Cycling is a fun outdoor activity that brings many benefits to the rider and the community. The City of Huntsville has undertaken an initiative to become a more bicycle-friendly city, which will expand the city’s bicycle facilities (bike parking, lanes, greenways, paths, etc.) and promote awareness and education of the proper ways to ride (and ride with) bicycles on the road, to help encourage more and safer cycling in the city.
Why Ride in Huntsville
There are many reasons you should consider riding a bicycle in Huntsville:
Bicycles are one of the most efficient vehicles. Bicycles can be vital for those who do not want to drive or prefer to travel by a method other than car or bus. They provide independence.
Cyclists travel the city, county, and state to explore the world by bike.
Cycling is a low impact aerobic activity that all ages can enjoy. Cyclists can burn tremendous energy over a long ride.
Racing, whether professional or amateur, is exciting for cyclists and spectators alike.
For the Freedom
Bicycles will take you places you have never been. You will be off the beaten path and time will slow down.
For the fun of it!
Know the Laws
Alabama laws require bicycles to have a white light on the front (at night) and a red reflector on the rear. Anyone under the age of 16 is also required to wear a helmet (view other Alabama bicycle laws). Beyond that, wearing reflective clothing, bicycling gloves, and clear or tinted glasses; having a red blinking light on the rear; and having a good knowledge of bicycle handling and traffic skills pays great dividends. Having reflectors on your pedals and reflective items on your wheels make you more visible from the side and behind. You don’t have to wear fancy bicycling clothes but do need to wear light colors and include reflective features. The more visible the better.
The City of Huntsville prohibits sidewalk cycling. (Read the ordinance.) If you or your children use sidewalks, you MUST YIELD to all others all the time. Each year, approximately 20 of 7,100 traffic reports involve bicyclists. Of those reports, about 40% are cyclists riding on sidewalks. It may seem safer to a causal bicyclist, but it is a false perception. Rather than being less diligent, one MUST be considerably MORE diligent. If anything goes wrong, everyone involved suffers, especially the bicyclist.
The Nature of Our Roads and Streets
The streets and roads included as bicycle routes are not universally friendly to casual cyclists. Some portions are busy, some are fast, and some have daunting grades. Many of these roads have either three or five lanes (there is a turn lane in the center). This allows motor vehicle drivers the ability to maneuver around a bicyclist without entering the oncoming traffic lanes. Many of these roads have “Share the Road” signage. As repairs, expansions, and other road building occurs these roads are the ones identified as those that “must have” bicycle-friendly facilities included in the future.
The current version of the bike route map doesn’t identify degree of ease or grades. Every cyclist must judge suitability for themselves. So, if you are NOT familiar with these streets, check out the route in advance or try it out on a Sunday morning when it is quiet. As you become a stronger cyclist, consider adding hills and grades into your routes. If you do, your pride and your range of travel will expand too.
For those roads and streets that have two narrow lanes, being visible, predictable and practicing good traffic skills are the best actions. Bicycling route roads have Share the Road signs and locals should be accustomed to seeing bicyclists. Motor vehicle drivers and bicyclists need to drive defensively; that is, not expect the road is clear just out of your sight. There could be a delivery truck, animal, dropped debris, person crossing the road from their mailbox, car leaving a driveway, or a bicyclist. If while bicycling you encounter a motorist who harasses you, we want you to report that driver to the police. Our city police will pay a visit with the owner. This is an important way to educate drivers about what’s so. If this happens to you, call the City of Huntsville’s non-emergency line at 256-722-7100. If you are involved in a crash and require medical attention, dial 911.
All around the city, bike routes are signed with route signs corresponding to the route number on the map. The city is in the process of putting these signs along all the routes at each intersection one would change direction to continue on the route.
City of Huntsville is in the process of making all traffic lights respond to bicyclists. There are more than 300 traffic signaled intersections. The first priority is to work on those signals that are on bicycle routes. To trigger the signal one parks their bicycle on the ‘sweet spot’ which is a painted white bicycle in the center of the lanes. View a video showing how to use the sweet spots. Bicyclists who use equipment with little metal may not be able to trigger the signal. At this time there is no easy solution for that limitation. If available, one could use a pedestrian signal and cross the intersection walking their bicycle. If not, then one must proceed with considerable caution.