Cycling makes it fun to explore new places, stay in shape, and spend time with friends; And whether you cycle for leisure or plan to begin some serious Lance Armstrong-like training, it can also be dangerous.
Cyclists that ride on the road are usually putting themselves at risk of an injury or accident, especially in major metropolitan cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle, where cycling is more about transportation and less about exercise. Instead of driving or riding public transit, many opt for getting to work or school on a bike. Even though these areas have pushed to become bicycle-friendly, with dedicated bike lanes, street signals, and advocacy programs, it doesn’t mean riders can ignore important safety precautions.
The point is: no matter where or why you ride, you should practice safe cycling habits and know what to keep in mind when you’re out on the road. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself and others.
1. Wear Your Helmet
- Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of a serious head injury by 85 percent, according to Cleveland Clinic data, and can potentially save your life. If the helmet that you own is too big or loose, visit your local bike shop ASAP. They’ll fit you for the right size.
2. Use Hand Signals
Cyclists are considered vehicles, meaning they must obey the same traffic laws as motorists. Before making a turn, lane change, or coming to a full stop, use your arms to communicate what you are about to do. This way drivers have time to adjust and anticipate the move ahead of time. If you are making a left turn, fully extend your left arm. If you are making a right turn, fully extend your right arm. When coming to a stop, extend your left arm out at a right angle with your hand open.
3. Be Seen
Don’t assume that every passing vehicle can see you. Wear fluorescent gear and install reflective lights on your bike to make sure you’re visible. If you have to ride at night, headlamps, ankle lights, or wheel lights are also great because they help oncoming traffic to quickly spot you. Make sure to bring an extra set of disposable batteries with you in case your lights go out, too.
4. Avoid Busy Streets
It’s not smart to cycle on the same streets you drive on. Take the back roads if you can or cut through a neighborhood to steer clear of heavy traffic. Plan to ride at times when you know traffic won’t be jammed and drivers won’t be in a hurry to get home (e.x. rush hour). If there’s no way around the main road, don’t freak out. Ride in a straight line, stay on the inside of the lane, and always be aware of your surroundings.
5. Check Your Bike
Before heading out to ride, ensure everything on your bike is working properly. Check to see if the front and the back tires have enough air and that your brakes aren’t worn down. Your chain should be well lubricated and shift easily between gears. Pay extra attention to any loose or broken parts that need fixing.