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How to Be Safe on the Bike

Ready to take to your bike to the streets and start road cycling or commuting? We know riding your bike in traffic can be intimidating, but with these tips, you will be on your way to becoming a safer and more confident rider.

1. Always ride with a helmet.

Wearing a helmet is smart, not only because it protects your brain (you only get one), but also because most helmets have reflective accents that help you be seen on the road.

2. Wear colorful/reflective clothing.

No, you don’t have to rock full spandex on your ride into work. Wear what you feel comfortable in for the length of ride you are doing and the type of bike you are riding on. However, your commute may not be the best time to break out that all-black jumpsuit. Be smart about your clothing choices and know that brighter clothes make you more visible on the road. Do you commute to work in a high-traffic area where the weather is unpredictable? A wind or rain jacket with reflective accents could serve as a functional and safe addition to your cycling wardrobe. Cycling gloves and shoes also have reflective accents that help you be seen, but are not necessary for every commute.

3. Always ride with lights, day or night.

Lighting up your bike is a good idea any time of day or night. Small flashing lights are easy to use and could help motorists see you.

4. Perform a safety check on your bike.

Always check tire pressure, brakes, bolts and make sure your drivetrain is working properly before you head out on your ride. Even though you may only be heading out on a short trip, getting a flat tire due to improper inflation will slow you down, and could cause a safety hazard. Check out our ABC Safety Check to learn how to make sure your bike is safe to ride.

5. Be prepared!

It is better to be safe than sorry. Here are some items you might be forgetting on your next road ride or commute: Identification, money, a fully charged cell phone, bike lock, sunglasses, sunscreen, extra lights, extra layers of clothing, tube, patch kit, multi-tool, tire levers, CO2 and/or bike pump.

6. Know the rules of the road.

Be familiar with your local traffic laws. In most cases, you should ride your bike like you are a vehicle and obey all the same traffic laws as a car. However, in some areas laws differ for cyclist. Know before you go!

7. Practice, practice, practice!

If you are new to cycling—or just have a new bike—get used to riding on neighborhood roads before heading out into busy streets. Get comfortable looking behind you while maintaining a straight path; it is a skill you will use often while riding in traffic.

8. Learn your local cycling routes.

Let’s face it; some roads are just better for cycling than others. Make sure you know your go-to routes so you don’t have to rely on your phone or a map while you are on your way into work or out for a spin. Not only can you avoid the high-traffic areas, you can also take note of those steep hills!

9. Learn proper hand signals and use them!

Bike Safety Hand signals

Drivers and other cyclists cannot read your mind. At all times, signal your intent, whether it is to turn right or left, slow or stop, or …

10. Move over for parked cars.

You may have to move over into a traffic lane while riding for various reasons—a pothole, loose gravel or pedestrians. Always move over into the traffic lane to give yourself at least 3 feet/ 1 meter between you and a car parked along the street to avoid hitting a car door that suddenly opens.

11. Stay to the right, but not out of sight!

When riding with traffic, stay to the right of the lane, but not if it compromises your safety. If the lane is too narrow for a driver to pass safely within the lane, ride more to the center of the lane. This will ensure the driver slows down to pass, without getting too close for comfort. If visibility is compromised because of curving roads, make yourself more visible by riding to the center of the lane.

12. Stay alert, keep your cool and be confident.

Riding in traffic is not the time to think about what you are going to fix for dinner. Stay alert and never assume a driver sees you on your bike. Make eye contact with drivers when possible. If a driver makes an error and compromises your safety, keep your cool. Getting angry will only make the situation worse. Pull over to the side of the road, take some time to catch your breath and consider how you might prevent the situation in the future. The best way to stay safe on the road is to ride with confidence.

You’ve got this!

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