As the temperatures rise, cyclists across the state are taking out their bikes to ride area hiking trails, paved paths, mountain tracks, and city streets — particularly on Friday as May 20 is National Bike to Work Day.
Residents here like to bike, according to the 2022 Bicycle Friendly States report by the League of American Bicyclists, which ranked Connecticut 20th in the country for bike friendliness. The more a state fights for the safety, accessibility and comfort of biking, the higher they are ranked. In New England, Connecticut placed behind only Massachusetts, which was ranked No. 1 in the country.
Locally, groups such as Bike Walk Bolton contributed to this ranking with their constant efforts to better the biking community. The organization started in 2015 with a mission to advocate for safe and accessible means of moving.
“Our mission was to improve walking and cycling conditions and experiences for all of the people in and around Bolton,” Co-Chair Barbara Amodio said last week.
Amodio has also formed the brand new Hop River Trail Alliance — a group of volunteers committed to the betterment of the trail that runs through Manchester, Vernon, Bolton, Coventry, Andover, Columbia and Windham.
“We have accomplished quite a bit,” Amodio said.
Adding a portable toilet, bike rack, and tool stand to the Hop River Trail are just a few of the projects that the group has worked on. They just recently completed a project where over 70 people cleaned the trail from Manchester to the Willimantic section of Windham.
The group will continue their dedication to the trail in June when they meet with administrators from the towns along the Hop River State Park Trail to determine everyone’s expectations for the trail.
The Hop River Trail, along with Case Mountain and the East Coast Greenway, is one of the most popular paths to bike and hike in Connecticut, cyclists say.
But before they hit the trails, safety should come first.
Cyclists should be familiar with the proper safety rules and equipment when riding on roads, trails or mountains to ensure that everyone can relish their bike riding experience, experts say.
A great way to be cautious prior to take off is to check on the bike’s tires, chains and gears to make sure everything is working the way it should.
“A lot of people bring them in every year for tune-ups,” Bob Kiernam, manager at Manchester Cycle Shop said of his customers and their bikes. “We have basic safety checks where we run through the bike and just see if everything is working properly.”
Once the bike is safe, cyclists riding on the road should wear a helmet for protection and add a headlight, tail light and bright color clothing to their list — allowing drivers to see the bikes no matter the time of day. It also helps if cyclists follow the rules of the road and ride in the same direction as the motoring traffic.
While cyclists who ride in the mountains or on different, dedicated bike terrain don’t have to worry about cars, other safety measures need to take place, experts say. In addition to wearing a helmet, shoulder and kneepads should be considered necessary for the bumpy conditions.
“You’ll need a little bit more padding because you’re more apt to crash in the woods than you are commuting to work,” Kiernam said.
All of these things and more are taught at Amodio’s “bike rodeos,” where she and her group teach people the best safety practices in cycling.
“Our purpose there, we’re educating youth and their families in safe bike riding,” Amodio said. Skills learned include how to fix a flat tire, check the chain and properly fit and wear a helmet. The group also passes out bells, helmets and pamphlets that help new riders find the right bike for their size. Amodio believes that if she teaches youth how to cycle safely, then they will grow up to be safe riders.
Riding safely allows for everyone to reap the rewards of a bike ride. It’s better for the planet, economy and your personal health, she said of the benefits.
And bikes are not just for recreation, but are actual tools used by many rescue workers and police departments.
In 2019 the South Windsor Police Department received a donation of over $10,000, which they used to buy and outfit four mountain bikes for officers who wanted to seem more approachable in the community.
Sgt. Mark Cleverdon said it’s also important to have bicycle certified police operators at certain outdoor events, because they provide a valuable security presence.
Windsor resident Rich Aarons, who was out bike riding on the Charter Oak Greenway on a bright sunny day in Manchester last week, said for him, cycling is all about enjoying the outdoors.
“I have a little bit of health issues, so getting outside and exercising — I enjoy it,” Aarons said. “I love getting outside in the warmer weather. It’s just gorgeous getting out here and meeting new people.”