Bike Safety Tips for Urban Cyclists

Protect Your Head Wear a Helmet

Stay aware of pedestrians; they are unpredictable and do not hear at 20mph. Stay visible to drivers by wearing brightly colored clothing and using lights after dark.

Act like a car. Drivers are used to seeing cars move in and out of traffic, so bikers who are predictable and check for traffic are less likely to be hit.

Wear a Helmet

Wearing a helmet is an important part of bike safety. Head injuries are the most common type of injury in bike accidents, and helmets can help reduce your risk of a severe brain trauma.

It is important that the helmet fits correctly. It should sit level on your head and be low enough so that the front edge is about two finger widths above your eyebrows. The straps should form a “Y” over your ears.

A brightly colored helmet can make you more visible to drivers, and you may also want to consider adding reflective tape or a headlamp. Make sure to practice proper hand signals, too.

Be Visible

Being visible is essential to your safety. Wear brightly colored clothing for daytime riding, and use lights and reflective materials at night. Use hand signals when turning and stopping, and ride predictably so drivers can see you and are less likely to hit you.

Be careful passing parked cars, as their doors can swing open in your path. When passing stopped cars, leave enough room (3 feet) so that if the door did open you would have time to evade it. This practice may feel clumsy at first, but over time it becomes second nature. Be ready to swerve quickly to avoid road hazards, such as sewer grates, oily pavement, and gravel.

Don’t Pass Too Closely

When passing a car, leave at least three feet of distance. A driver’s door can open suddenly and block your path.

It’s best to stay as far right as possible on the road and ride a minimum of a car-door width away from parked cars, or use a full traffic lane when safe and legal. When changing lanes, always check that the lane is clear and there are no vehicles coming up behind you before shifting into another lane.

Be especially careful on busy streets where drivers are likely to forget to look before turning. This is often the cause of “right hook” crashes.

Don’t Weave Between Parking Cars

Weaving between parked cars is an accident waiting to happen. Drivers may not see you and could open their door into your path. Stay a car door width away from parked cars, even when riding in a bike lane.

In addition to being a dangerous maneuver, weaving between parked cars is illegal in some cities. It can be tempting to hug the curb when using a bike lane or a traffic lane that is too narrow, but this can confuse motorists who want to pass you. Always look, signal and check mirrors before turning. Also, never ride with headphones or earbuds. They obstruct your ability to hear the traffic and surrounding noises that can alert you to potential hazards such as wet slick surfaces, metal sewer and drain covers and temporary road construction steel cover plates.

Don’t Ride in Lanes That Are Too Narrow

When you ride in a lane that is too narrow, it can be dangerous. Drivers may not see you and could accidentally hit you. They also might veer to the right and into your path or pass you aggressively.

When deciding where to ride, look for signs and markings that show you the way. You should also follow the pattern of traffic flow. Motorists do not mind slowing down for a visible, predictable cyclist nearly as much as they mind someone who suddenly swerves in front of them. In addition, parked cars can hide you from drivers who are about to turn into your lane.

Don’t Ride on Sidewalks

When riding on a sidewalk, you can run into pedestrians and other cyclists. You also might hit bumps, cracks, snags and other obstacles that could affect your bike’s performance.

Sidewalks are designed for pedestrians, not cyclists who travel at much faster speeds. Drivers at intersections and driveways often fail to see bikes on the sidewalk, so they can easily hit them when turning.

Riding on sidewalks may be legal in your area, but it’s not the safest option. If you’re unsure whether it’s safe to ride on the sidewalk, consider practicing on the road until you feel confident that you can handle traffic in a professional manner.

Written by