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The State of Nebraska and the City of Lincoln give bicyclists many of the same privileges as well as responsibilities which are granted to motorists. In addition, bicyclists are allowed on almost all of the same roadways as vehicular users with notable exception to interstate highways and freeways. Here are a few basic concepts which will help cyclists avoid conflict with both motorists and pedestrians:
- Always wear a helmet.
- Obey the rules of the road.
- Stop at stop signs and lights.
- Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it.
- Yield to pedestrians.
- If you will be riding at dawn, dusk or at night, be sure to use bike lights and reflectors. This is not just for your safety, but the safety of others. In addition, the City of Lincoln requires the use of front and rear lights when riding at night.
- Don't hug the curb too closely. Curbs can be dangerous for a cyclist not to mention they trap debris which can puncture a tire.
- Ride in single file. Nebraska State law requires cyclists to ride single file at all times on roadways.
- Don't ride on sidewalks unless no other safe option exists. Motorists do not expect a bicycle entering the roadway from the sidewalk, making intersections more dangerous for cyclists riding on the sidewalk. Also, it is illegal for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk in downtown Lincoln.
- Beware of cars coming out of alleys and driveways. Drivers are often not looking for a cyclist and often misjudge their speed.
- Ride in the lane of traffic when it is heavy and slow-moving. Riding with traffic when the vehicles are moving about the same speed as a cyclist is safer than staying far to the edge of the roadway.
- Maintain a straight course as much as possible and avoid swerving in and out of parked cars. Predictability is very important for both cyclist safety and the safety of others.
- Watch out for opening car doors. Maintain at least several feet from parked cars in case someone opens their door unexpectedly.
- To change lanes and/or merge, make sure there is an opening by looking behind you for traffic. Be sure to signal your intension to change lanes or merge. The traffic in the lane you want to move into has the right of way.
- Make eye contact with drivers and signal your turns.
- When passing buses, be sure to only pass on the left. Buses have a blind spot behind and on their right sides, so by passing on the right, you could get squeezed into the curb if the bus pulls over for a passenger. Also, watch for pedestrians crossing the street when passing the front of the bus.
- Ride predictably.
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Using Bike Lanes and Bike Routes
Although cyclists are permitted on all roads within Lincoln, different roads offer varying levels of comfort for the riders. This level of comfort is determined, primarily, on vehicle volume and speed. In order to guide cyclists to facilities which will not only allow them to get to their destination but will also permit them the maximum level of comfort and safety, the City has installed bike lanes as well as shared-use-lanes throughout the City. These facilities complement the widely used trail system and allow cyclists to reach destinations not accessible by the trail system. Below are some explanations of what bike lanes and shared-use-lanes are and how to use them.
A Bike lane is generally defined as a portion of the roadway which has been designated for the specific use of bicycles. Bike lanes provide advantages to both cyclists and motorists by making cyclist movements more predictable. In addition, a designated area of the roadway for cyclists increases the comfort level for the cycling public and encourages users of the system who may not use it otherwise. It is important that cyclists follow these simple rules in order to make bike lanes most effective:
- Always travel in the direction indicated by the arrows, which, in Lincoln, is always in the direction of traffic.
- Stay alert for vehicles crossing the bike lane. This includes vehicles crossing the bike lane to change lanes as well as vehicles entering and exiting alleys, parking garages and driveways.
- When making a turn which requires leaving the bike lane, remember to look, signal, then look again. Just like changing lanes in a car, the occupant of the lane you are merging into has the right-of-way.
Lincoln has many miles of Bike Routes (also called Shared-Use-Lanes). These lanes are typically marked with a "Bike Route" sign which indicates that the route has been identified as a preferred route for bicycles although it is shared with vehicular traffic. In Lincoln, these facilities are primarily designated on roads which are of important connections as well as feeders to the trail system.
- Always travel in the direction of traffic.
- Ride predictably. Do not weave in and out of parked vehicles and maintain as straight of a line of travel as possible.
- Stay alert for vehicles. Watch for vehicles turning in and out of driveways, alleys and roadways.
- When making a turn or merging into a turn lane, remember to look, signal, then look again.
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Using Protected Bikeways (Cycle Track)
What is a Cycle Track?
A cycle track, also known as a protected bikeway, combines the user experience of a separated path with a conventional bike lane. Unlike a bike lane, however, a cycle track offers protection from traffic using grade separation, bollards, curbs, parked cars, a landscaped area or some other kind of physical barrier. A cycle track is also physically separated distinct from the sidewalk. Widely used in many European countries, cycle tracks are becoming popular in may US cities because they offer the safety and comfort of a separated path with the convenience of a bike lane.
Instructions on How to Use Cycle Tracks
- Watch for turning vehicles when approaching intersections, driveways and alleys.
- Be alert for passing bicyclists within the bike lane and for pedestrians crossing the bike lane to access parked motor vehicles.
- Be aware that the bike lane may weave as it approaches intersections to make bicyclists more visible to motorists.
- Stay to the right and allow faster users to pass safely.
- Yield to pedestrians and wheelchair users who may be crossing the road and cycle track and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.
- Watch and listen for cycle track users traveling from either direction just as you would when crossing a street.
- Cross cycle track at crosswalks.
- Be alert for nearby cyclists when crossing a cycle track to access a parked vehicle.
- Park in the marked lane between the travel lane and the bike lane in instances where on-street parking is available.
- Take extra caution and look both ways before turning across the bike lane at intersections, driveways and alleys, especially when the barrier protected bike lane is protected by on-street parking.
- Watch for people on bikes traveling in both directions - the cycle track is two-way.
- Remember through bicyclists have the right-of-way at uncontrolled intersections, driveways and alleys.
- Don't drive in a cycle track. You can turn across a cycle track, but must yield to people riding bicycles.
- Scooters and mopeds are not permitted in to use the cycle track.
Lincoln's Trails have many users throughout the year. All users share responsibility for the courteous use of them. Please follow these simple guidelines to make everyone's outing an enjoyable and safe one.
- Please be respectful of all trail users.
- Keep to the right. Trail users should keep to the right except when passing.
- Pass on the left. Notify trail users when passing with a verbal notice of "on your left" or use a bell or horn. Acknowledge when others signal they are passing you.
- Do not block the trail. When stopping, move completely off to the side of the trail.
- Wear a helmet if you are riding a bicycle.
- Ride at a safe speed. Slower traffic has the right of way.
- Ride or run single file. Even if you are in a group, riding or running single file helps keep the trail clear of congestion and reduces the chances of an accident.
- Pay attention while on the trails. While it is important to carry a cell phone for an emergency, it is also important to keep communication channels open and avoid using your cell phone or earphones.
- Obey all road and trail signs.
- Control your pet. Use a short leash and keep your pet to the edge and tight to your side when another trail user approaches. Pick up after your pet.
- Using the trails in the dark - it is important to be seen during times of darkness or low light. Wear reflective clothing or use some form of illumination. Bicyclists are required to have front and rear lights and it is encouraged all trail users include some form of flashing light.
- Respect public and private property.
- No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trails.
Who Yields the Trail?
- Bicyclists, skaters, walkers, and others yield to equestrians
- Bicyclists and skaters yield to walkers
- Bicyclists yield to skaters
- Downhill users yield to uphill users
- Faster users yield to slower users
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When designing your bike commute, remember the importance of simplicity. By putting a bit of planning into your daily commute, you can save yourself stress down the road and allow you to enjoy your daily ride. Here are some tips to help you design your bike commute so that it is as stress free and enjoyable as possible.
- Ensure your bike is reliable. Regular bike maintenance and riding a simple bike reduce mechanical problems on the road. When choosing a bike for commuting it may be best to look first for reliability and simplicity instead of a fancy ride with all the bells and whistles. Not only is a simpler bike more reliable, but it can also cost less and be less of a target for thieves as well.
- Check your bike regularly for maintenance issues. When you are riding your bike everyday and in all kinds of weather, you will need to do periodic maintenance on your bike. See the section on Bicycle Maintenance.
- Carry flat repair gear and know how to change a flat tire. Always carry the tools necessary to change a flat tire including an extra tube, tire levers, patch kit, pump and hex wrenches and always keep it on your bike. If you are not comfortable changing tires, contact one of the local bike shops for assistance. Many shops are happy to demonstrate how to change a tire and some even offer classes on basic bicycle maintenance.
- Plan your route carefully. Often times the best bicycling routes are not the same routes that you would drive. The extensive trail system in Lincoln may also be able to play a part in your daily commute.
- Plan where to park your bike. Many employers offer locations to lock up your bike or bring your bike into your office. Check out the section on Locking you Bike.
- Always wear a helmet. A bike helmet can only protect you if you wear it.
- Use lights and reflectors. Even if you do not plan to ride at night, it is still a good idea to have a white from headlight and red taillight on your bike in case of inclement weather or of your plans change and you have to ride and dawn or dusk. Plus, it is law in Lincoln to have your bike equipped with a headlight and taillight. It is also a good idea to increase you visibility by having plenty of reflectors both on your bike and bags as well as on your clothing.
- Use a rack, bags (panniers), baskets and/or a backpack. In order to keep your hands free to steer, use the bell and signal, it is best to place all your daily items in a separate bag which attaches to your rack (pannier), basket or a backpack. There are also many strap bags (messenger bags) which are made specifically for biking and allow maximum flexibility. It is also possible to strap things down to a rack. If you need to carry heavy loads, consider using a trailer.
- Dress appropriately. Check the weather nightly to make sure you have all the necessities for the day. If the weather is supposed to be cool or cold, dress in layers which adequately wick moisture from your body and keep you warmer. In addition, if the forecast is calling for rain, ensure you have a rain coat and potentially rain pants and a water proof helmet cover. Eye protection may also be important to protect your eyes from the sun, rain and wind.
- Stay hydrated. Regardless of the temperature, it is important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water.
- Leave essentials at your office, if possible. If you work in an office where you can store some essentials, doing so can not only save you weight in your bags and organizing time each morning, but can make your commutes much simpler. If, for example, you need to wear office attire during the day, leave your shoes, belts and other toiletry items which you would use every day. If your employer offers showering facilities, you may be able to leave much more. No need to daily carry them back and forth.
- Use a headlight and red taillight when riding at night. It is actually the law in Lincoln to ride with both a headlight and a taillight at night.
- Using a headlight which flashes is better at catching drivers' eyes and is best used when the light is not needed to see in front of you, such as during dawn, dusk or inclement weather, but added visibility is needed.
- Using a headlight which steadily shines light is not as eye catching but makes it easier for drivers to judge your speed and distance. When riding on dark streets or trails, using the headlight in solid beam mode is important to be able to see what is in front of you. Generally, a headlight should shine about 35-50 feet in front of you when traveling at 15 miles per hour.
- Use reflective clothing and reflectors. Reflective bands and patches which move while you ride, such as on your ankles, can be very eye catching to drivers.
- Use headlights on paths after dark. It is important to use a headlight on paths at night not just for your own safety but also so that other trail users, particularly pedestrians, know you are there.
Although it may seem daunting, riding in the winter can be enjoyable and fun with proper preparation. Keep the following things in mind when riding in winter to help make your trip rewarding:
- Start slowly. It is not necessary to be out the day of a big storm. Use StarTran, walk or carpool to fill in these gaps when the weather interrupts your schedule.
- Have the right gear. Consult your local bike shop about the best gear for you and your bike. There is equipment to make your ride safer and more enjoyable including studded snow tires, handlebar mitts and clothing. But, there is no need to spend lots of money to make it work. Many of the fancy fabrics and specialty gear are not necessary and can be substituted with adequate preparations from thrift stores or standard winter equipment (such as ski goggles and gloves). Fenders are also a good idea to keep you clean. The most important piece of gear, however, is still a good helmet.
- Use the Bike Paths. Lincoln has fantastic bike paths. These paths are plowed throughout the winter and, because they are plowed separately from the streets, often times are plowed before the streets to ensure the safe passage of cyclists.
- Use StarTran. StarTran offers bike racks on all busses. This can provide an alternative for those days when the weather turns bad between trips.
- Ride in car tracks. Cars generate a lot of heat which melts snow and ice. Often times, car tracks are the safest place to ride because the cars have melted the snow and ice in those areas. Find streets that have enough traffic to melt the snow and ice but not so much that you feel uncomfortable riding in the traffic lane.
- Be visible. Motorists often do not expect to see cyclists out in the winter. This, in combination with the shorter days, it is important to have a functioning headlight and taillight. In addition, make sure you dress in bright colors to make sure you stand out.
- Maintain your bike. The cold temperatures, salt, snow and ice can wear your bike quicker than it would in the summer. Check your cables, chain, batteries, brakes, rims and tires more often than you would during the summer months.
It is important to adjust to the road conditions. Adjusting to the road conditions on a bike is similar to driving. Keep the following in mind:
- Use easier gears to pedal through snow and across ice. Using too high of a gear will cause you to skid out. If the front wheel is skidding around, put more of your body weight forward to keep the front wheel going straight. Bar end extensions can help you get your weight further forward.
- Use your brakes lightly, and remember that it will take you longer to stop. Panic stops don't work on snow or ice. Practice braking away from traffic, on a slight hill if possible, to get used to how much pressure you can use before locking up and skidding on snow and ice.
- During the morning hours, the sun often melts snow and makes the road glare to motorists. This, combined with a dirty windshield, often makes it difficult for motorists to see each other let alone a cyclist. Make sure to wear bright colors in order to stand out.
Pedestrians always have the right-of-way when riding on a sidewalk. It is also important to have a bell in order to alert pedestrians of your presence. In Lincoln, bicyclists are permitted on sidewalks except for in the downtown area.
Lincoln City Ordinance forbids riding bicycles on sidewalks in these areas:
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Loading Your Bike
- Prepare your bike for loading. Remove water bottles, pumps and other loose items that could fall off while the bus is in motion.
- Inform the bus driver that you will be loading your bike. You must load your bike from the curb or in front of the bus. Do not step into oncoming traffic to load your bike.
- Squeeze handle up to release latch, then fold down the bike rack. You only need to use one hand to unlatch and pull the bike rack down, so you can hold your bike with your other hand. It is not necessary to lean your bike against the bus. Have your bike ready as the bus approaches.
- Lift your bike onto the bike rack, fitting wheels into labeled wheel slots. Each wheel slot is clearly labeled for the front wheel. (Note: The rack operates properly even if a bicycle is loaded in the wrong direction.) The purpose of the directional placement is to make the bike nearest the bus easier to unload.
- Raise the support arm up and over the front tire so that the hook rests at the highest point on the front wheel. The support arm adds lateral support for the loaded bicycle. Many bikes will sit in the wheel well without the use of the support arm, but the rack must not be used without support arm in place.
- Board the bus and enjoy the ride! Choose a seat near the front of the bus to keep an eye on your bike. Don't forget you have a bike with you when you get off at your stop.
- Inform the bus driver that you will be unloading your bike as you approach your stop. Use the front door to exit the bus. Unload your bike from in front of the bus or from the curb, not from the street side.
- Raise the support arm off the tire. The support arm automatically folds down to a secure position.
- Lift your bike out of the bike rack.
- Squeeze the handle and fold up the bike rack if there are no bikes on the rack and no one else is waiting to load a bike. The bike rack locks in place with a snap so you know that it is secure.
- Step away from the bus with your bike. Always step to the curb, for your own safety and to allow the bus to proceed onward.
Important Things to Remember
Bike racks will carry most bikes. However, tandems, recumbent, mopeds and tricycles cannot be mounted.
StarTran bike racks are available year-round.
Need a place to park your bike downtown? Center Park Garage at 12th & "N" streets has secure bike storage. For more info contact Parking Services at 402-441-7275.
Be prepared before the bus arrives. You are responsible for the loading and unloading of your bicycle. For safety reasons, the driver cannot leave the bus to assist you.
Racks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. If the rack is full, you will need to wait for the next bus. Bikes are not allowed on the inside of StarTran buses.
If you are unable to secure your bike, please do not delay the bus.
All bikes 16" or larger fit easily and securely on the rack, even children's bikes. All bikes load in exactly the same way, quickly and easily. No motorized bikes are allowed on the racks.
All willing and able passengers are permitted to use the racks. Children age twelve (12) and younger may use the rack when accompanied by an adult.
StarTran is not responsible for bicycles or personal items lost or damaged while in transit. Unclaimed/abandoned bicycles can be retrieved from the Lincoln Police Department – City Impound Lot, 402-475-5757.
It is important to lock your bike effectively in order to prevent bike theft. There are three main things to remember to protect your bike:
- Have a good quality lock. A good quality lock can be expensive, but make sure you get the best one you can afford in order to secure your bike.
- Lock your bike effectively. Make sure you secure all quick-release part of the bike, notably any quick release wheels. Also, ensure that your lock effectively goes through the frame and the bike or the lock cannot be easily slipped off.
- Lock your bike in the correct location. Lock your bike to a bike rack, if available. If there is not a bike rack available, secure your bike to something that is not easily broken. Remember to think of others when locking up your bike and ensure that you are not blocking doorways or walkways. Try to bring your bike inside when leaving your bike for extended periods of time, such as during work hours or overnight. Or, if you are downtown, use the bike corral at the Central Parking Garage for added security.
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- Every Day
- Check your tire pressure to make sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Check to ensure all your quick releases are tight and secure.
- Ensure your brakes press firmly against the rims when they are engaged.
- Every Week
- Make sure your seat and handlebars are secure.
- Check the batteries in your headlight and taillight to make sure they are fully charged.
- Every Month
- Wipe your chain to ensure it is clean. Once any excess dirt is wiped off, apply chain lube to ensure that the chain continues to operate smoothly.
- Check your gears to make sure they are shifting correctly and smoothly. If they are not, it is time to take your bike into a mechanic.
- Check your brakes to ensure they are operating correctly. Also check your brake pads to make sure they are not warn out.
- Check your tires for bald spots and cables for any fraying.
- Once a Year
- Bring your bike to a mechanic to have it tuned up and checked out.
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