Walsh: Distracted biking on the rise

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Motorists aren't the only ones guilty of distracted riding.

Carolyn Szczepanski, communications director for the League of American Bicyclists, said distracted riding seems to be on the rise as the number of bicyclists grows nationwide.

"Whether listening to music or talking on the phone, multitasking while biking in traffic is asking for trouble," she writes in the current issue of Bicycle Times (www.bicycletimesmag.com).

"Texting steals even more of your attention" because it requires taking one hand off the handlebars and leaves cyclists less able to brake effectively in an emergency.

"When you're inclined to take a call or reply to a text, just think about the last time a motorist fiddling with [a] cellphone put your safety at risk," she added. "I'd be hard pressed to recall a single ride when that didn't happen.

"So let's not be hypocrites.

"Sure, we live in a fast-paced society. Yes, we feel the need to be constantly connected. But one reason I ride is to reclaim my autonomy and feel free of all those buzzing devices, if only for a couple of miles. And, just as important, I ride to feel part of my city, my community, at the gritty street level."

Szczepanski stopped using her headphones to listen to music while commuting several years ago because they put her "in some precarious positions." A motorist accelerating to run a red light almost hit her because her music masked the sound of the approaching car.

She said the league, which represents the interests of 57 million cyclists, has cycling instructors across the nation who offer classes in safe cycling. Go to www.bikeleague.org/programs/education for more information.

Going the distance

Veteran cyclist and trip organizer Larry Brock has two trips planned for 2013 along the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Towpath, and there's plenty of time to get in shape for them.

An Every Final Inch (EFI) Ride, a completely supported 330 mile camping trip on the passage and the towpath between Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh will be July 14-21. The cost is $995 before May 10 and $1,095 after.

An "exclusive Red Carpet Tour with first-rate accommodations and dining" along the 150-mile passage from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh will be August 30-Sept. 2.

It will begin in Cumberland, where riders will have the option of pedaling 15 miles up to Frostburg or rolling their bikes into a baggage car and taking a seat aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railway train.

Brock said each trail town along the way will have welcoming activities for the group. The all-inclusive tour, which includes transportation from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, costs $1,500. All proceeds benefit the passage and the trail towns.

For more information on the rides, go to www.greatgapride.org. Brock can be reached at Cycling1945@mac.com and 1-301-697-4343.

Where's the line?

When the Great Allegheny Passage was constructed between the Big Savage Tunnel in Pennsylvania and Frostburg, yellow metal posts spaced across the trail designated the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, also known as the Mason-Dixon line.

It turns out, the line, established by surveyors and astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon between 1763-67, is about 300 feet south of the posts where it diagonally crosses the passage.

When you reach it, pause a moment to appreciate Mason and Dixon's ability to accomplish their work in the wilderness.

sportsother - outdoors

Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.


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