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Bicycling Can Be Easy

New Leaf Market E-newsletter July 9, 2012

By Paul Rutkovsky

Accepting and embracing an alternative means of transportation that can offset our addiction to cars, as we all know, is a difficult project to undertake. Taking a bus around town is becoming a bit easier, but Tallahasseeans like to jump into their vehicles to get that gallon of milk. A friend in town has a neighbor who drives the car to the end of a not-so-long driveway to pick up the mail. Years ago, my wife and I got a hair-raising tour in a late model Cadillac of where she grew up in the foothills of middle Tennessee. Instead of walking the beautiful many acres of her neighbor’s property, we were driven up and down rolling hills in fields of tall grass that often obscured our vision. The low Cadillac scraped bottom hard several times, and I was sure we left parts scattered in the fields. We survived and so did the Cadillac for many more off road journeys.

Bicycling has all forms of transportation beaten, unless you include walking; however, in Tallahassee walking is not a popular activity. It’s a rarity. Before October of 2001, I cycled to my studio and work and back home nearly every day. That was easily a 13 mile round trip. But in October of 2001, I was in a serious bicycle-auto collision and broke my neck and smashed my left foot after colliding with and flying over a red compact car that went through a stop sign. I landed on my head, and luckily I was wearing a decent quality helmet. It saved my life. Lesson #1: Spend the extra money and buy a good quality bicycle helmet.

The following advice is from cyclist Keith Roberson, who has been riding with his children for years.

“The key to safe bicycling is to ride only on roads where you do not have to rely on drivers avoiding you. In fact, a good deal of my weekly riding includes my children. My daughter, Cyan (12), likes to ride as ‘stoker’ on the back of our Burley Tandem. My son, Clay (10) loves to ride his mountain bike. Together, we ride across town to their grandmother’s house, through parks, older neighborhoods, shady sidewalks, and most of the City's ‘fern trail.’ But we really try to ride safe, and never had any close calls with cars because of where and how we ride. Clay and Cyan are growing up as cyclists. It’s a part of who they are. They've learned the rules of the road and understand safe riding; simply imagine the cars are all trying to kill us! But we love to ride and have had some of our greatest adventures this way. On occasion, we might all ride in a car together, but we all agree, it’s just not the same.”

Lesson #2: Ride your bicycle defensively and obey Florida’s Bicycle Laws. Bicyclists have the same rights to the roadways and must obey the same traffic laws as the operators of other vehicles. These laws include stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night, and yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway. If you’re not familiar with the bicycle traffic laws, you can find them here.

Tallahassee has a lot to offer cyclists. Join the Capital City Cyclists and get involved with the many programs and bicycling opportunities they offer, including Kids on Bikes.

Critical Mass is a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists' right to the road. The idea started in San Francisco in September 1992 and quickly spread to cities all over the world. To learn more, join the Facebook group Tallahassee Critical Mass here.

Looking for bike trails? We have plenty. Try the following locations:

Munson Hills Off-Road Bicycle Trail
Directions: From downtown Tallahassee, take Monroe Street south. It will turn into Woodville Highway (SR 363). After you pass Capital Circle (US 319), look for the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail trailhead, parking is on the right.

Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway
The Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway parallels six miles of Tallahassee's historic canopy roads through 500 acres of the Red Hills Region.

Directions: From Tallahassee, take Miccosukee Road east to Edenfield Road. Parking area is on left hand side of Miccosukee Road.

Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail
The Tallahassee/St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail runs from Florida’s capital city, past the Apalachicola National Forest and ends in the coastal community of St. Marks –16 miles one way.

Directions: From Tallahassee, take Monroe Street south, which will turn into Woodville Highway (SR 363). After passing Capital Circle (US 319), look for trailhead on right.

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