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Mar 13, 2015

Cycling around Campus: A Primer

Erik Bailey

Hello everyone! It’s that magic time of year again, the dog days of Virginia Summer are here, and we’re a little over a month away from the first day of classes at Madison. For those of you returning with a fine two-wheeled machine in tow, whether it be for exercise, to save on gas, or to avoid having to find a parking spot, there exists etiquette and laws governing how you ride your bike around campus as well as around the City of Harrisonburg. So now that the royal baby’s been born, Dave’s is closed, and its too hot to stay outside for long, why not read this handy guide on how to stay safe on a bike as well as stay in the good graces of all those trying to get to the same place as you are?

  1. Wear a helmet: A wise man once said it’s more than just a hat rack, and he was right; your head and all of its contents are a terrible thing to waste. Helmets are mildly cumbersome to some, and downright unnecessary to others. While a helmet is only legally required in Virginia until the age of 14, that doesn’t serve as an excuse to not wear one. Helmets, next to defensive bicycling, are our first line of defense against major traumatic injury in the case of a crash. If you’re in the market for a helmet, there are a plethora of fine local bike shops willing to sell one to you including Shenandoah Bicycle Company, Mark’s Bikes, and the newly opened Rocktown Bikes!
  2. You are an automobile, sort of: According to Virginia law, a bicycle traveling on a roadway has all the general rights and duties of an automobile on those roadways. In other words, yield to pedestrians, stop at stoplights and stop signs, and turn signals should be used. More and more bike lanes are being built and painted around Harrisonburg, however from time to time, you’ll be forced to share the road with other vehicles. In those cases, stay on the right half of the road, stay with the traffic flow, and follow traffic laws.
  3. Shine bright like a diamond, or a blinker: According to Virginia law, front and rear lights must be attached to a rider when it’s dark outside, and that makes sense. When driving on busy roads at night, do everything you can do to be more visible to other drivers. Much like an automobile, a red blinker can be affixed to your backpack or the rear of your bike, and a white light or blinker attached to the handlebars. Both lights can be purchased for roughly ten dollars each, and their battery life will more than likely outlast your time at JMU.
  4. Courtesy is key: It’s entirely legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in town and on campus, however, a set of courtesies needs to be adhered to. For starters, avoid using the sidewalk in high traffic areas during high traffic times. For example, Traveling through the Commons at 11 AM on a Monday will leave you greeted by a human obstacle course. If you find yourself caught in such a frenzy of students, be sure to make yourself heard when passing pedestrians on their right or left, and be sure to yield to them at crossings.
  5. Take out your ear buds: Avoid using an iPod or listen to any music while commuting. If pedestrians are listening to music, and you’re listening to their music, neither party can hear each other, and that’s a bad time when attempting to communicate with each other.

Commuting on campus is an experience that saves gas, cuts down on the aggravation of finding parking, and helps you in leading a healthier lifestyle. So besides these tips, visit The League of American Bicyclists, your local bike shop to ask about defensive cycling courses, gear and apparel to get started, or virtually any other questions you may have about your bike!

Learn about UREC Bike Rentals by visiting our Equipment Center webpage or stop by the UREC Equipment Center next time you are at UREC!

Written by Erik Bailey, a JMU Kinesiology Student and UREC Adventure Specialist.

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