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The unique dangers of biking in Montana

Earlier this year, USA Today reported the tragic death of Brad Treat, a Forest Service law enforcement officer killed by a grizzly bear in a biking accident in Montana’s Flathead National Forest. Treat and a companion were riding their mountain bikes when Treat rounded a blind curve at 20-25 miles per hour and collided with the bear.

Although Treat was an experienced mountain biker and biked these trails up to six times each week, neither he nor his companion carried a cellphone that day, nor any type of firearm or bear spray. The companion, riding a number of yards behind Treat, heard the impact and then saw the bear standing over Treat, who was lying on the ground. By the time the companion was able to summon help, it was too late. Trent had been mauled to death by the grizzly and his bike helmet bitten to pieces.

Even though this was the first time in history that a Montana biker was killed by a bear, it illustrates one of the unique dangers of biking in Montana. The Montana Board of Review recommends the following for safe mountain biking:

  • Never ride alone.
  • Be vigilant at all times.
  • Slow down.
  • Carry bear spray and make noise.

In addition, the Board recommends that mountain bikers never ride at night, including at dawn or dusk. Most importantly, bikers are urged to remember that they are visitors on Montana’s trails; the bears live there.

Montana bicycle laws

For bicyclists not riding the trails, Chapter 61 of the Montana Code Annotated sets forth the general laws regarding bicycle traffic. Bicyclists and moped operators have the same rights and duties as drivers of any other type of vehicle and are subject to the same laws. When riding at dawn, dusk or during the night, bike and moped riders have the following two choices with regard to their headlight:

  1. A headlamp attached to the bike itself
  2. A headlamp attached to their helmet

In either case, the headlamp must emit a white light visible at least 500 feet in front of them. In addition, their rear lamp or reflector must emit a red light visible at least 500 feet behind them.

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