being doored,” said Hayhurst, “that’s riding too close to a parked vehicle and having the operator open the door into the bicyclist.”
But many of the dedicated bike lanes throughout Arlington and Alexandria run alongside street parking.
“When on a bike path near a car, be a defensive cyclist and look into the car,” said Hilary Orr, Alexandria’s Complete Streets program manager. “Be aware that they might open the door on you. Anticipate their actions, because maybe they won’t see you. Especially on bike to work day, that’s something people driving their cars should also be aware of. Pay attention. There’s more cyclists on the road. Everyone needs to be defensive, as a driver, biker, or walker. You’re all sharing a public space; be kind and courteous to the newer riders.”