A visit to Grandmother’s house always includes (for me anyway) a trip to the longleaf trace with my bike. Believe me the hour and a half long drive from her house is worth the trip; especially when I am in the throes of training for my annual effort to Ride the Rockies (www.ridetherockies.org) on my hand cycle.
The perfect training ground, longleaf is 43 miles of uninterrupted cycling bliss. From Prentiss to Hattiesburg, Mississippi this Rails to Trails path is one of my favorite cycling destinations. The Rails to Trails project converts abandoned railroad beds to cycling trails (www.railstotrails.org). A rail bed is ideal for this purpose because the width of a rail bed is just right for two way bicycle traffic. Also, the raised rail beds were built to be more or less level so that the train engines did not have to work so hard. Just add a layer of asphalt and the result is a near perfect bicycle trail.
The trailhead begins on the campus of Southern Miss University in Hattiesburg (www.longleaftrace.org). It slices through deep woods, past farms and fields and classic small town America. It is a beautiful ride. But the best attribute of the longleaf trace is the safety and security it lends a rider.
Safety is such a huge part of the sport of cycling. It is the paramount concern when we mount up and ride. No other sport leaves a participant so exposed to danger. We share the road with big trucks, distracted drivers and dangerous potholes which seem to jump under our wheels when we are paying the least amount of attention. Most motorists do not realize that by law they must share the road. A bicycle which obeys the rules of the road is just as entitled to the protection of our traffic laws as a truck or car or pedestrian. Even the biggest truck must yield to a cyclist in her proper lane of travel (www.sharetheroadsafely.gov).
If a cyclist is in her proper lane of travel and is struck by an inattentive driver that driver is liable for a cyclist damages as he would be for rear ending a fellow motorist. On the road, cyclists are literally at the mercy of motorists. Serious cyclists know this and always ride defensively. But there is little a vulnerable rider can do about a careless driver. In my experience, virtually all auto accidents involving bicycles are a direct and proximate result of auto negligence and not the actions of the cyclist.
That’s why I love the longleaf trace. The biggest scare I had during three hours of hard riding was a baby copperhead snake I blew past as he wriggled across the asphalt trail. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the young snake. But it sure was a fun ride!
Share the road next time you see a cyclist. It’s both a courtesy and the law.