Now that the weather is warming up again, it is time to break out the bikes and get riding! Here are my top 9 tips for safe cycling:
1. Wear a helmet. Even if you think they don’t look “cool” or whatever, wear one anyways. Because even if you are aware of your surroundings and riding as safely as possible, it doesn’t mean that the drivers and other cyclists around you are.
Sixteen years ago, a car of teenagers ran my dad off the road just because they could. He ended up with six broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a punctured lung and a lot of road rash. But his helmet saved his life. Dan’s crashed after getting cut off by a turning car; a car backed out of a driveway into our friend, breaking both his wrists; and I hit my head when I fell because my bike dropped its chain on a hill.
So again, even if you are riding safely, it doesn’t mean the people around you are behaving safely or your equipment won’t surprise you. Wear a helmet.
2. Get comfortable with riding on the road, or find a trail. You have every right to be on the road, so use it. Drivers are required by law in many states to give you three feet of space when they pass you. Technically you have the right to a full lane, but I typically stick to the right side of the lane to give cars more room to pass me. Key exception: if I am on a steep downhill or a particularly curvy road, I take the whole lane…it isn’t safe for cars to pass me here anyways!
Note: For heaven’s sakes, don’t ride on the sidewalks. It is annoying to pedestrians, you’re more likely to be hit by someone pulling their car out of their driveway, and in many states, it is illegal. If you’re riding with little kids, I’ll give you a pass; otherwise, get on the road or find a designated bike trail.
3. Know the rules of the road, and follow them. Rule of thumb: bikes are held to the same standards as cars. Ride in the right lane, stop at stop signs and red lights, signal your turns, etc.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. This means: no headphones. No cell phones while in motion. Maybe a mirror for your helmet or handlebars. If you must use headphones, use only the right earbud (so you’ll hear cars coming on the left) and keep the volume low.
5. Get a Road ID, or some other easy-to-find ID. That way, should there be an accident, people will know who to call. I always recommend carrying something other than, or in addition to, the “in case of emergency” contacts on your phone– what if it breaks in the accident?
6. Carry a phone, at least if you’re going to be biking in the countryside. If you’re in an accident or your bike breaks, you’ll want to be able to call for help.
7. Carry some basic tools for tire changes, and know how to use them. At least you won’t have to call someone to pick you up if you get a flat.
8. Get lights and reflectors, especially if you will be riding in the mornings or evenings. Make it easy for people to see you as they approach! Dan has even taken to using his lights during the day, just for a little extra visibility.
9. Hydrate safely. Bring a water bottle with you on long ride. Either practice to get yourself comfortable with reaching down for it and drinking on the go, or plan to pull over to drink water often. Or do what I did and get a Camelbak (bonus: there are pockets for a phone, key and energy bars!).