Staying Safe On National Bike To Work Day
It’s National Bike To Work Day. If you plan on still taking your car today, it’s good to be aware of this holiday since there may be an increase in cyclists on the road. If you plan on participating in the holiday, that’s great! Maybe it will warm you up to the idea of biking to work—and everywhere—more often, not only saving precious gas money but also burning calories early in the day and reducing your carbon footprint. That being said, many people only hop on their bicycles for this one day of the year, and are a little rusty when it comes to how to navigate the city safely on two wheels. If you live in an urban area, riding a bicycle comes with a particular set of hazards. Don’t just take your old, dusty bike out of storage five minutes before you leave for work, planning to hop on and ride off as if you do this every day if you do not do this every day. Here are tips for staying safe on National Bike To Work Day.
Inspect your bicycle
If you haven’t taken the old bike out of the shed in a while, be sure to inspect it before hopping on. Make sure the chain isn’t cracked in any spot and is turning properly. Make sure the brakes are working. Check the air pressure on each tire and look over the tires for any holes. It’s better to discover these issues in the safety of your driveway than through a mishap on the road.
Practice if it’s been a while
You know the old saying, “It’s like riding a bike?” the implication being that is something you never forget to do? Well, don’t fall for it or you may literally fall over (I did!) If you haven’t ridden in years, your legs may be wobbly. It’s best to take the bike for a spin in a safe, quiet area before heading out into the busy city streets.
Plan a calm route
Don’t automatically bike the same roads to work that you’d normally drive. These may be too hectic for a cyclist. Take a look at your city map and identify quieter streets with less traffic. Only traverse major boulevards when you have to.
Be cautious of parked car doors
Stay at least three feet away from parked cars, with the understanding that, at any moment, someone inside those cars could open their door, sending you crashing into the door, and flying heels over head.
Do not weave in and out of traffic
Do not weave between cars in order to bypass traffic. This is a common way cyclists get into accidents. Drivers are not used to preparing for the reality that a bicyclist may come zipping by them at any time, when all of the other vehicles are at a stand still.
Respect lights and stop signs
Though the laws around cyclists and traffic signals are different in every city, and some say they simply don’t apply to cyclists, obey these signals anyways. It’s the best way for you to stay safe. Blowing a stop sign or red light, though possibly legal, does increase your chances of getting in an accident.
Never make an assumption
Never assume a driver has seen you. Never assume a driver will stop. Never assume a driver won’t be making a turn, just because his turn signal isn’t on. Assumptions can get you into some dangerous situations out there. Always err on the side of safety, communicate with other drivers as much as you can, and prepare for the possibility that others will be unpredictable.
Make eye contact with drivers
Make eye contact with drivers before doing any maneuver that you think could put you at risk. Whether you’re crossing in front of them, or taking the right of way at a stop sign, make sure some communication has occurred first.
Use hand signals
Brush up on your cycling hand signals, as these are some of the greatest ways to communicate your next move to drivers and other cyclists.
When others can’t see you, make noise
If you are approaching someone from behind, or you simply know that a driver, other cyclist, or pedestrian has not seen you, use your voice to alert them to your presence, or ring your bell. A simple “Passing on the left!” could prevent an accident.
Wear a helmet, elbow and kneepads
Though they may not be the most attractive things, and while they can be clunky to store once you arrive at your destination, proper headgear can make the difference between life and death in an accident. And elbow and kneepads can greatly reduce cuts and scratches.
Use reflectors at night
Depending on the time of year, the sun may set before you head home. Make sure your bicycle has reflectors. You, too, should wear reflective clothing. Add a headlight to your bike. Do everything you can to make your bicycle visible in the dark.
Generally make yourself visible
Even during the day, it’s important to make yourself visible. Remember that drivers aren’t used to looking for cyclists. Wear bright, reflective clothing so drivers can easily spot you.
Be cautious around right turn lanes
While there are laws surrounding when a driver may enter the bicycle lane in order to make a right turn, many drivers don’t obey those laws. If you are approaching a red light, be aware that drivers may suddenly pull into the bike lane early to make their right turn.