Biking isn’t just for spandex and brand-wearing elites anymore! More and more people are discovering the benefits of riding a bike every day, and the number of regular bike commuters grew to 70 percent in the United States between the years of 2000-2009. Getting on a bicycle allows you to enjoy a stress free commute, get in some low-impact exercise, reduce your carbon footprint, and you get the best parking spot at your destination!
At first, getting started with riding a bicycle may be a little intimidating. After you’ve found the bike for you, how do you stay safe on the road? We’ve got the tips you need to ride like a pro!
Make sure your bike is road ready.
Check your tire pressure, and make sure they aren’t under-inflated or over-inflated. Set your bike seat at a comfortable height. Check your brakes to ensure they’re in good working order. Ensure that your chain is well lubricated. Remember to bring a bike lock if you’re going to be stopping somewhere along the way. Taking the time before you leave will reduce the possibility of a headache later!
Wear a helmet.
Although some people argue whether or not it’s truly safer, there are others that passionately advocate for wearing a helmet when cycling. In some states, it’s required – especially if you have young children riding with you. Ultimately the choice is up to you, but it’s important to remember that as a cyclist you’re completely exposed. A helmet provides added protection for your precious brain, and we think your head is pretty great!
You may not seem to sweat as much when you’re biking as when you’re jogging or lifting weights, but you’ll definitely want to stay hydrated. You won’t want to be parched after climbing an unexpected hill, or pedaling faster to catch up with your biking friends. For a refreshing twist (and to help entice you to reach for that water bottle), add some True Lemon Raspberry Lemonade to your water!
Remember your lights!
In many places, it is required by law to use bike lights after dark. You should have a red light in the rear, and a white light in the front of your bicycle. It is difficult for drivers to see cyclists at night, so this is a key component in staying safe on the road.
Act like a car.
Bicycles are considered road vehicles, just like cars and trucks. Come to a stop at stop lights and stop signs. Yield to pedestrians. Signal when turning. Stay to the right of the lane, but move to the left side of the lane when turning left. You wouldn’t drive on the sidewalk, so do not bike on the sidewalk! This is dangerous for both crossing in front of stopped cars, and for pedestrians – and in most cities, it’s illegal. Also, bike in the same direction as traffic!
This is one of the easiest ways to avoid collisions, with cars as well as other bikers! All biking signals are done with your left arm only, so be sure to keep your right hand on the handlebars for stability.
- To turn left, extend your left arm straight out to your side, parallel to the ground.
- To turn right, extend your left arm straight from your shoulder with the elbow bent and your left hand pointing straight up. Your arm will form an “L” shape.
If you are crossing lanes of traffic to prepare to turn left, begin signaling when you see that your path is clear to make drivers aware that you’re cutting across.
Respect other cyclists.
Use a bike horn or bell when you’re passing another cyclist, or speak up to make them aware that you’re passing. Since cyclists should always bike on the right side of the lane, always pass other bikers on the left. Always check for cars behind you before merging with traffic to pass.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Don’t use headphones, as this can limit your ability to hear when other cars or bikers are present. Ride closer to the center of the street when there are cars parked on the right, and be sure to keep an eye out for people that might open their doors. Be aware of riding in drivers’ blind spots, especially when drivers are turning right when at a stoplight. Often times bike lanes are on the right side of the road, and the driver may not notice before they turn in front of you.
Bring a tool kit!
If you’re biking for more than a mile or two, you may find a repair kit helpful to bring along. If you’re not sure how to fix a flat, consider taking a bicycling basics class at a local bike shop, or make a note of repair shops that are in the area in which you are headed.
Use common sense.
If you’re coming to a blind corner or alleyway, slow down and check for cars. If a car is stopped at an intersection where you’re passing, be sure the driver sees that you’re coming by making eye contact. And we shouldn’t even have to say this, but do not text and bike!
Cycling is about getting outside and enjoying yourself! Being safe is not just about taking these precautionary steps, but it’s also about not stressing out. Relax, have fun, smile, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors!
For more information, Bicycle Safe has an excellent and fully detailed list of how to avoid accidents. Cycling is also a wonderful way to explore a new city (and stay in shape) while on vacation!
[Credit: Breene, Sophia. “Road Bike Safety 101: How to Get There, Get Fit, and Not Get Hit.” Greatist.]
[Credit: Bluejay, Michael. “How to Not Get Hit By Cars.” Bicycle Safe.]