Now that spring is here, and summer’s just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get that bicycle out of the shed, tuned up, and on the road. But before you go on your next two-wheeled adventure, it’s best to refresh yourself on the ins and outs of basic bicycle safety.
Tune up. If your bike has been neglected all winter, make sure it’s in proper working order before you start riding. Check the brakes, ensure the wheels are true, and that the tires are not dried out or cracked. If you want to go the DIY route, take a bike repair class, or just drop your ride off at your local bike shop for some TLC.
Make sure you are visible. Wear bright clothing and make sure your bike has reflectors. If you’re cycling after dusk, use a bright headlight. Helmet-mounted lights are the best, because then you can look directly at drivers to make sure they see your light.
Be extra careful around trucks. Many cycling accidents involve trucks and other big vehicles, which have large blind spots. Never wait at a standstill between a truck and the curb. Never pass a truck on the right. While riding or waiting at a light, stay in front of the truck, where you can be seen, or behind the truck, where you can keep an eye on it.
Look drivers in the eye. When you make eye contact with drivers and smile, they are more likely to see you as a fellow road user they want to avoid running over.
Learn to look behind you without wobbling. Once you’ve mastered that, do it often.
Use your arm to indicate turns. Stick your arm straight out to the left to make a left turn, bent upwards to make a right. One thing to keep in mind when turning is to assume you are invisible.
You can hang out in the middle of the street, stopped, with your left arm out, waiting to make your turn, but you’re in trouble if you are counting on cars behind you to see you and stop. Better to wait for a break in traffic and then make your turn.
Wear a helmet. Yes, it might flatten your hair. Better that than to end up a perfectly coiffed corpse.
Don’t get mad. Banging on windows or trunks and cursing across junctions and crossings will only reinforce the view held by a dangerous minority of car drivers that cyclists are their enemies.
If a road seems dangerous, dismount. Walk your bicycle on the sidewalk until traffic quiets down.
Don’t listen to music. It’s more important to hear what’s going on around you when you’re biking than when you’re driving. Similarly, texting or talking with a mobile phone is extremely dangerous. When you mix with car traffic, the fewer distractions the better. Also, you’ll want both hands free in case you have to brake suddenly.
Keep it clean. Before and after every ride, inspect your bicycle for damage, such as broken cables, bent spokes, and worn brake pads. Especially make sure the chain is well oiled—the last thing you want is a jammed chain when there’s a truck on your tail.