CUMBERLAND — The agenda of the monthly meetings of the Western Maryland Wheelmen bike club always includes safety. At the July meeting, members discussed road riding, trail riding and the importance of following traffic laws.
In the Cumberland area, cyclists have opportunities to ride on mountain paths, the C&O Canal towpath, the Great Allegheny Passage and a number of road routes.
In Maryland, helmets are required for children under 16 but are recommended for everyone and every kind of riding. Accidents can happen suddenly, and even off pavement, a misplaced rock, another cyclist or their own bike can cause a fallen cyclist some damage. Even experienced cyclists have accidents. Valerie Van Hollen, Wheelmen vice president, said, “A few years ago, I fell in the Brush Tunnel and cracked my helmet. If I hadn’t had it on, I would have incurred a head injury. It baffles me to see riders with their helmet dangling from their handlebars.”
“When bike riding, on the trail or road, suit up safely in bright colors and use lights and reflectors,” Nancy Twigg said. “Most importantly, you are never suited up for biking without your safety helmet.” A helmet should be comfortable to wear and fitted properly. If it is too loose, it can slide around and could even impair the cyclist’s vision. The League of American Bicyclists’ quick guide to smart biking describes having the helmet centered on your head with “two fingers” distance from the edge of the helmet and your eyebrows. You should only be able to pass two fingers between your chin and the strap.
While riding along the trail, it is best to ride single file and stay to the right of the path. That way you can be aware of cyclists riding in the opposite direction. If you want to pass another rider, signal them with a bell or your voice, saying “passing on your left.” Maryland law prohibits whistles or sirens. Bicyclists need to be courteous to walkers along the trail and give them plenty of notice when passing. Bicyclists are not allowed to ride with earbuds or a headset that covers both ears. Cyclists need all senses to stay safe.
The surface of the Great Allegheny Passage varies. Some riders are more confident on gravel than others, and so one’s own skill level is a factor in choosing a cruising speed. Bicyclists need to be conscious of loose gravel or soft spots, especially after a rain. The speed limit on the GAP is 15 mph, but even that can be too fast at times. Riders in a group need to keep a safe distance between bikes.
For more information about the Western Maryland Wheelmen, contact Van Hollen at 240-727-3533 or visit the WMW Facebook group.