|We enjoy riding our bicycles on the roads in Hudson Valley for
recreation -- and we think there are lots of other people who could
be out enjoying that kind of riding.
Our strategy -- some key points of our approach to riding:
Choices -- There are choices you have that can make big differences for the levels of risks you are exposed to:
You may say: That sounds like a lot to deal with. Do I really have to work all that out before I can go out and ride?
Our answer is: Yes, if you care a lot about preserving your life and health.
The hope we offer is that many of the questions and risks for riding a bicycle are something like the questions and risks for driving a car. If you can work them out for driving a car, there's hope that you can learn to deal with them for riding a bicycle. But maybe not -- you have to find out for yourself and decide.
We enjoy bicycling on the public roads and on paths off the roads -- and we like to share that adventure with other people.
But that adventure comes with real serious risks: Bicycle riders get killed and seriously injured out there, both on the public roads and on off-road paths. Not just "some" rider, in "some" place, at "some" time -- but a real person with a name and an address who rides in the Hudson river valley -- every year -- gets killed or seriously injured in the Hudson valley.
However, you can make choices that eliminate or reduce or help manage those serious risks. So if you do not understand the risks of riding some of the routes and places described on this website, or you're not sure you can handle the risks in a way that fits with the levels of risks you're willing to accept -- then make a different choice. Make a choice that will not expose you to risks that are unknown or unacceptable to you.
Here's some key choices:
So a required reason to actually try to ride any part of any route on this website is because you've decided to take on a special adventure -- with all its unknowns and risks -- and you choose to accept the risks and the work of managing those unknowns and risks as part of your adventure.
In the Hudson Valley lots of the most beautiful and interesting riding is out on the public roads. And we choose to go out and ride on some of those roads -- at some times under some conditions -- out there with cars and other motor vehicles that could deliver serious consequences. It's a serious choice, and we make it seriously.
For us, it's like how we choose to drive a car. People get killed driving cars in the Hudson valley, every year. But we and other people still choose to drive them -- often at much higher speeds and in more tricky conditions than we ride with our bicycles. People work out ways to handle those risks in a way that feels acceptable to them.
Since a bike gives us less protection than a car, we have to be more careful and learn better skills, in order to make those serious risks feel acceptable to us. And just like we needed to learn a new set of skills before we drove our parents' car out on the roads, we think it's important to first learn some key concepts and skills before riding a bicycle on the routes described in this website. So we point to some Resources to help with that. But just because we have worked out a way to manage the risks in a way that's reasonable and acceptable to us, that does not mean that you should.
Choices about Risks and Dangers
Here's more about those choices:
Choice 1: Ride on an indoor exercise bicycle.
We do lots of our bicycling indoors on stationery exercise bicycles. That way we get lots of good exercise and fitness benefits, without the risks (and hassles) of riding outdoors.
Riding indoors on a bicycle that cannot go anywhere is a key risk management tool used by many many bicyclists who are serious about exercise and training.
Choice 2: Ride outdoors on an off-road path.
When we ride with children, we do a large percentage of that on paths that are off the public roads. This is not "safe" or risk-free, but the points of high risk are easier to identify and control than out on the roads.
One point of special high risk on an off-road path is where it crosses a road or driveway used by cars or other motor vehicles. It's easy to get complacent while riding off-road and dealing only with moving things coming behind or ahead -- and then be unprepared for a crossing where much bigger and faster things are coming at you from the sides. We have heard of at least one occurrence during the last few years of a user on a path in the Hudson valley dying that way.
Choice 3a: Get help from another person.
This is a desirable approach, but it's not so easy to find a person who's good at helping you understand the multiple complex risks of bicycling and your own willingness to accept and manage those risks -- so trusting another person for this is yet another risk and unknown.
Some pitfalls to watch out for: (a) Lots of people will advise you based on their willingness and skills to take on risks rather than based on yours; (b) Once you've chosen to ride a route and/or conditions which are too risky for you, another person riding with you may not be able to do much to really reduce the serious risks to you.
Why is this? It's because once you're out there riding in a place, the really serious stuff like getting killed or paralyzed usually happens so quickly and unexpectedly that there's nothing anybody else can do to protect you but call an ambulance and try to stop the bleeding. Leaders and organizers and support crews can help for some things -- like fixing a broken chain or figuring out mistakes in the route directions. But they can't do much for the real serious stuff.
Riding near to other riders usually brings distraction and complacency, also the new risk of colliding with another rider. One function of a "leader" could be to try to get other riders to refrain from the worst instances of these problems. Some leaders would do better to focus just on not adding to the risk problems by their own behaviors.
Therefore if in doubt, take less risk -- like Choice 2 or Choice 1 -- rather than thinking that some other person or organization can somehow make a risky situation safer for you.
Choice 3b: Improve your skills and judgment for handling risks.
We spend lots of time riding out on the public roads -- with those major risks of death and serious injury. We also believe that levels of risks vary greatly depending on when we choose to ride what specific roads, and how we ride -- what specific strategies and techniques we use. So we spend a lot of time thinking and talking and learning about risks and strategies.
But given how deadly the consequences can be out on the public roads, we also believe that it's not a smart idea to try to "figure it out for yourself" how to handle the dangers. Much better to learn as much as you can from the mistakes and ideas of other riders -- especially since we've found that some of the best strategies are the opposite from what we would have first guessed, and some of the deadly risk factors are ones we never even thought to ask questions about.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you check out and learn from some of the Resources listed below -- and then think and talk through some of the ideas, and practice some of the techniques.
Like with driving a car, we think it's important to spend some time learning strategies and concepts from reading a books and taking a course, and practicing skills and strategies in more controlled environments -- before venturing out onto the roads.
Choice 4: Prepare in advance for the consequences
Some of the consequences of the bad things that can happen while out riding can be handled much better is you take some steps in advance to prepare for them.
The basic guideline for this is to think about:
That's just a partial list of ideas -- every experienced rider has their own style of preparation. The point is to think about it, and make choices.
Riding a bicycle on roads -- and off roads -- is risky. If you're looking for a safe way to spend an hour or a day, try something else. See the Choices above. Numerous riders have been killed or suffered permanent severe injuries or other losses.
Knowing the dangers and risks, we ourselves choose to ride our bicycles lots -- for why and how, see above. We think we've worked out a strategy for us to reduce our level of risk out riding, and we think the rewards of the adventure are worth it.
But you might think otherwise for yourself, and we think that before choosing and acting, you ought to have some information about the dangers and risks, as well as the fun and the rewards.
A quick summary of the risks of riding a bicycle are that anything bad that can happen to you walking or driving a car can happen to you on a bicycle -- with the added problems that you're going faster than if you were walking, and you've got less protection and less stable balance than if you were driving a car.
Some examples of the risks and hazards include
Sounds like lots of kinds of dangers and risks -- and there are others. That's why we call riding a bicycle an "adventure". It's not for everybody -- and perhaps not for you -- or not yet.
Approaches for working with these risks can be found in the Resources (see above). But there is no way to eliminate all the risks and dangers.
You might wonder, given that comparison of risks to walking and car driving, how there could be any hope of riding a bicycle at acceptable levels of risks. The answers we give to ourselves are: