Alabama was ranked the 39th most bicycle friendly state by The League of American Bicyclists in its 2017 survey. Areas being considered in this ranking include: infrastructure & funding, education & encouragement, legislation & enforcement, policies & programs, and evaluation & planning. Alabama’s best ranking was in infrastructure & funding for cycling projects, and our lowest ranking was in legislation and enforcement. We need to improve our laws to improve this score, but until then, motorists and cyclists need to have a better understanding of Alabama’s existing bike laws. Here are the laws we receive the most frequent questions about:
Bicycle = Vehicle (Ala. Code §§32-1-1.1(81); 32-5A-260): A person riding a bicycle has all the rights and duties of the driver of a vehicle. This includes the same penalties for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of controlled substances (Ala. Code §§32-5A-191; 22-27-90). As a cyclist, it’s important to follow the rules of the road, both for safety and to leave motorists with a positive impression of cyclists!
Helmet Law For Minors (Ala. Code §§32-5A-283; 32-5A-285): Whether you are the operator or passenger, a helmet is required for anyone under the age of 16 while riding in public. Thus, those over the age of 16 can make their own decision as to whether they want to wear a helmet.
Lights & Reflectors (Ala. Code §§32-5A-265): While riding at night, a WHITE front-facing light visible for at least 500 feet and a RED rear-facing reflector visible between 100-600 feet when illuminated by a vehicle headlights are both required. A rear light is not required, but will further improve your safety.
Where to ride (Ala. Code §§32-5A-263): Wherever there is a usable path for bicycles adjacent to the roadway (such as a bike lane), a cyclist should use that path. When riding on the road, bicyclists should ride as far to the right as “practicable” – this means that while you should normally stay within 2 feet of the right side of the lane, if there are obstructions or issues with road quality, you can move further into the lane. Also, while some folks feel safer on the sidewalk, cycling on the sidewalk is prohibited under Alabama law (Ala. Code §§32-5A-52).
3-Feet Passing Law (Ala. Code §§32-5A-82) Alabama has a 3-foot law! Motorists shall give cyclists at least 3 feet of space while passing them given that they are no more than 2 feet from the shoulder of the road. The passing vehicle should give you more than half the lane in space to comply with this law, and ideally they will give you the whole lane as they pass.
While at times being on the roads seems scary for cyclists, following the rules and keeping alert around motorists will help you stay safe and minimize motorist-cyclist conflict!
Bicycling is a great activity for kids – it can improve coordination/physical fitness and foster independence – but teaching kids how to bike takes some time and effort. Helping your children get off on the right foot is worth the energy. Our goal is to focus on making cycling a fun activity. However, making cycling fun isn’t just something for the young – people of every age can have a joyful bike experience by following these tips:
Before the Ride
You can save a lot of money shopping the used bike market. Although inexpensive bicycles can be purchased at big box retailers, there is something exciting about searching for a second-hand bicycle with a story. Our guide lets you know what to look for so you don’t end up buying a lemon.
Type of Bike – firstly decide what type of bicycle you are looking for (see our previous Chatter article for more information on bike types). Bicycles come in different sizes (big box retailers use tire size, whereas specialty shops list by frame size) be sure the size is close to your size – one can always adjust the headset and seat for a better fit, but there are limits to that strategy.
Vendors/Where to look – you can buy used bikes at bike shops (some deal exclusively with used inventory, but most have discounts on used bikes), thrift/consignment stores (nearly every store has a bike section), from online sellers (look for a solid return policy if purchasing sight unseen), or even craigslist or Facebook marketplace (you can often inspect the product in person before purchasing). If you’re buying from an individual, consider meeting at a bike shop to have a technician check out your potential purchase.
Components – For a higher quality bicycle, look for a multiple part crank-arm instead of a single piece. This is the part that attaches to the pedals and the front gear. Low quality manufacturers use a single piece that snakes through the bottom bracket. Bikes with quick release wheel skewers offer ease of changing out wheels.
Inspection Checklist – almost any bike you purchase used will need some tuning up. Keep an eye out for a bad investment with this simple checklist:
After your successful search take your bike to the next level with a proper tune-up. Our local bike shops can really make that bike perform amazingly well. Invest in new tires, grips/grip tape to make your new-to-you bike feel like butter – which in-fact is a beautiful thing.
Cleaning your stallion at least once a month will ensure your components function better and last for years to come. Washing your bicycle is easy, but there are a few components that need a bit more attention than others. To wash your bike, prepare the following items:
PREP – if you have multiple gears, place your front chain on the biggest chain ring, and your rear on the smallest. This will help clean the chain later and more easily remove the rear wheel (if you are so inclined).
WET – spray down your bike with a garden hose or some rinse water. The goal is to get off the large chunks of gunk without blasting out the grease from your bearings. Keep in mind most of the dirt is going to be on the back wheel, around the drive train, and on the underside of your bicycle.
DEGREASE – spray degreaser on your drive train. Apply liberally to the chain, front chainrings, and rear freewheel/cassette gears. Applying this on a wet bike allows it to set-into the dirt that collects on your drive train. Take special note to not spray it into your drivetrain bearings such as the bottom bracket where your pedals pivot through, rear hub on your back wheel, or the rear derailleur pulley wheels. Our goals is to remove grease from the external components of your bike, not to remove the needed lubricants inside delicate components.
WASH – use your clean sponge or rag to liberally douse and scrub your bike frame from top to bottom with warm soapy water. Often forgotten places include under the seat, between the front and rear forks, brake pads and calipers (on bikes with hand brakes), and under the bottom bracket. Wash your tires, wheel, spokes, and hub. Use your old/dirty sponge to go over the chain to pull off the old gunk (it can be fairly dirty). Use more degreaser if needed at this point. Pay special attention to your front chain rings and rear gears to get in between them and remove the gunk. Pull off the dirt from your rear derailleur and pulleys (they tend to get caked in muck).
RINSE – spray down your bike again to remove all the soapy water and remaining dirt.
LUBRICATE – dry off your chain (it should look shiny and new). Apply chain lubricant per the manufacturer’s instructions (usually one drop per link, for the entire chain, then a quick wipe off of the excess after it has penetrated the chain). Consider lubricating your brake calipers but be careful to not get lubricant on your brake pads or braking surfaces.
TUNE-UP – if you want to go a step further take out your wheels (if you have quick release hubs) and inspect them for debris in the tires. Carefully remove/pick out any thorns or rocks that could later puncture your inner tubes. Inspect your brake pads for the same debris. Look for signs of wear on the pads or the brake surfaces and replace if needed.
The life of your bike will be extended with regular maintenance. Try our one-hour tune up this month!
Clean your bike – it may not seem like an important part of the tune-up, but checking out your components is much easier with a clean bike. Plus you will stay cleaner, work faster, and enjoy this tune-up with a clean bike.
Chain – your chain touches every aspect of your drive train. A worn chain can cause damage to other components of your bike. Inspect for rust, cracks, and stiff links. If you can pull your chain straight off the chain-rings and fully expose a tooth, you should replace the chain.
Bottom Bracket – this is the part of your bike that your pedals go through. These bearings take the brunt of the pedaling abuse. Spin your bottom bracket backwards (as if pedaling backwards). If you see anything other than buttery smooth movement, consider replacing the bearings.
Gears – bikes that have indexed gears (one click on the gear selector moves to another gear ring) need to be adjusted periodically. If you are unable to select every combination of gearing on your bike (front and back gears) consider re-indexing/adjusting your derailleurs.
Cables – over time break and gear cables will stretch, wear out, and become dirty. Replacing your cables is an easy job that only takes a few minutes to have your bike feeling like new again.
Headset Bearings – this is the part where the front tire forks meets your bike frame (how you turn the bike). Mud and grime tend to build up in this bearing. Cleaning it by removing the front fork and handlebars and re-greasing this bearing will prolong the life of your bike.
Seat post – your seat post can fuse to the frame over time without annual maintenance. Mark the height on the post before loosening and removing the post (and saddle/bike seat) from the frame. Wipe old grime and grease from the frame and post. Re-grease the post before re-installing and adjusting the seat to the mark you made.
Accessories – look over your bike and see what else may be installed that you are no longer using or is broken/worn. It is easy to overlook a broken water bottle cage or a missing grip or torn handle bar tape on a regular basis. Take time now to replace or remove these extras.
Performing this tune-up twice a year will extend the life of your bicycle by many years. If you’d like to learn how to perform any or all of these tasks, join us for one of our bicycle maintenance events. We advertise our events on Facebook and in our monthly newsletter.
We frequently meet community members with an interest in cycling who aren’t sure what type of ride is best for them. Since the type of bike you ride should be determined by the kind of riding you do, the League of American Bicyclists advises that you consider the following questions before deciding on which type of bicycle is right for you:
Why – will you be riding? Consider your motivation for starting a cycling habit. Are you looking to spend more time outside enjoying the freedom a bike gives you? Are you looking for low-impact cardio to burn fat and improve physical endurance? Are you interested in commuting and reducing your carbon footprint? For example, purchasing a mountain bike before realizing you will be exclusively using the bike for commuting on paved roads can be a costly bad investment.
Where – will you be riding (what kind of terrain)? More than anything else, deciding where you will be riding will influence the type of bike you choose. County roads, downtown urban environment, cycle paths, and mountain trails – there are bikes and tires designed for each environment.
Cargo - will you be carrying anything? Some bikes are more easily outfitted for trailers, panniers, or even milk crates to carry loads of varying sizes.
Fit – many people are unaware that bicycles come in different frame sizes. Leg length, core height, and arm reach can all influence which size bike to purchase. Riding position should also be considered when approaching fit – you may prefer to ride sitting upright, leaning forward toward the handlebars, or even in a reclining position.
Budget – there is a bike to fit every budget. In fact, I found my go-to rider on Craig’s List for $40. You can easily spend as much as you want on the latest cycling technology, but breaking the bank will not increase your joy on the open road. Decide what you want to spend and find the bike that works with that budget.
While most riders will end up choosing between a road bike, a mountain bike, and a hybrid/comfort bike, considering these questions will help you design your custom ride. For example, my wife prefers the stability of a mountain bike frame, but she mostly rides around town, so she bought hybrid tires to make her mountain bike more road-friendly. Good luck in your search for your best ride!
We welcome riders of all experience levels. ValloCycle is Alabama’s oldest citywide bike share. For more information visit vallocycle.org or contact email@example.com
I’m reluctant to admit that biking has its down-side. There are times when our southern summer heat gets out of hand and the air is thick enough to slurp. Those summer days are in the not-so-distant future. For now think about how beautiful the weather is outside and why biking is the best thing ever!
Freedom – nothing compares to the feeling of flying (not even flying). The freedom you experience riding your bike on a crisp spring day is better than churning the propellers of an airplane – ask any pilot.
Fast/quick – traveling by bicycle is much quicker than people realize. Running down to the store can seem to take forever with traffic. I like to think of cycling as the easiest form of traveling – much more efficient than walking.
Great Feelings – riding will leave you feeling more energized than walking or riding in a vehicle. Riders report feeling more aware and ready to work after a bicycle commute. We can call it exercise – but I’d rather experience our beautiful Alabama town riding a bike than any other way.
Save Money – commuting by vehicle is expensive. Adding up your gas and vehicle maintenance costs (not to mention the car payment) can reveal how pricey transportation really becomes. Biking (especially for short trips) is far more fiscally responsible.
Environment – biking is good for our environment. One day the price of oil and vehicle gas will become inaccessible to the majority of society. This transition will become increasingly difficult if we do nothing to support sustainable initiatives. Biking is the most efficient form of transportation ever devised by humans. Let’s take advantage!
We welcome riders of all experience levels. ValloCycle is Alabama’s oldest citywide bike share. For more information visit vallocycle.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This year marks the 7-year anniversary of ValloCycle. In February 2011, representatives from the Montevallo City Council, UM Office of Community Engagement and Service Learning, Environmental Studies, Kinesiology Department, and the student body came together and developed the idea of a city-wide bike share program. This bike share partnership between the City and the University was the first of its kind in Alabama.
In 2012, the ValloCycle city board was formed to guide the organization and implement its mission. The board decides on how to spend funds, which events to organize/participate in, and how we can best serve the local cycling community. Our board is an energized and fun group that represents university and community members – contact us if you’re interested in joining us or sitting in on a meeting!
Although we were created as a bike share and continue to offer bikes for rent at $20 per term (vallocycle.org), our biggest goal is to foster a vibrant biking community in Montevallo. Here is a brief list of what we do to promote biking in our community:
Community Events – we sponsor booths at most of our public community events to spread the word about ValloCycle.
Group Rides – our popular monthly Glow Ride is a no-rider-left-behind evening roll through the neighborhoods of Montevallo. We also lead weekend rides to some of Montevallo’s lesser visited places, an orientation ride every fall, and community cleanup twice a year.
Maintenance Clinics – we offer spring and fall pop-up maintenance events to share the knowledge needed to maintain and repair your bike.
Share the Road signs – these signs remind motorists and bicyclists that the road is to be shared, demonstrating the community’s support for cyclists in town.
Bike Racks – CommuteSmart has installed bike racks throughout the city, and UM’s art department has designed and installed several sculptural racks on campus that are beautiful and practical.
Bicycle Maintenance Station – thanks to a UM Green Fund grant, you can pump up your tires and use basic bicycle maintenance tools at our maintenance station in front of UMOM on Main Street.
UM and Montevallo has been incredibly open to embracing issues of sustainability. We welcome riders of all experience levels. ValloCycle is Alabama’s oldest citywide bike share. For more information visit vallocycle.org or contact email@example.com
Most people think of cycling and images of beautiful fall and spring days come to mind. Fall is a not-so-distant memory, and spring will be here in just over two months. What would happen if we continued to ride all winter?
Stronger & Tougher – training in the off-season nearly doubles the opportunity to build muscle and endurance. Keep in mind that winter training is very different from the rest of the year, so prepare appropriately. Winter riding is hard on equipment, your body, and your psyche. After a season of cold your will have seen more than most and dealt with frozen/numb extremities. You will discover a new respect for the stages of defrosting and be better for it.
You’ll Slay Calories – biking keeps your lower body very active and your upper body relatively calm. Nonshivering Thermogenesis (NST) is about keeping your body just warm enough to not shiver. NST increases calories burned while riding and may do the same while you rest. This is another way of saying that being cold helps you burn more fat.
Reduced Sickness – regular exercising reduces your chance of getting sick by half. Staying out of germ-infested indoor environments can’t hurt either, and you can save money by canceling that gym membership.
Creativity – winter weather forces us to ride differently. Instead of long back-road routes, you may find yourself riding circuits or intervals in a local park or enjoying a now abandoned bike path in the depth of winter. The benefit of changing your regular routes will help you avoid finding yourself frozen and numb eight miles from home.
Layering – other outdoor winter activities can have you warming your entire body quickly and either shedding layers or under dressing. The challenge with cycling is balancing the art of thin layers with the science of maintaining a high enough core temperature to avoid shivering. With some practice, you will become a master of this skill.
Gear – winter weather really does a number on your bicycle and equipment. As your bike expands and contracts with the temperature swings your brakes, cables, drivetrain, and tires really take a beating. Winter bike care is essential.
Ride with us this winter! ValloCycle is committed to creating and supporting a biking community in Montevallo.
Cycling has all sorts of benefits outside of increasing your physical strength and looking really cool. Here are some other major benefits that you may not have known.
Emotional Benefits – According to Bicycling Magazine, a recent study analyzing 26 years of research found that as little as 20-30 minutes of exercise per day can help prevent depression. A good ride can have emotional benefits including feeling better, relieve anxiety, and increase stress resistance.
Decreasing Stress - A 2013 study by Ida and colleagues published in BioPsychoSocial Medicine found that after 15 minutes of pedaling a stationary bike participants levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, declined significantly.
Memory and Reasoning – The Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research published a study in 2013 by Nanda and colleagues which found that participants scored higher on memory, reasoning, and planning tests after 30 minutes of moderately intense spinning on a stationary bike than before they rode.
Aging Benefits – Chapman and associates published an article in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience in 2013 that took participants ages 57-75 through a physical training program that included using an exercise bike three times per week. They found that benefits begin to show before the 6-month mark in maintaining adequate blood flow to the brain. They conclude starting aerobic exercise sooner is better since the slope of decline in brain health become steeper from age 50 onward.
Get Outside – In a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Pearson and Craig found that spending time in nature can reduce stress and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Cycling in the great outdoors and in natural surroundings will increase these benefits. In fact, there is also evidence that exercising outside will increase enjoyment of and motivation to maintain an exercise program.
Prescription for Happiness – Bicycling Magazine recommends the following based on a recent review study on exercise and depression: 3 - 5 (45 - 60 minute) sessions per week, keeping your target heart rate between 50 - 85% of your maximum.
You don’t have to take these researchers’ words for it. Grab a bike and go for a ride to discover your own benefits to riding!
Our articles also appear in the Montevallo Chamber Chatter - find us in print there!