The benefits of cycling range from improving the quality of your health to improving the quality of the environment, so it’s no wonder there’s been a tremendous increase in its popularity on the global scale. Many countries have seen a boost in the number of bikes being used for recreation and transportation with studies reporting a 60 - 70 percent increase in the US over the past 10 years. While cycling has been proven to burn calories, help your heart, clear your mind, and save the planet, it doesn’t come without a few risks. Here are a few tips for how you can be a safer cyclist.
Get The Proper Gear
Whether you’re gearing up for your first ride, or cycling is just part of the daily commute, make sure you have everything you need for a safe and comfortable journey. That starts with examining your bike. Do the tires have enough air? Do the brakes work? Are the pedals rotating smoothly? Taking an extra minute to look over your bike prior to setting off could potentially save you hours of dealing with a flat tire or busted chain later.
If you’re sharing the road with other vehicles, it’s also a good idea to equip your bike with side mirrors. Adjust them to the best position prior to peddling off. Make sure your bell or horn is functioning properly.
Cushioned shorts and cycling gloves are optional accessories that can make your ride more comfortable, but one accessory that shouldn’t be an option is a helmet. While most laws don’t require adults to wear a helmet, it’s the best way to protect yourself on a bike.
Part of the experience for many cyclists is being able to enjoy the wind on their face and the natural sounds of the world around them, but if you’re someone who prefers music while you ride, consider AfterShokz bone conduction headphones. Having your ears open to your surroundings can keep you aware of any potential risks while you jam out to Miley Cyrus, Bruno Mars, or whoever else occupies your Spotify playlist.
Make Yourself Visible
On your bicycle you’re more vulnerable to motorcycles, cars, and trucks. While it’s their job to be aware of you and to give you ample space, it’s your job to help make it easy by taking steps to make your presence is known. Performance wear that’s specifically designed for cyclists will often include splashes of bright color and reflective strips for better visibility. On a tight budget? Try neon colored clothing or a reflective vest.
Even if you’re less of a road biker and more of a mountain biker, it’s still important to be seen. Should you get lost or become injured, bright colors will make you easy to spot.
You should also make sure your bike is equipped with the proper reflectors. In fact, in some countries, cycling without the proper reflectors is illegal. Reflectors should be located at minimum in front and in back of your bike, but it never hurts to add more.
While reflectors can help catch the attention of an oncoming car, for those cycling at night, it may not be enough. Consider adding a headlight to the front of your bike and LED lights to the wheels and back end.
Obey Traffic Laws
A bicycle is considered a road vehicle so when you’re cycling to work, you won’t be following the same rules as when you’re taking your evening jog. You should be cycling on the right side of the road going with traffic and never on the sidewalk (unless you’re a child under 12).
When commuting by bicycle, you’re expected to obey traffic lights and road signs the same way you would if you were behind the wheel. Indicate to other drivers which direction you plan to travel by using hand signals for stop, right turn and left turn.
If pulling up to an intersection, make sure you stop before the crosswalk so pedestrians can safely get by. And just because you can shoot across the street between passing cars outside the structure of an intersection doesn’t mean you should.
Practice Safe Cycling Habits
Many countries and states have made it illegal to consume alcohol, talk on the phone, or text while cycling the same way that it’s illegal to perform these activities while driving, but even if those actions are not prohibited in your area, it’s safer for you and the commuters around you if you’re aware and alert.
And while you may be an expert and peddling in a straight line with no hands on the bar, this can be distracting and nerve-racking to passing drivers at best, and create a dangerous situation at worst. You should always keep at least one hand on the bar.