Cyclists aim to keep it safe, keep it between the lines

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

John Duett was on Clay Street on a bicycle at about 7 one morning about six weeks ago when he and an NRoute city bus nearly had a close encounter.

“It scared the daylights out of me,” said the 49-year-old Duett who has been riding a bicycle about twice a week for just less than a year. “I was headed east on Clay and the bus was headed south on Mission, I waited for the light to turn green, hesitated and took off, and the bus did, too.

“Before I knew it I was less than 4 feet from that bus and had to swerve to the left and then just lay my bike down in the intersection,” the sports store owner said. “I sure didn’t want to run into a bus.”

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Duett rides with a group of eight to 10 bikers “all over” the city and the county and regularly in the Vicksburg National Military Park.

“If we ride in an urban area, like along Washington or Clay, we go early in the morning, before the city wakes up,” he said.

It’s a perfect example of how he and other riders choose their routes and times with an eye toward safety.

Joe Giambrone, a route coordinator for the upcoming Bricks and Spokes cycling event, suggests riding in groups.

“There’s safety in numbers,” said the 44-year-old who has been cycling for about 26 years and logs about 4,000 miles a year. “You save a lot of energy when you ride in a group. You typically try to ride in a pace line, which is a straight line, one behind another.”

The formation allows the line leader to watch for hazards.

At Bricks and Spokes, set for Saturday, law enforcement escorts will be available on the 10-mile, 30-mile and 50-mile routes through the city and county.

“When cyclists are traveling on public roads, they have to obey all traffic laws,” said Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace.

On the flip side, he said, “Drivers need to share the road with bicyclists.”

Bicycle helmets are not required by state law, but are recommended for safety, said Sgt. Jackie Johnson, head of the traffic division of the Vicksburg Police Department. Helmets are required for motorcycle and scooter riders.

Cyclists also should wear reflective clothing, Johnson said.

Keeping a check of your bike and equipment is also key, Giambrone said.

“When you get started, make sure your brakes work,” he said.