Cyclists call the Natchez Trace Parkway a road of glass (referring to the smooth surface of the road), through the lush southern landscape. Because the parkway ride is uninterrupted by traffic lights and it has no turns to map, cyclists can focus on relaxation and the pure joy of riding. Many cyclists also choose to ride the parkway to feel its connection to history. More than a few serious cyclists include the parkway on their “bucket list” of things to do in their lives. Cycling clubs along the parkway sponsor organized rides throughout the year.
Motorists and cyclists share the same space on the parkway. Unlike modern public highways built primarily for automobile transportation, the road through the park has no paved shoulders, and each lane is two feet narrower than the current modern standard. Posted speed limits are lower than on comparable public highways. Both bicycles and automobiles have the same right to occupy the park road. The numerous curves, changing angles and directions of sunlight on the curves, and shadowing effect of foliage present unique challenges for drivers on the parkway. Drivers who travel long distances on the road or who travel the road often may not be as alert as other drivers. If you plan to ride a bicycle on the parkway, you are encouraged to make yourself visible to motorists as much as possible. Consider these safety features to make yourself more visible:
- High Visibility Safety Green or Yellow Clothing- High-visibility yellow or green clothing improves visibility, whereas black, dark green or other dark or natural colors can act to camouflage you in the natural landscape. Notice the difference in the visibility of the two cyclists in the photo at the top of the page. Even if you wear bright, non-natural colored clothing, low angles of sunlight in the mornings and evenings may prevent motorists from seeing you.
- Lighting- Flashing 180 degree lighting set at proper angles on both the front and rear of the bike may provide some additional visibility.
- Flags- Cyclists, particularly those in reclining cycles, often add flags in a high visibility color to make themselves more visible.
There is no certainty that even if you take all precautions possible, a motorist will see you. Though motorists are required to observe the three-foot passing rule, be alert for motorists, particularly in more urban areas such as Ridgeland, Tupelo and Clinton where larger numbers of motorists use the park road to commute. An off-road multi-use trail is available for cyclists in the park through Ridgeland.
SHARE THE PARKWAY SAFETY PROGRAM
The Association works with NPS and Adventure Cycling Association through our Gary Holdiness Cycling Fund to study and improve safety conditions on the parkway. The goal is to make a visit to the park a safe and enjoyable experience for motorists, cyclists, hikers, and every other visitor. Superintendent Mary Risser recently provided an update on the program:
Cyclists staying overnight on the parkway are encouraged to plan their trips to use designated campgrounds found on the Natchez Trace Parkway map. Bicycle-only Campground Sites include: Kosciusko, mile post 159. Witch Dance, mile post 234. Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center, mile post 266. Colbert’s Ferry, mile post 327. Tennessee Highway 50, mile post 408.
Little Mountain Ride: Sponsored by the Attala Cycling Club, the ride for 2016 will be on June 18. It starts in Kosciusko, Mississippi and runs to French Camp and Little Mountain
Natchez Trace Century Ride– The ride offers options of 25, 50, 62 or 100 miles. For more information, visit www.ridgelandms.org.
Colbert 20– A total of 40 miles from the Lauderdale site on the north side of the Tennessee River, across the John Coffee Memorial Bridge and the Tennessee River, past Colbert Ferry and Buzzard Roost, then up to the Freedom Hills and the Mississippi/Alabama State Line at Bear Creek Mound. Sponsored by the Association with the support of the Shoals Cycling Club.
James Robertson 40 – From the Northern Terminus of the parkway, across the iconic Double Arch bridge to Leiper’s Fork and back. The ride honors James Robertson, often called the “Father oF Nashville,” but also an early agent to the Chickasaw Nation and subcontractor who completed the Natchez Trace wagon road in 1807.