2020 Huntington Towpath Century Ride

Cycling Safety


In preparation for each year’s Huntington Towpath Century Ride, the safety of our riders is the primary concern of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition staff.  If you consider the 130+ participants in our event each riding 101 miles over one or two day days, that is a total of 13,130 miles.  That is equivalent to 4 and a half trips from New York to San Francisco on a bike!

If you did such a ride, you can imagine the stories you would have to tell of the flat tires, close calls and, unfortunately, probably a few falls.  Each year we urge riders to be safe.  Each year we seem to have a few riders who end up with a scratch, bruise, road rash, sling or (gulp) cast.  Let’s not have any this year.

Here’s a short list of the causes of incidents we have experienced during past Century Rides.

  1. Weather related – When it is raining or has recently rained, wooden bridges may be slippery, the trail surface my become soft or muddy and dirt and gravel may wash onto a paved surface from a hill above it.  Think ahead.  Anticipate when there may be trail issues that could cause you to loose grip or take your bike out from under you.                                                                                                                                                                                           
  2. Railroad crossings – These can be a problem especially if they do not cross the trail or road at a right angle or 90 degrees.  As you approach a railroad crossing, slow down, check the angle of the track to the road (no, you won’t need a protractor) and, if needed, approach the tracks at something close to a right angle so the skinny tires of the bike do not fall down into the grooves on the sides of the actual steel rails.  Also, rails can be slippery if wet.  By the way, look and listen before you cross.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  3. Other people using the trail – weekends are a busy time for the Towpath Trail.  On one hand, it is great to see people pushing strollers, walking, running, birdwatching, taking photos along with canoeing and kayaking in the river or canal and boarding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad at stops along the trail.  The flip side of all this is that too often, these people may not be paying attention to the bikers approaching them at speed.  If you don’t have a bell or horn on your bike, buy one.  Use it as you approach and shout out which side of them you wish to pass (usually on the left).   Repeat this until they acknowledge that they have heard you by either turning around to look or a hand signal of some sort.   Don’t assume they have heard you with only one warning.  Sometimes people are in their own little world.                                                                                                
  4. Tailgating the rider ahead - Just like on the highway, it is tempting to ride close behind another bike especially if you are trying to talk.  If the rider ahead needs to stop quickly, will you be able to slow down or stop without hitting them?   This thought should be on your mind whenever you are behind another rider.                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Tips for Cycling Safety

Keep both hands on the handlebars – Let’s face it, it is nice to lean back and steer with one hand on a bike for a long ride.   I don’t think anyone actually keeps both hands resting on the grips with fingers poised to grab a brake lever at the first sign of trouble ahead.   But, as part of the “anticipation” mentioned in 1) above, if you think there is even the slightest chance that you may need to turn or brake, be ready.   Both hands on the grips and ready to react.

Also, warn riders behind you when you see a potential problem ahead.  Shout out a warning such as “ Rider Up!” or “Hiker Up!”.   Do the same at road crossings “Car Left!”   “Truck Right!”  Yes, it can be a little annoying but being annoyed is better than having an accident.  

An important thing to remember…our event is a bike ride, not a bike race.  Enjoy the day.  Appreciate the changes of scenery from city to small town to fields of corn.  Anticipate potential iffy situations before they do or do not happen.

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