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 firstname.lastname@example.org
November 5th at 2am marks the end of daylight savings time for 2017. As our clocks fall back, we will see the sun rise and set earlier, meaning that bicycle lighting will become all the more important on our evening glow rides. Bicycle lighting can be broken down into two basic categories: lights that help others see you, and lights that help you see others.
Alabama Code 32-5A-265 requires that when biking at nighttime you have a white light mounted on the front that can be seen at least 500 feet away. This same code requires a red reflector in the rear that can be seen from 500 feet away when low beams from a motor vehicle are being used. This can be established by clipping on an inexpensive LED bike light. However, these codes only establish the bare minimum of visibility – we recommend the following lights:
October usually brings, fall weather, and the slow shortening of the day. The pleasant weather begins to draw us into our beautiful Montevallo scenery, and a great way to celebrate the outdoors is with a picnic. Cycling and picnicking go hand in hand – why not break out your ride, air up those tires, and consider these tips to enjoy your very own picnic à vélo:
ValloCycle is happy to announce our latest contribution to the Montevallo cycling community. The Public Work Bicycle Stand, located on the Main Street side of University of Montevallo on Main (UMOM) was purchased and installed with a UM Green Fund Grant!
Here are some of the tools that are available for use at this excellent work stand:
The Summer Solstice occurs on June 20th (11:24 pm), bringing the first days of summer and the southern sun’s legendary heating of the south. Take a break to ride and enjoy these hot weather cycling tips:
Our articles also appear in the Montevallo Chamber Chatter - find us in print there!