Cycling safety is high on my list of priorities. Maybe it’s because I know that at the end of the ride, I still need to go home and care for my precious kids whether or not I have a broken collarbone. Maybe it’s because I don’t like pain – road rash hurts! And perhaps it’s just because I don’t like paying for hospital bills and bike repairs. Regardless, I’m always looking for ways to stay safe – and help others be safe – when cycling so I can get home in the same shape I left.
Don’t you love seeing all the yellow “share the road” signs… and I love that people are actively working to keep cyclists safer on the road. No one wants to be the victim of carelessness or road rage, and lobbying for better infrastructure, more signs, and more awareness is a great thing. We need it!
But I like to think of those yellow signs as reminders to cyclists, too! It goes both ways – cyclists need to share the road with cars and trucks. And while that doesn’t mean we are relegated to riding on the shoulder, there are some things we can do to keep ourselves, our fellow cyclists, and the rest of the traffic safer when we ride.
Here are a few tips we can incorporate in any group ride:
- Ride two abreast. A short line of two cyclists is much easier to pass than a long, single line. Most of the time, it’s safer to ride two across as long as you are close to each other- but try to stay in the right 1/3 of the car lane. Filling the entire lane makes it too hard for cars and even other cyclists to pass you.
- Don’t cross the yellow line. If you’ve ever ridden with me, you probably know this is one of my pet peeves! Don’t ride on the yellow line. First of all, the paint can be slippery and cause you to fall. But second of all, you are dangerously close to oncoming traffic who might not have time to get out of your way. A head on collision with a car will not end well for anyone.
- Ride predictably. Ride smoothly and at an even pace – don’t sprint ahead only to slam on your breaks. Keep a smooth and consistent speed, and make sure you hold your line, especially when cornering. Keep it straight and steady. Avoid zigzagging, slamming on your brakes, letting go of the handlebars, or anything else that can be surprising to the person behind you.
- Use hand signals. It’s as simple as pointing in the direction you are going to go. It lets your fellow cyclists – and traffic – know what to expect from you.
- Call out or point out road hazards. Always warn your fellow cyclists if there are potholes, speedbumps, roadkill, or anything else that can pose a risk to bicyclists. And make your intentions clear. Let them and the traffic behind you know if you have to go around it.
- Be visible. Wear bright colors and remember that traffic can’t see you as well as you can see them. Use lights at night but don’t blind the traffic coming towards you. If you are making a left turn across traffic, keep aware that the traffic in the other direction might not see you so you give yourself extra space.
- Make eye contact. People in cars don’t always make the connection that cyclists are people, too. Make eye contact, smile, and wave when you can. It might make someone’s day, but they’re more likely to see you when you make good eye contact.
- Be polite. If you hear a car, try to get over and give them room to pass. Don’t be obnoxious just because you can.
- Follow traffic rules. I hear a lot of non-cyclist drivers complain because cyclists don’t follow the traffic rules. They make a good point! Be smart and obey traffic rules. Besides, you could get a ticket if you don’t.
- Keep your bike maintained. Bike issues can cause accidents, and you can minimize crashes and falls by keeping your bike in good shape. And always make sure your tires have air and your skewers are properly tightened on every ride.
- Don’t do stupid things. Don’t take stupid chances in traffic. Don’t dart out in front of a car. Be mindful of vehicles parked on the side of the road. There’s just no reason good enough to take a dumb chance and risk a ride in the ambulance instead of home on your bike. If you really want to race, don’t do it in a group ride – come out and try the track or give it a go at the Thursday Night Rodale Crit.
Most people aren’t out to get cyclists, but they may be in a rush, they may be tired, stressed, or simply not paying close attention. But a little extra attention on our part to how we ride can help keep us all safer.