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Alternative Transportation: Bicycling

For many older riders, a medium-weight mountain bike or a hybrid may make the most sense.

En español | Remember how fun riding your bike used to be?

Bicycling offers something for different fitness levels, needs, and interests. It’s also a great family activity. Many communities have bike paths or wooded trails, and some have paths that connect with shopping areas, job sites, or transit stops. Even large cities are promoting bicycling by dedicating bike lanes on urban streets.

Biking is good for your body, too. A 150-pound person biking at a light to moderate pace (about 10 mph) can burn 200 calories or more in just 30 minutes. A low impact aerobic activity that benefits your heart and lungs, bicycling also strengthens the legs and knees—an important consideration as we age.

Getting Started

Choose the right bike for you. For many older riders, a medium-weight mountain bike or a hybrid may be the most appropriate. Your local bike shop can help by making sure the frame is the proper size for your height and adjusting the seat and handlebars for your comfort and safety.
• Drink adequate water before your ride and take a water bottle with you. Biking can be strenuous, so know your limits and respect them.
• Always carry an ID and cell phone for emergencies.
• Dress for the weather and wear bright clothes to stay visible. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses, and be sure to tie up loose pant legs and tuck in shoelaces so they don’t get entangled in the chain.
• Before heading out, perform a bike safety check. Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure and the brakes are functioning.
• If you’re going to ride far from home, tell someone where you plan to bike and be sure to carry a repair kit that includes a spare tube or patch – and know how to use it.
• Always wear your helmet, and make sure it fits properly for maximum safety. Consider taking a bike education class.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking is a resource for information on classes, bicycle safety, equipment and advocacy. To get the most from your biking, visit the Alliance’s website.

Out and About

• Obey traffic signals and local laws regarding bicycles. Ride on the right, with the flow of traffic, so motorists can see you. Look back frequently to monitor traffic behind you. A rear-view mirror may be helpful, but don’t rely on it totally.
• Use hand signals when changing lanes. When approaching a right-turn-only lane, change lanes before the intersection. Look over your left shoulder before making a left-hand turn.
• Keep a distance of at least 3 to 4 feet from parked cars.
Someone could open a door or emerge suddenly from between vehicles.

• Motorists don’t always signal or obey traffic signs, and they sometimes change their minds about where they’re going. Making eye contact lets you know they’re aware of you.
• Use lights on both the front and back of your bike at dusk or in the dark. Reflectors are not enough and only work if the motorist’s headlights are shining right on you.

What you should do

If your area lacks facilities or services, consider becoming an advocate for community improvements. Scout locations for potential bike lanes, bicycle racks, and other features that would make biking safer and more convenient. Join forces with your local biking group or co-op to document the need for improvements. Your local bike store may help you make these connections.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking is a coalition that includes grassroots biking and walking organizations working to improve their communities. Through training, research, grants and resources the Alliance’s mission is to strengthen these communities by advocating best practices amongst its members.