Americans are living longer and stronger. The number and percentage of people over the age of 55 continues to increase, particularly as the baby boomer generation matures. And more older adults than ever before are participating in cycling.
Senior cyclists may be cycling for the first time in many years, so they will need to brush up on current laws and rules that relate to bicyclists and sharing the road. Some senior cyclists may simply be continuing a lifelong cycling habit. However, as they grow older, they may be confronted with some physical issues that require new solutions.
Although senior cyclists may have decades of traffic experience under their belt, they may not be accustomed to the ways that bicycles function in traffic today. A short bicycle course or workshop can be helpful in bringing them up to speed.
Tools and Skills
Bicycles are required to ride on the right, with traffic, not against it. This may be contrary to the way many seniors first learned to ride. Teach them that this is the current law and that they may be ticketed for riding against traffic.
Teach the senior cyclist about the various styles of bikes and which one will best suit their needs, and also how to select and purchase a properly fitting helmet. Explain the different ways of carrying cargo, and what lights and other accessories, such as a water bottle holder, they may need. Introduce them to other options, such as gloves and glasses, and how they may benefit from these accessories.
Compare cycling to driving a car. Remind the senior cyclist that as a bicyclist he or she is a vehicle operator and is therefore subject to the same laws as drivers of cars. By adhering to these rules, s/he will help the concept of sharing the road become more of a reality, and create a more inviting, less stressful atmosphere on the roads.
Teach senior cyclists to maintain a defensive riding attitude, even when the law and right-of-way are in their favor. Emphasize that they should anticipate what a driver MIGHT do-but should not take it for granted that he or she will actually do it. Senior cyclists should never underestimate the importance of good motorist/cyclist communication through hand signals and eye contact.
Just as they would when driving a car, senior cyclists should scan traffic regularly by looking around and behind them as they ride. Some senior adults discover that it has become more difficult to turn their heads to scan as they grow older. If so, they should have a rearview or side mirror mounted to their bike or helmet, and learn to use it; however, a mirror is not a replacement for scanning for traffic behind you with your eyes and ears.
Senior cyclists should learn how to safely navigate through intersections and complex traffic situations. They should also be able to recognize and avoid road hazards. The senior cyclist should learn how to make him or herself conspicuous to others on the road.
Senior cyclists should explore the "science" of good route selection, and take advantage of bike lanes, bike routes, and multi-use paths. City bicycling maps, generally available at bike shops, are useful in finding such routes.
Finally, introduce senior cyclists to the health and environmental benefits of cycling.
Senior Health and Safety Links
- American Association for Retired Persons' sports page
- Just for seniors, an all-health and fitness site