Why do people ride bikes? For exercise, for freedom, to feel like a kid again, to reduce their carbon footprint? Or perhaps it’s the easiest way to get from point A to point B, to avoid traffic and save money on gas? Whatever an individual’s motivation to ride, it is no doubt that the most common result is an increased sense of wellbeing.
Bike commuters, including many UH Hilo students, along with recreational and fitness cyclists, need to be armed with knowledge about cycling to feel safe on the streets and trails, but more importantly, to enjoy the ride.
“Educated bicyclists lead by example,” said Chris Seymour, a UH Hilo Hawaiian language student and owner of the Hilo Bike Hub. “When more cyclists are riding safely, wearing protective gear and signaling correctly, more cyclists will follow suit.”
Seymour, whose bicycle shop has been in business for almost 18 years, has been riding bikes on Big Island roads and trails for over 25 years. “I’ve probably ridden over 200,000 miles on this island to date,” he said.
Although Seymour has noticed an increase in cyclists on Big Island streets over the years, he’s also noticed an increase in bike-related accidents.
Statistically, according to the League of American Bicyclists, the most car-bike accidents occur due to cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road.
“The best advice I can offer is to ride your bike like you would drive your car,” offers Seymour. “Being predictable is the biggest precaution a cyclist can make. When I ride predictably, respectfully, and intelligently, cars almost always give me the right of way.”
Dr. Mike Tanabe is a professor of plant science, and also teaches the Kinesiology 117 course on mountain biking at UH Hilo. The course is offered every semester on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Developed by Tanabe himself in the fall of 1993, he has now taught it for 34 consecutive semesters.
“At the time the course was first offered, the Intercollegiate Mountain Biking Association told me that it was probably the only course of its kind offered at the college level,” he said.
Tanabe’s main goal is to empower students by becoming safer cyclists.
According to Tanabe, the most common cycling rules that students are not aware of upon entering his class are: to ride with the flow of traffic, to obey the same laws as motorists, and to be careful when using the front brake while riding down steep hills. The first two align directly with those that Seymour emphasizes.
• Wear a helmet.
• At night use both a front and back light.
• Use the rightmost lane that heads in the direction you are traveling.
• Obey all traffic control devices, including stop signs, lights and lane markings.
• Always look back and use hand and arm signals to indicate your intention to stop, merge or turn.
• Have your bike safety-checked by a professional.