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Riding through the city on a bicycle is something that scares a lot of people. It could be the noise, honking, and bullying by other vehicles – cars and trucks. It could also be the fear of having a larger vehicle colliding with you, as minimally protected as you are. These fears are legitimate, but if you know what you are doing, you can reduce the risk to the barest minimum.
This might seem pretty basic but it’s something a lot of city riders tend to overlook. Does your state require you to wear a helmet? Are you legally allowed to pass a car on its left? Can you ride on the sidewalks? Knowing all this would make sure you know what other road users expect of you.
A good place to start is to always follow the rules of the road that would apply if you were using a car. This means you shouldn’t run lights, cut people off, and you should ride in the correct lane. You should also avoid riding on the sidewalk; it’s made for walkers not riders. Make sure you ride on the right side of the lane with the flow of traffic.
It could be life threatening for you to assume that drivers can see you. Although we all expect them to be watchful, depending on everyone to be as careful as you are could be very perilous. Most bike lanes happen to be on the right, so you should assume that every car next to you or in front of you is turning right. You should also never ride close to a car’s blind spot, or ride so fast that you can’t stop when you need to.
When you are riding near a parked car with someone in it, assume the driver will open the door onto your lane.
Basically, the idea is never to assume anything of a car driver. Always be extra careful when riding next to one. Don’t expect that cars will stop for you, even if they ought to. Err on the side of caution as much as possible.
You might enjoy listening to awesome music on your commute, but if you really care for your safety, don’t wear headphones while riding. You can make an exception when you are on a bicycle path or a car-free road. Whenever you have to use your headphones, make sure the volume isn’t so high that you can hear nothing else.
Becoming invisible at night is definitely not going to be good for you. If you ride at night, make sure you have lights for the front and back of your ride. This is especially useful in the winter months when the darkness creeps up on you. Make sure you remove the lights when you lock your bike though; they are easy targets for thieves.
This is quite important. If you’ve every tripped and fallen because you were wearing a shoe that was just a bit too large for you, it’ll be easy for you to understand how the same thing can happen with a bicycle that doesn’t fit – with more disastrous consequences. An ill-fitting bike will be quite unwieldy and difficult to handle. To get a handle on your correct size, use the size charts on the manufacturer’s website. Sizing chart aside, nothing beats trying it out to see if it actually fits.
A lot of riders think the bicycle lane is a safe zone that allows for occasional indiscretions. Well, it isn’t. It’s just another lane on the road. Cars can sometimes merge into it, or cut you off. Some people can open the doors of their parked cars into the lane, and a lot of other unexpected things can happen. Be as alert as you would be if you were riding in the middle of the street.
You might be tempted to use beach cruisers and mountain bikes because of their size. They can easily crush through anything (except cars and other every other road vehicle), but those models were designed for completely different things from navigating the bends and corners of the city. The best urban bikes are road and commuter cycles. They often have a single gear and are easier to control. However, due to their lack of gears, they might not be so cool for a place with a lot of hills.
You can use Google Maps to get cycling directions. If you don’t know your way around, Google Maps can help you plot out your route. It will guide you along cycle-friendly streets. At the very least, you’ll avoid four lane roads with a lot of cars on the side, which can be distracting and dangerous. You can even break the no-headphone rule to get turn by turn directions.
Before hitting the road, make sure your cycle is road worthy. You wouldn’t want to barrel into traffic because you have busted brakes. Make sure you check out things like the brake, the shifters, the tires, and all other life-dependent functions. Don’t forget to check your tire pressure before going out on the streets. If it is low, you can check its PSI on the side of your tire and get it pumped to that level.
You should also carry out regular maintenance on your cycle. If you want to do it yourself, YouTube is a great place to get tutorials. Otherwise, take it to a bicycle mechanic near you for regular maintenance.