My Top 3 Safety Mistakes While Bicycling Gettysburg

A fun and educational bicycle tour is always a safe tour, which might sound obvious in theory, but in practice, it takes some effort. Today, I share my Top 3 safety mistakes while bicycling Gettysburg National Military Park. Fortunately, what you already know about bicycle safety is likely enough. On the other hand, the challenge is to remember to put your knowledge into practice.

My Top 3 Safety Mistakes While Bicycling Gettysburg

From a safety rules perspective, bicycling a U.S. Civil War battlefield is not a unique experience. That’s because — if you plan ahead to design circular routes that avoid non-park roads as much as possible — bicycling military parks can be far safer than road cycling. Even so, a bicyclist could make the following mistakes on any trip or tour.

Here are my most memorable safety mistakes while bicycling Gettysburg:

3. Forgetting to Turn on My Blinkies

I’m not a road bicyclist. I know how to ride on roads safely, but I avoid them as much as I can. I prefer canal paths (no cars) and park roads (low speed limits). But still, of all the possible safety mistakes while bicycling Gettysburg, this is my most frequent mistake:

safety mistakes while bicycling Gettysburg
Parked for lunch. My blinkie is off.

After riding for hours in bright sunlight — laaaa-la-laaa-la-laaa — I sometimes found myself on a winding, beautifully shaded, tree-lined road that is open to town commuter traffic. If you know Gettysburg, you know Hunt Avenue.

That’s the moment that I think, “Shoot! I forgot to turn on my red blinkies!”

Motor vehicle drivers do not always see bicyclists. Your safest bet is to help them by wearing bright clothing and having lights mounted on your bicycle. When the sun hides behind trees or when the weather starts to turn dark, bicyclists merge with the scenery. They are not so visible. Turn on your lights!

I highly recommend that you turn on your back (red) and front (white) lights whenever using them would make you more visible to cars.

2. Getting Pinned

Twice, I have gotten myself pinned between bi-directional traffic. It’s the most dangerous situation that I have faced at Gettysburg, and there is absolutely no excuse for my mistake.

Safety mistakes while bicycling Gettysburg do not have to happen. First, the bicyclist needs to know the particular safety issue. Second, the bicyclist needs to develop a particular safety habit. I describe both the issue and my new habit, below.

What Does It Mean to Get Pinned?

Typically, a pinned bicyclist is at the center line of a town road, preparing to turn left. Cars are coming toward you from the front, in their own lane. And cars are coming toward you from the back, in your lane. Unfortunately, many motorists do not understand that they are putting a bicyclist in danger when they (illegally) pass you on the right. If oncoming traffic picks-up just as a car passes the bicyclist on the right, the bicyclist is pinned. The bicyclist cannot turn left, cannot stop, and cannot continue straight. No matter where she looks, there are cars.

Get Pinned in Gettysburg

safety mistakes while bicycling Gettysburg
Entrance to Culp’s Hill Area from Baltimore Pike

For me, the most difficult left turns are these:

  • From Baltimore Pike heading south, turning left into the Culp’s Hill area.
  • From Chambersburg Road heading north, turning left into the McPherson’s Woods area.

The safety solution is simple. I have decided that I will always ride in the bicycle lane on the right side of the road all the way to my left turn. Then I stop, dismount, and wait for traffic to clear until I walk my bicycle across the road.

Fortunately, it is possible to bicycle Gettysburg National Military Park while riding mostly on park roads. For full-day bicycling adventures, however, you will need to ride on major roads for short distances, since these roads connect different parts of the battlefield. The Culp’s Hill entrance on Baltimore Pike is a perfect example.

1. Not Knowing About One-Way Roads

Safety-conscious bicyclists can handle being confused by a road network. They pull over and look at a map. Nonetheless, it helps familiarize yourself with the location of all one-way roads before starting your day’s ride.

safety mistakes while bicycling Gettysburg
GNMP Superintendent’s Compendium, 36 CFR 4.30(a)

As of this writing, it is legal at Gettysburg National Military Park to bicycle against the flow of traffic on park roads. Even so, you will want to decide ahead of time whether you are comfortable with that style of riding. You will not want to feel forced to choose between adding an extra hour of bicycling (and riding with the flow of traffic) versus taking the most convenient road (but riding against the flow of traffic).

Wrap-Up

This article touched upon three bicycling safety topics. They happen to be the ones that I need most to remember. I hope that these “Top 3 Safety Mistakes While Bicycling Gettysburg” help you to think about bicycle safety as you plan your own historical tour.

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