May is National Bike Month! Promoted by The League of American Bicyclists, this national annual observance is a chance to remind Long Islanders to take a bike ride, and do so safely.
There are many undeniably good reasons to ride a bike. In the United States, half of all trips taken by car are less than 3 miles long—that’s just a 20-minute bike ride. The League’s Drive Less, Bike More campaign challenges Americans to begin taking more transportation trips by bike rather than hopping in a car in order to reap the numerous benefits of cycling. Reasons to “Drive Less, Bike More” also include:
It’s fun! You can't beat the feeling of joy and adventure that comes with riding a bike. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a new rider — there’s always something new and exciting to try. Different speeds, different routes and different views can be found on every ride.
It’s good for the environment. When you “Drive Less, Bike More” you don’t have to give something up to cut your carbon footprint. In fact, you’re doing more of the thing you love for the planet and developing one of the greenest habits of all—biking!
It’s good for your health. Taking your next trip to the store or to meet up with friends by bike is an easy way to add a little more physical activity to your day. Studies show that people who spend more time biking and walking fare better in getting their recommended amount of aerobic physical activity. Plus, more fresh air right? Choose to take your bike out for a spin.
It’s good for your pockets. The great thing about going places on a bike is that every time you swap out your car keys for the handlebars, a little less money goes into your gas tank and a little more goes back into your pockets.
Bike Safe, Long Island!
Biking does come with challenges, especially in a car-centric location like Long Island. The issue of cyclist injury and fatality is well-documented. According to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management & Research’s New York State Traffic Safety Statistical Repository (TSSR), there were 661 bicycle crashes across Nassau and Suffolk Counties in 2021. Those stats might leave some would-be Long Island cyclists hesitant to ride.
Walk Safe Long Island promotes safety for all of Long Island’s vulnerable road users, including cyclists. Keep walking safely, and remember these tips to bike safely all year long.
Know and Follow the Law
Bicyclists are required to follow the same laws and rules of the road as motorists. Laws that apply to cyclists are in place to protect them and fellow road users. Some NYS laws include:
Bicyclists have the legal right to share the road on most public highways, but they are prohibited on interstate highways and expressways.
Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast. When overtaken by a vehicle, cyclists must ride single file.
The law requires bicyclists to ride with traffic like motorists.
A bike must have a white reflector in the front and a red reflector in the rear.
When riding at night, a bike must have a white light in the front and a red light in the back, much like the lights required on motor vehicles.
A bike must have a bell or horn.
Wear a Helmet
The law requires children under 14 years of age—18 years of age in Nassau County— to wear a helmet when they are operators or passengers on bicycles. However, helmets are effective at preventing head injuries for bicyclists of all ages, and are strongly encouraged for anyone riding a bike.
More Tips for Biking Safely
Watch out for parked cars in bicycle lanes who might “door” you by exiting their car without looking.
Stop at road crossings. Look in both directions and wait for cars to pass. Pay attention to what the motorists are doing and try to make eye contact with them before crossing.
Be aware of turning vehicles, both at intersections and driveways – drivers may not look for bikes on sidewalks.
Sound a bell or horn before passing someone. Use hand signals when turning.
Keep your feet on the pedals and don’t allow anyone to ride on the bike with you. Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
Never attach yourself or your bike to another vehicle on the roadway.
Never wear more than one earphone attached to a cell phone or other audio device.
Save the Dates
May 7 was National Ride A Bike Day, but there’s still plenty of time for you to squeeze in a bike ride or two this month. Bike to Work Week 2023 will take place May 15-21, 2023, and Bike to Work Day is on Friday, May 19! Walk Safe Long Island is also hosting its first Walk Bike LI Summit on Thursday, June 8, 2023 at Farmingdale State College. Learn more and register for the summit here.
Looking ahead, Long Island Mobility Week kicks off in September. Friday, September 22, 2023 is Car Free Day, a national movement to leave your car at home and opt for a form of active transportation like walking or biking. Pledge to be car-free on September 22 here.