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Chapter 1: Defensive Biking

I have been a lifelong bicyclist, and some of my best memories have been riding with my children, but it took a long time for my kids to develop the skill and confidence to ride a bike. There were many bruises along the way, but it was well worth it. Over these years of riding with my children, I learned many things that have helped me be a better riding instructor for my children, helped them become more proficient bicyclists, and helped make our family bicycling more enjoyable. I appreciate the opportunity to share my lessons, insights, and discoveries with other parents who want to support their children to become lifelong bicyclists.

The following are some guidelines that I would like to offer to safely bicycle with your family in Fresno. If they are too obvious, I apologize. But if they are helpful to you, then I have fulfilled my duty.

Don’t go over the same routes on bicycle that you would normally drive through in your car. The bicycle gives you much more flexibility and choices for routes. Take advantage of this flexibility! You have a lot more at your disposal when you choose different bicycle routes, including unknown streets, tree lined, bike paths, and sidewalks, when necessary.

When you are on the streets, you must follow the rules of the road as any other vehicle would. You must also ride on the right side of the road, facing traffic. You know that you shouldn’t travel against a red light, but having the green light does not assure your safety. You must bicycle defensively and look out for the red light runners before you cross the street on your bike.

In most cities, it’s against the law to ride your bike on the sidewalk, but there may be times when you are going to be safer on the sidewalk. Use your judgement.

Bike paths are heaven sent compared to riding on the street, but the reality is that you will often be sharing these bike paths with joggers, walkers, and people walking their dogs. You will also be sharing the path with other bicyclists who will traveling faster or slower than you. If you are the slower bicyclist, you may be faced with an impatient rider who will want to pass you even if there is another rider coming from the opposite direction. This is when you need to ride defensively and keep a look out for possible collisions or problems.

Whether or not you ride at night, it is advisable to always have headlights and flashing red taillights on your bike. You may not have intended to be riding at night, but a long ride can keep you out a little longer than you expected, or you might find yourself riding during the winter and suddenly discover that darkness has overtaken your ride. It is always good practice to make yourself as visible as possible and to use your taillights and headlights, even in daylight. The reality is that, despite your efforts to make yourself as visible as possible, in daylight or nighttime, distracted drivers and other bicyclists may still not see you, so always ride defensively.

When we take all due precautions, bicycling can be a great way to discover the richness that Fresno has to offer. So much of this beauty is simply not visible from the seat of your car. Leave the comfort of your car and explore our secret treasures; you won’t be disappointed!

I had gathered together within these pages some exciting bike rides through Fresno. Most of these I have taken myself, and others I have gathered from the experiences of my friends. We are fortunate to have the San Joaquin River in our back yard, although most people in Fresno have had limited exposure to all that it has to offer. Fresno also has some communities and neighborhoods that are rich in history as well as culture. I have included these rides in the book because they are relatively accessible by bicycle and offer rewarding bike trips. I have also included community groups and organizations that regularly schedule bike rides and events. They can enrich your bicycling experience. 

There are other many other reasons why you should take advantage of the bike bicycling. Ed Smith, who has been a longtime bike commuter, pointed out to me that sometimes commuter bicycling can be faster and more accessible than driving a car, considering the parking challenges, the traffic, and all of the stop lights. The other reason is our effort to contribute to cleaning our environment and breathing healthier air. Fresno’s air quality is regularly rated at “harmful for sensitive individuals,” and bicycling is one way of doing our part to contribute to cleaning our air.

I hope that my observations will rekindle your interest in exploring what Fresno has to offer from the seat of your bicycle.

We hope you enjoyed this chapter from Juan Flores' Bicycling in Fresno.

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Fresno County Bicycle Coalition

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