We’ve all been there.
You’re riding your bike, minding your own business, and even doing a steady clip of 18–20 mph. But that’s not fast enough for the car behind you. The driver honks, gets too close and eventually speeds by at an unnecessary speed just to intimidate you.
The shouts of “Get on the sidewalk!” aren’t productive. They’re also legally wrong, as cyclists adhere to the same rules as cars, not pedestrians.
So as a cyclist, it pays to bike defensively. Always beware of your surroundings and take care when changing lanes or navigating intersections. While we can’t make cars respect cyclists’ right to the roadways, we can adopt certain measures to mitigate tension and protect ourselves in the process.
We’re all in this together, whether we like sharing the streets or not. So read on for five tips to not antagonize drivers — and most important, to keep you safe on the road.
1. KEEP IT COLORFUL
That all-black kit might look cool, but it’s not doing you any visibility favors. Wearing a bright jersey can certainly help and is a great starting point. But a Clemson University study found that fluorescent-yellow leg coverings are the better choice. In an experiment, cyclists with bright legs were recognized easier on the road, because our eyes are naturally drawn to movements like pedaling. So sport some shorts with a pop of color and never go unnoticed again.
2. REFLECTORS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Installing a good reflector, or even a blinking light, on the back of your bike is a smart decision. Adding reflectors to the back of your shoes or ankles is even better. Just like the fluorescent leg coverings, drivers are drawn more to the movement than the color itself. If your reflectors move with each pedal stroke, you’ll be more visible to those around you. Rather than strapping a plastic red reflector onto your lower leg, you can purchase reflective tape or even reflective socks.
3. ALWAYS RIDE WITH TRAFFIC
Unlike runners, cyclists should always ride in the same direction as traffic. If you ride against traffic, you’re in serious danger around every curve where sightlines are limited. Also, when drivers turn right, they often look only to their left, as they’re not expecting anyone coming at them from the other direction. Don’t be an unpleasant surprise.
READ MORE > HOW TO FALL OF A BIKE AND NOT GET HURT
4. EMPLOY HAND SIGNALS
Simply waving your arms around will get you noticed, but knowing which hand signals to employ in which situation can prove helpful to everyone around you — whether driver or cyclist. A straight arm to your right or left signals you’re turning in that direction and is probably the most important hand sign you can use. See more cycling hand signals here.
5. IT’S YOUR LANE — USE IT
This won’t win you any love from the cars behind you, but riding in the middle of the right lane is generally safer than moving all the way to the right. It keeps you front and center — and visible — and it keeps cars from pushing you onto the shoulder or into a curb as they try to squeeze past you.