Biking in South Jersey
Southern New Jersey offers much to see and enjoy for residents and visitors alike: the beauty of the southern shores, the ecology of the pinelands, the many small-towns with their associated history, and more. What better way to enjoy the beauty and splendor of this part of the state than on a bicycle?
Are you horrified at the thought? If not, great! If you are, just go with me on this one. Nearly everyone owns a bicycle. Okay, maybe some are covered with dust and cobwebs--but you have one, right? If not, you can purchase one used for under $100. Or maybe just borrow one from your relatives. So now what are you thinking?
So you haven’t exercised in a while. That’s okay. Unlike the rolling hills of central New Jersey, and the mountains of northern New Jersey, southern New Jersey offers a tremendous number of flat, rural roads that make it easier for novice bicyclists to enjoy the world around them while benefiting from the fitness level obtained from riding a bicycle. It’s a lot easier on your knees than many physical activities. So why not give it a shot?
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Why ride a bicycle?
Bicyclists offer many different reasons for why they ride. “Esscopittz,” a member of the Shore Cycling Club, says that he rides “for the camaraderie.” He enjoys riding a bike with others who share his passion. Doreen D. says she rides for “the freedom.” Then there are people who like to ride their bicycle to help others. Gary Vencius, assistant cycling coach for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training, rides “for the cause.” Like many others, he participates in charity bicycling events where proceeds are given to various worthy causes. For many migrant farm workers, a bicycle is their primary means of transportation. I began bicycling as a way to look for a new house. My husband and I would load the bicycles into the back of our pickup and drive to a community. Then we would peddle around the streets looking at the houses that were on the market. The slower pace of the bicycle allowed us to look into backyards and observe the activity and feel of the neighborhoods.
No matter what your reason for riding is, it is important to pay attention to safety. Too many of my friends are afraid to ride their bicycles on the roads. I can understand why. Unfortunately, I see many bicyclists on the roads in South Jersey doing things that put them at risk for injury. I also witness many motorists doing things that put bicyclists at risk. Both are avoidable with a little education.
Motorists and Bicyclists Share the Roads
Riding a bicycle is the easy part. Knowing how to operate a bicycle safely and legally involves some training. The League of American Bicyclists, a national bicycling organization with over 300,000 members nationwide, offers workshops in every state for both bicyclists and motorists. As a certified instructor, I’ve even seen experienced bicyclists benefit from these courses.
Most experts agree, “Bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated like drivers of motor vehicles.” There are several things that both bicyclists and motorists can do to increase the safety of bicyclists.
* Ride on the right – Always ride in the same direction as traffic. No matter what you learned as a child, this will keep you safer and it’s the law in all 50 states.
* Obey all traffic laws – This includes stop signs, yield signs, traffic lights, lane markings, etc.
* Ride predictably – Ride in a straight line, use hand signals, and yield when entering the roadway.
* Always wear a properly-fitted helmet – It’s the law for anyone under the age of 14. It’s common sense for anyone 14 and older. Everyone has a brain worth protecting.
* Be visible – Wear bright colors when riding. Ride where motorists will see you. This might mean riding out in the lane for short periods of time.
* Avoid riding on sidewalks – It’s a common misconception that children and adults are safer when they ride their bicycles on sidewalks. Accident data indicates that is not the case. Motor vehicle operators don’t anticipate fast moving objects on the sidewalks, and don’t typically look there when pulling out of parking lots and driveways. Many driveways are lined with shrubbery that prevent motorists from seeing bicycles approaching on the sidewalk and also prevent bicyclists from seeing the motorists pulling out of the driveways.
* Be considerate – While bicyclists are legally allowed to ride two abreast or even in the center of the lane when necessary for safety reasons, try to ride single file and move to the right when it’s safe to allow motorists to pass more easily.
* Slow down – When approaching bicyclists, reduce your speed. You can’t assume that the bicyclist has been effectively trained on how to safely operate a bicycle on the roadway.
* Share the road – Bicycles are considered vehicles and are entitled to the road just like motorists. That means that a bicyclist can ride in the center of the lane for short periods of time, and periodically road conditions exist that make this necessary. Be patient. You’ll only be delayed a few seconds; a minute at most.
* Be considerate – Don’t blow your horn. A quick toot from a distance to warn of your approach is okay, but isn’t necessary. A bicyclist should scan traffic often enough to be aware of your presence. Always check for bicyclists before opening a car door.
* Take care when passing - Don’t pass a bicyclist unless traffic conditions allow you to do it safely. Never try to squeeze past a bicyclist. Leave at least 3 feet of space between your car and the bicycle.
* Watch for children on bicycles – Children on bicycles can be very unpredictable. Most children do not understand the traffic laws and because they are small, are much harder to see.
Both bicyclists and motorists can each do their part to make bicycling in South Jersey a safe and enjoyable recreational activity.
Where to Ride
South Jersey recreational bicyclists have plenty to choose from when it comes to great places to ride. There are several books available that contain preplanned bicycle routes in NJ, complete with descriptions of sites to see along the way. There are several bicycle clubs in South Jersey that offer organized rides all over the southern part of the state. The benefits of a bicycle club, according to one member is, “the safety of riding in a group, the greater chance of having someone in the group that has mechanical knowledge should you encounter a problem along your ride, and the motivational factor that riding with a group can provide.”
Many bicycle clubs and charitable organizations sponsor bicycle rides for people of all ages and abilities. These are a great way to begin recreational riding. Most organized rides offer well-stocked rest areas every 10-15 miles and support vehicles in case you need a ride to the finish or mechanical help. In addition, you typically get nice t-shirts and a nice celebratory lunch at the end of your ride. Most of these rides offer routes of varying distances. A ride that I recently participated in offered distances of 16, 25, 35, 50, 65, and 100 miles. Even a novice can ride 16 miles without too much difficulty.
So what are you waiting for? Have I enticed you to give bicycling in South Jersey a try? I hope so! If you have questions or want some help dusting off your old bicycle, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Jersey Bicycle Clubs
South Jersey Wheelman--This club serves the needs of recreational and touring cyclists. The club is based in the Vineland area, but organized rides extend throughout the regions of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. For more information: www.sjwheelmen.org. Shore Cycling Club--This club is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting bicycling for fun, friendship, and fitness throughout southern New Jersey. For more information: www.shorecycleclub.org. The Outdoor Club of South Jersey--This club is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing low-cost opportunities for extending the individual's awareness, knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment of the environment through experiences in outdoor activities. They offer organized rides 52 weeks a year. For more information: www.ocsj.org/bike.html. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training--Whether you are a beginner looking to complete your first endurance event or an experienced athlete, this program provides the training, coaching and encouragement you need to accomplish your goals. For more information: www.teamintraining.org or (888) 920-8557.
League of American Bicyclists Education Curriculum*
Road 1--A primer for those cyclists who wish to gain a full understanding of how to safely operate a bicycle in a variety of situations. Road 2--For more advanced students with an understanding of vehicular cycling principles, this course includes fitness and physiology, training for longer rides, advanced mechanics, pace line skills, advanced traffic negotiation, foul weather riding and night riding. Commuting—For adult cyclists who wish to explore the possibility of commuting to work or school by bike, this course covers topics including route selection, bicycle choice, dealing with cargo and clothing, bike parking, lighting, reflection, and foul weather riding. Motorist Education--Directed towards motorists in general, topics covered include roadway positioning of cyclists, traffic and hand signals, principles of right-of-way and left and right turn problems. Kids 1--A course designed for parents and kids to attend together. Instructors help parents understand how to teach a child to ride a bike. Parents and kids learn how to perform a bicycle safety check, helmet fitting and bike sizing. Kids 2--This class is mostly for 5th and 6th graders and covers the same topics as Road I, and includes on-bike skills as well as choosing safe routes for riding. * For more information: www.bikeleague.org/educenter/education.htm
Books with South Jersey Bicycling Routes
30 Bicycle Tours in New Jersey: Almost 1000 Miles of Scenic Pleasures and Historic Treasures, by Arline Zatz Short Bike Rides in New Jersey, by Robert Santelli Ride Guide South Jersey, by Alex May Coasting Along: A Bicycling Guide to the New Jersey Shore, Pine Barrens and Delaware Bay Region, by Kurt B. Detwiler
Upcoming Bicycling Events in South Jersey
September 18th: Githens Center Bike-A-Thon, www.githenscenter.org September 18th: Jersey Devil Century, www.sjwheelmen.org/jersey_devil_century.htm September 18-19th: MS 150 City to Shore Bike Tour, www.nationalmssociety.org/pae/event/event_detail.asp?e=6654 October 1st-3rd : New Jersey Ride Against AIDS, www.njrideforaids.org/index.htm October 2nd: Belleplain Fall Century, www.shorecycleclub.org/FallCentury.htm
Published in South Jersey Magazine, September 2004.
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Author: Carolyn Hohne; photos Scott Weiner
Cool as Ice