May is National Bike Month. For many, that means it’s time to get back in the saddle. The bike saddle, that is. Fortunately, whether you favor wild rides in the mountains or the fast, skinny tires of a road bike, Las Vegas and its surroundings offer plenty to enjoy.
Although tourists tend to equate Las Vegas with the Strip, its neon lights and stream of cars, you don’t have to go far to find good cycling. There are plenty of other roads and trails around the city and outside of it. Finding the right road is part of riding safely, but so are sharing the road properly and watching out for some common risks.
Some favorite cycling destinations
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the top-rated trails and roadways lie at the city’s edges or beyond them. Along these routes, cyclists enjoy not only the relative safety afforded by lighter traffic, but the spectacular scenery presented by everything from wind-swept rock formations to the rushing waters of the Las Vegas Wash. Some of the favorite destinations include:
- Red Rock Loop. A short distance from the city, this ride requires you to pay a small fee at the gate. But for the money, it offers some challenging climbs and speedy descents through the State Park Loop.
- Moapa Valley Ride on Fire. This 51-mile ride takes cyclists from Logandale to Valley of Fire State Park and back. It offers plenty of great scenery, and many cyclists tout it as a great early season ride. However, you’ll want plenty of water and should think twice before riding the route once the season heats up.
- Mustang Trail. A popular mountain bike trail for beginners. This trail begins and ends at Hwy 16 and offers a fantastic first taste of the cycling available along the trails in Cottonwood Valley.
- River Mountains Loop Trail. Starting near southeast Henderson, this 35-mile trail thrills riders with its hills, curves and stunning views of both the Las Vegas cityscape and Lake Mead.
- Wetlands Park. Almost close enough to the Strip to hear the traffic, Wetlands Park is like a different world. A series of paved trails cut through the wetlands along the Las Vegas Wash. Cyclists enjoy the trails as well as the nature and wildlife.
Unfortunately, not all popular rides are as safe or good as these. The Neon to Nature bridge at Town Center and 215 in Summerlin is one such example. Cyclists keep riding across this bridge, and many have suffered serious injuries. The bridge’s design incorporates joint cracks to help it survive temperature shifts, but those cracks—and the epoxy used to fill them—have caused many cyclists to lose control.
Cyclist rights and responsibilities
In recent years, the League of American Bicyclists named Las Vegas a bicycle friendly city. The League even promoted Las Vegas from Bronze to Silver status for its efforts to promote bicycling and safeguard cyclists. This accounted for a review of several factors, including bicycle friendly ordinances and ridership.
Some of the noteworthy points include:
- Cyclists in Las Vegas generally enjoy the same rights as drivers
- Cyclists also share many of the same responsibilities, including their responsibilities to ride with traffic and signal turns as possible
- Drivers must give cyclists three feet of space when passing them
- At just 0.41% the Las Vegas ridership is much lower than that of the most bicycle friendly cities, meaning few drivers expect to see them
Because you will never get the better of a collision with a vehicle as a cyclist, you want to be extra careful about some of the common risks.
Avoid these six common risks
There’s an important difference between what Nevada law says drivers must do and what you, as a cyclist, should expect. If you could trust drivers to follow the rules and watch out for you, this list of common risks would be much shorter. As it stands, it’s a good idea to pay attention to your surroundings, both the roads and the drivers:
- Nevada can get hot, and many of the best routes feature long stretches with little or no shade. It’s important to bring plenty of water for your longer rides.
- Limited shade means limited protection from the sun. You’ll need to protect yourself.
- Rough roads and roads without bike lanes. If possible, it’s a good idea to review your route before you ride it. Rough roads can lead to untimely spills, and though you have a right to ride most roads, even without bike lanes, it’s generally safer to ride without cars whizzing past you the whole way.
- Drivers making right turns across your lane. Even when you have a bike lane, some drivers may not pay any attention to you. Many cyclists suffer serious injuries when drivers turn right across their path. If you approach an intersection alongside a driver, it may help to make eye contact or check the driver’s attention.
- Oncoming drivers turning left. Even when you’re right in front of them, drivers may not pay attention to you. As a cyclist, you represent less than one-half of a percent of all the people on the roads. It helps to remember that and watch the driver’s eyes.
- Poorly lit roads. You won’t find adequate lighting everywhere in the city. When the sun goes down, you want to carry the headlight and reflectors the law requires, and you may want to wear reflective clothing as well. You want cars to see you clearly.
Enjoy the ride
As National Bike Month, May is the perfect time to explore all the great routes Las Vegas and its surroundings have to offer. Just be sure to cycle safely and make this a month to remember for all the right reasons.