Bicycling is a popular hobby, and has become an increasingly common way for people to get around without using a vehicle. It can be fun, cost effective, and helpful to the environment, and is also good exercise, but there are some significant safety risks when cycling, particularly when you are traveling amidst both pedestrian and vehicle traffic or in a downtown or city area. There are some important safety tips to keep in mind when you choose to cycle, both in and outside of the city.
Always wear a helmet
This advice seems incredibly obvious, yet you would be surprised at the number of cyclists you see out and about without a helmet. You may occasionally think that because you are only traveling a short distance, or are on a flat trail away from cars or many other cyclists or pedestrians, you would be fine without a helmet, but cycling without proper headgear is never advisable. You never know when your bike could experience a malfunction, an animal or person could appear out of nowhere and startle you, or some other unexpected occurrence could lead you to lose control of your bike and result in severe head injury. Additionally, many states have either state or local laws that require use of a bike helmet, and you could land a ticket or fine if you are not in compliance. Make sure the helmet is in good repair and is properly fitted to your head. You can consult with a cycling or sporting goods store to make sure you have a helmet that is going to do its job.
Make sure your bike is in good repair
The same way that you need to make sure that your car is up to date on maintenance, your bike should be checked out and tuned up as well. Making sure that the correct amount of air is in the tires is an important, yet overlooked, safety aspect of cycling. Most bicycle tires will have the correct air inflation range printed on the tired itself, but when in doubt, check with manufacturing info or take it to a professional. Also keep an eye on the tire treads to ensure they are not too worn down or thin to sustain braking or skidding. Be cautious of anything on your bike that appears bent or rusted, including spokes, handlebars, and the seat, and regularly check that the brakes are working do not need to be replaced.
Make sure your bike is properly fitted with headlights and taillights
Any cyclist who rides at dusk or night needs to ensure that they can see where they are going and remain aware of their surroundings, but even daytime riders should look into equipping their bikes with headlights and taillights. During overcast or rainy weather, use of those lights will help drivers and pedestrians see you on your bike better, and you can flash the lights as an extra precaution to approaching vehicles or other riders.
Use the most appropriate route for city cycling
Before you head out to your destination, you should do some research on the best and safest route to get there by bicycle. Most map apps or websites include a “bicycle” option for the route, the same way that you can choose between a car, walking, or public transportation. This will give you a better idea of where bike paths or lanes are located, so you can avoid getting caught in congested streets that can pose high risks to bikers. This can also help you to avoid dangerous situations to bikers, such as busy, multi-lane intersections and narrow roads.
Know and follow all traffic laws
Many cyclists who are new to riding on city streets or major roadways are not aware that they must abide by traffic laws. It poses a danger to the cyclist, vehicles, and pedestrians when cyclists do not follow the flow of traffic, stoplights and signs, use turn signals, or when they weave in and out of traffic or alternate between riding on sidewalks and roads. Take some time to learn the laws that apply to bicycles in your city, and the appropriate hand signals to use when riding in traffic. Stay at safe distances from vehicles and other cyclists, be conscious of your speed, know when you should walk rather than ride your bike, and never drink and ride your bike.
Doing a little research before hopping on your bike can help you have a more enjoyable ride or commute and give you the peace of mind that you are helping to protect yourself and others from a cycling accident. It can also help improve the attitude that drivers and pedestrians have toward sharing the road with cyclists.