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Josh Werner rides in Mansfield's first slow roll of 2018. 

Now that it’s National Bike Month it’s a great time to dust off your bicycle and get rolling.

Whether you want to ride to work or school, avoid paying for gas, get some exercise in, help preserve the environment or simply enjoy exploring the area, cycling provides a perfect opportunity to do so.

But before you start pedaling, there are some things to keep in mind.

1. Cycling is allowed on the roads

It’s important to understand that cyclists are allowed on the roads. Under Ohio’s Traffic Code, bicycles are defined as “vehicles,” which may be lawfully operated on virtually all Ohio roads except freeways or certain limited-access roadways.  

Cyclists are required to follow the same basic rules of the road as motorists (e.g. obey traffic laws and ride with traffic) and should ride "as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable,” according to Ohio law. However, the law also states that cyclists do not have to ride along the right side of the lane when it is “unreasonable or unsafe to do so,” such as when trying to avoid broken pavement, debris or other surface hazards.

One of the main reasons for the creation of the 5.7-mile bike loop in Mansfield was to educate the public that bikes have the right to share the road with motorists. In 2015, Mansfield City Council approved the bike loop, which designates certain city streets as bike routes with the placement of appropriate signs and road stencils called sharrows. See a map of the bike loop here

“Bike bans” that force cyclists to use sidewalks instead of roads are prohibited in Ohio. Many cities, especially larger ones, don’t even allow sidewalk cycling.

Mansfield, for example, prohibits sidewalk cycling in certain areas, according to the Mansfield Codified Ordinances

According to a study by Cornell University, “Bicyclists are not safer on the sidewalk because they become almost invisible to the motorist.”

“When a driver turns, either left or right, or into a driveway or alley, they are simply not looking for, or expecting to encounter, a bicyclist. And even if they do look and see a bicyclist they may still underestimate the speed a rider is traveling on the sidewalk - because it will likely be much faster than a pedestrian,” the study states. 

2. The multi-use path is great for cycling, and could be expanding

What about cycling on the multi-use path along Trimble and Cook roads? This path is larger than the standard sidewalk at 10-feet wide and is designed to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Speaking of the multi-use path, the city of Mansfield is hoping to connect it to the bike trail with the construction of a 1.13-mile trail. The proposed trail will meander through the Western Reserve Land Conservancy property, located between Cook Road and Marion Avenue and west of Trimble Road. Click here to see a map of the trail. 

Mansfield Engineer Bob Bianchi said the city is in the midst of searching for other funding partners and hopes to submit to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources an application next February for grant funding in the amount of $500,000.

“We will need assistance from ODNR to make this project viable,” Bianchi said.

3. Motorists are encouraged to exercise caution 

Under Ohio law, drivers must wait to pass a cyclist until they can ensure at least three feet of space between the vehicle and bicycle.

“You may have to wait behind the bike if there’s oncoming traffic rather than seeing if you can squeeze your vehicle by,” said Reed Richmond, health educator and communications specialist at Richland Public Health.

Motorists are permitted to cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist as long as they're able to do so without exceeding the speed limit and there is sufficient sight distance ahead.

Richmond encourages motorists to exercise caution when approaching cyclists on the roads, especially children on bicycles.

“Be careful and cautious because they may do something suddenly that you’re not expecting,” he said. “We used to say tap your horn to let the bike rider know you’re coming around, and I would advise against that because if you do that with a child you might startle them and they might make a sudden move.”

4. You can borrow a bike from the library 

No bike? No problem. Check one out for the day from the Lexington or Butler Branches. 

You must be 18 years of age or older, have a valid Mansfield/Richland County Public Library card, wear the bicycle helmet provided by the library and sign and date the library Bicycle Borrower Agreement.

The Lexington and Butler Branches will each have five bikes to lend in various sizes. The bikes come with headlights, taillights, locks, bells, baskets and helmets.

Bicycles are loaned out for one day and must be returned to the branch from which they were borrowed no later than 30 minutes prior to closing. Bicycles cannot be placed on hold, and only one bike can be checked out per card. The bicycle must only be used by the person who has checked it out.

Call the Butler Branch at 419-883-2220, or the Lexington Branch at 419-884-2500 for more information.

5. Wearing a helmet and fluorescent/reflective clothing boosts cycling safety

Helmets should sit about an inch above your eyebrows, straight across your head and not tilted toward the back, Richmond said. It should be snug enough that it doesn’t wobble on your head.

Make sure the straps don’t impair your hearing. The chin strap should be tight enough that when you open your mouth you’ll feel a little pressure, Richmond said.

It's not a safe idea to wear a baseball cap or visor under your helmet.

Make yourself visible by wearing fluorescent or reflective clothing. Richmond suggests placing a flag on your bicycle to increase visibility.

6. Bike to Work Week is May 13-19 

If you drive to work, consider switching up your mode of transportation by cycling to work instead during Bike to Work Week, May 13-19.

Nelson Shogren with Richland Moves said biking to work was always the best part of his day.

“When I used to bike to work at CenturyLink years ago and other jobs since then, it was always the best part of my day,” he said. “My coworkers always wondered why I had a huge smile on my face when I came in the door. How many can say that about their morning commute?”

If you’re looking for other cycling opportunities, consider participating in Slow Roll Mansfield, which will hold an “Out of Hibernation” ride on Monday, May 6, starting at the Carrousel District bike racks at 6 p.m.

“We'll begin checking and tuning bikes at 6 p.m. and plan to roll out at 6:30 p.m. for a short roll about the city,” Shogren said.

 

Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.

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