Riding Bicycle in Lancaster County
Lancaster County’s back rural roads are a bicyclist’s dream. The Amish farms and covered bridges that dot the county can be experienced up close. Bicycling also allows for easy discovery of the many interesting things that you might see. Amish and Mennonite cottage industries might spur your desire for a visit. Please note these cottage businesses will be closed on Sundays.
Bring your camera so that you can make brief stops to take pictures of fields and livestock. There are many points of interest on these rides. On some of the cue sheets, notations will point out a few of them.
In the area we chose for the rides, you can expect to encounter Amish and Mennonite buggies. You might also see farm implements drawn by mules working in the fields. Sharing the roads with horse drawn buggies, you may want to be aware of the horse droppings (road apples) along the way.
Amish and Mennonite Sects
The Amish strive for a simple life with a strong focus on community, family and their religious beliefs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are relics of the past. LED lighting is now evident on their buggies. Many of their newer buggies use composite construction for the wheels and bodies. A young gentlemen’s courting buggy can sport a very plush interior with an in-dash sound system. On a closer inspection you might be surprised to see a cycle computer to record speed and distance.
Solar panels are now being used on their farms and businesses, and they have long used wind power to pump water for their farm needs.
The Amish prefers not to be photographed, especially close up. Their religious belief interprets being photographed as making graven images. Please be respectful of their wishes and privacy.
A question can arise as to the best way to ride when encountering a horse drawn vehicle. Horse drawn vehicles are slower than bicycles. Just use common sense when passing and do not cut back into your lane too close causing the horse to spook. Oncoming horse drawn vehicles are usually no problem. You might want to keep in mind that they could be turning into a farm lane or field rather than at an intersection. They cannot be relied on to use turn signals. As a bicyclist you should be able to relate, as the situations will resemble the challenges that you experience while riding. Since you are now the higher speed vehicle, you now will be dealing with slower moving vehicles. Just as bicyclists can be unpredictable, a horse might take control particularly when turning into their farm lane at feed time.
Young Amish youth might decide to have their horse pick up the pace to see if you’re up to a challenge. Young Mennonite youth on their bicycles might also want to pick up their pace “to see what you’ve got.”
Many times tourists and locals confuse all buggies as Amish buggies. Actually the Amish buggies are gray and black. Conservative Mennonite buggies are all black. Mennonite dress mostly in black, The Amish will usually incorporate purple and green in the women’s dress. Their beards identify married Amish men. Amish single men and Mennonite men are clean shaven. Lancaster County Amish do not drive cars or ride bicycles. Instead will roller blade or use manual scooters, where as Mennonite will ride bicycles and may drive cars.
Online information on the Amish may be found at here.
Cell Phone Signals
Some of the routes will be in very rural areas with variable cell phone signal coverage.
Map of LancasterCounty
The Lancaster County Planning Commission has a map available that shows the suitability of roads for bicycling in LancasterCounty. A copy can be ordered here. It may also be available at some bicycle shops.
Online Resources for Visiting Lancaster County
The Pennsylvania Dutch Visitors Center travel guide contains a listing of all the things to see and do and places to stay in Lancaster, Gettysburg and Hershey areas. They also list hotels and motels for your stay.
Pennsylvania Bicycle Drivers Manual
PennDOT publishes a Bicycle Drivers Manual that is available to download on-line.
LancasterCounty has the most covered bridges in Pennsylvania. Please use caution when entering a covered bridge, which are single lane. Your eyes must adjust from bright sunlight when entering a darkened bridge (especially with sunglasses), which can cause you to misjudge the wooden bridge surface. Gaps in the flooring or rough surfaces can present a danger to safe crossing. If in doubt walk your bicycle across the bridge. Caution notes appear on cue sheets at covered bridge locations.
Online information sites for Covered Bridges