A bicycle ride through Spokane, Washington and a ride challenge to Pratt, Kansas.

Urban cycling is a wholly different affair than cycling in and around Pratt and like rural communities. It’s primarily a stop and go affair, sprinting from one light to the next, hoping to make it through on green or yellow.

When you’re in the city center, the cycling process becomes much easier with good planning, such bike lanes and paths—or at least wide enough shoulders.

Spokane, Washington, where our daughter lives, offers a fairly cycle-friendly city that has incorporated two-wheeled transportation needs into its grid.

One of the advantages of cycling in a small town like Pratt is the lower volume of traffic.  Increased traffic means increased potential for car-bike “encounters.” For example, as I sprinted for a green light in downtown Spokane, a woman began pulling though a red light on the cross street. Fortunately, we both had good brakes, and she acknowledged her fault as I pointed at the light.

For the most part, I found that Spokane drivers were courteous and gave cyclists adequate berth when passing. In the downtown, or other heavily traffic-lighted areas, it was relatively easy to keep up with traffic and even shoot ahead of cars at the stoplight—at least when pedaling downhill. The uphill pulls provided a challenge in riding with traffic.

The key to safe and effective urban cycling, I believe, is to ride with traffic and to remain highly visible. Avoiding riding in the parking lane and wearing bright colors are key.

Incidentally, Washington state is also very pedestrian-friendly. It’s a state law that motor vehicles stop when someone enters the crosswalk. I tested this law several times. Even when cars were a half a block away, drivers stopped. This was sometimes the only way I was able to cross busy streets in non-stop lighted areas—by walking the bike through the crosswalk.

It was a fun, sometimes exhilarating experience to ride in an urban area like Spokane and remain unscathed. It was also encouraging to see numerous other cyclists riding with traffic.

Subsequently, here is my challenge to Pratt, which is a relatively easy city to cycle within. Ditch the car when you can, pull the bicycle out of the garage, and start pedaling. You’ll benefit physically, and you’re pocketbook will appreciate cycle-commuting as well.