“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation to motor vehicle travel and encourages the adoption of mutual respect between motorists and bicyclists to enhance safety for all road users, including bicyclists. Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights, and responsibilities as motorized vehicles.”

There’s nothing worse than a reformed smoker, unless it’s a cycling critic turned cycle enthusiast. I confess to being both.

Virginia Slims used to be my cigarette of choice, until I quit smoking 37 years ago. Exercise helped me kick the habit.

To deal with the stress of not smoking, I started running with my friend Jane. I still remember the evening I finally jogged a mile down Ninth Street in front of her house; Rocky Balboa couldn’t have been prouder.

Without cigarettes, my lung capacity improved and I was able to play racket ball several times a week — and of course there was tennis and golf, walking 18 holes and carrying my bag, burning calories so I could justify a double cheeseburger and fries.

As the decades of life wore on, my knees began to wear out. I quit playing tennis and racket ball, and gave up jogging for walking, but continued golf, until my back started acting up. Like so many of us, aches and pains benched my more vigorous workouts, but walking an hour a day most days of the week helped me feel good all over, as well as working out on an elliptical machine.

A few years ago, even daily walks started to bother my knee — the good knee — not the one I injured in a water skiing accident in my 20s. Not being able to walk the Rotary Riverfront Trail without limping was the pits. The answer to my dilemma came from my sister. Jackie and her husband Ron had taken up biking, but I’d balked at the idea.

When I stopped being so hardheaded, I gave it a try — said no the first time — then gave it another shot. The knee felt great, and with that Spark and I went to see Joe at Revolution Cycles. He fixed us up with bikes, helmets and a nifty bike rack.

One of our routes is to bike to Southpoint, pick up the Rotary Riverfront Trail, then ride around Lion’s Lake and back. The hills in Washington are killers, but we get a great workout, and many more miles than if we’d just ride the trail back and forth. On weekends, we head for Illinois, go to Creve Coeur, hit the Grant Trail or join our daughter Kate in Columbia to ride the Katy.

Prior to taking up this hobby, I was critical of cyclists on the trail, griping when they’d fly around me without signaling their approach. On roadways too, I wasn’t particularly kind. I didn’t understand that cyclists have a right to the road, just like drivers, even though “Share the Road” signs are quite common these days.

I’m now pedaling in someone else’s shoes. Safety is paramount. I never ride without a helmet, and I’ve done my best to learn the rules cyclists should follow. These rules have been a bit of a challenge for me, but I’m enjoying biking so much that I want to be comfortable on the road and on the trail.

I’m more fit now than ever, alternating long walks with long rides, and I’m using less gas — often jumping on my bike for a quick trip to the store, or to drop a letter at the post office.

Next month, Spark and I are taking a road trip to the top two biking cities in the United States, Minneapolis and Boulder, and to Rapid City, S.D., to ride a trail there. Cycling isn’t just green, it’s good for the economy, bringing visitors to cities to spend money.

Spark’s a bit worried about that. Shopping is another hobby I truly enjoy, and it isn’t hard on my knees at all.

To learn more about biking rules of the road, check out the following website: bikeleague.org/resources/better/roadrules.php.