Tips For Commuting Safely On Your Bike
Commuting to work on a bicycle is an excellent way to stay active and reduce your environmental impact, while also helping to reduce congestion in cities. Of course, most of the time when you’re commuting on your bike, you are doing so in the presence of many, many cars and pedestrians — and so you want to make sure you are getting to work and back home safely every day without an accident.
Bicycle commuting is a great thing to do for yourself and your world, so don’t let fear of accidents hold you back. There is a lot you can do to keep yourself safe on the roads, and we have listed some of the very best things you can do to commute safely on your bicycle below.
With a little bit of preparation, you can get on your bike confident every day, knowing you are prepared to safely hit the road.
Get the right gear
First things first — you’ll need safety gear. If you are riding in the city (or anywhere, really), you should be wearing a helmet. You can get additional padding and safety gear, but a helmet should be the minimum.
You also want your bike to be as visible as possible, which can be achieved with just a few small modifications. Attaching a small bike light to the front and back of your bike can help drivers see you (both in the daytime and at night); similarly placed reflective stickers or ornaments can also help.
You can wear reflective clothing when you bike, which creates another surface for light to bounce back to drivers on, alerting them to your presence and helping them avoid you.
Adding a mirror to your handlebars can help you keep a better eye on the cars around you, which can alert you to a distracted driver or one who doesn’t see you so that you can get out of the way sooner. The more alert and aware you are, the better you will avoid trouble.
Finally, you’ll want to add any gear that will keep your ride distraction-free. If you want use a map app on your phone while you ride, consider attaching a mount for your phone on your handlebars, so that you can see it without having to hold your phone in your hand. If you carry a purse that will hang down and bang against your legs as you pedal, consider carrying it in a messenger bag that will safely sling out of the way over your back, or installing a pannier bag over your back tires.
Don’t distract yourself with mobile devices or headphones
Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers — and so are distracted cyclists. When you’re on your bike, resist the urge to text or use your phone; when you don’t have your full attention on the road ahead and the conditions around you, you are far less likely to see trouble coming and be able to avoid it before it’s too late.
In addition, you always want to keep both of your hands free in case you need to brake quickly.
Wearing headphones (especially if you’re listening to something loud) can keep you from effectively noticing a bad situation too. Your hearing is one of your most important senses for alerting you to the presence of cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists around you, and without it, you are unnecessarily putting yourself at risk. If you absolutely must wear headphones, consider keeping just one earbud in or significantly lowering the volume.
Make yourself a part of traffic
If there aren’t bike lanes on the roads you take to work, becoming part of the flow of normal traffic is the best choice you can make to stay safe in traffic.
While it can be tempting to want to hug the curb, so that you’re out of the way of speeding cars, it is actually much safer for you to claim your space in the road. Why? Because when you’re on the road, you are visible. If you’re pulled way over to the side, a car is less likely to see you — which means more potential for you to get hit by a car pulling over or a driver swerving who sees you at the last second.
Try to line yourself up behind a car, and then stay as close to the middle of the lane as possible. The more space you claim (even if the driver behind you is annoyed), the safer you will be. In turn, make sure you are maintaining a reasonable speed and using hand signals to give the car behind you a heads up about your movements.
Use hand signals
If you are biking in the city, you’ll want to integrate yourself with normal traffic as much as possible, which means obeying all posted signs, following the directionality of each road and lane, and following signal lights.
However, as a cyclist, you don’t have things like turn signals, which drivers rely on to keep their cars safe and moving forward on the road. Your movements can often be much more unpredictable, and therefore, more unsafe.
Using hand signals helps you keep an open dialog with the cars around you, so they don’t accidentally merge into you or cut you off when you’re about to make a turn. Here are the basic signals you need to know:
The more clear you are about your expectations and upcoming movements, the better the cars around you can work with you and keep you safe.
Happy bicycle commuting!
When you bike smart, you bike safe. With these tips, we hope you will feel confident and prepared when you head out on the road every day.