Bike coalitions are groups that advocate for the rights of all cyclists, whether you’re a professional, weekend warrior or daily bike commuter. These coalitions promote bicycling as a mainstream activity and look for ways to make it safer.
Here are five tips from bike coalitions nationwide on how to stay safe on your next ride:
1. TAKE A CLASS ON CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE ROADWAYS
Many bike coalitions offer clinics to teach riders the concepts and skills of vehicular cycling — “driving” your bike through traffic. In a sense, you learn how to drive a bike just like how you learned to drive a car. In these classes, you receive training on general riding rules and basic bike maintenance. As an example, The Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition (WashCo BTC) offers such a class called “Confidence in Traffic.” Students spend 7–9 hours in instruction, half online and half on their bikes.
“Most people think bike education is unnecessary because once you learn to balance and steer, the rest is just keeping out of the way of cars and being careful,” says Steve Boughton, chair of WashCo BTC. “As an adult, I rode for almost 20 years before I first took this class and heard the term ‘vehicular cycling.’” He notes that this class gave him better confidence on the road. He now knows his rights, responsibilities and how best to minimize risk.
“The curriculum is the same nationwide,” says Boughton. “If every cyclist took this class, it could help reduce cyclist-motorist tension and maybe even accidents. Motorists would see the same, predictable behaviors among cyclists and learn what to expect.”
2. KNOW TRAFFIC FLOW
Don’t rely on paint to determine where you ride. According to the Florida Bicycle Association, you may need to leave a bike lane if:
- You are too invisible. Sometimes you need to move to the left side of the car lane so a driver can see you.
- You are too close to parked cars and a door could open and hit you.
- The queue of cars waiting to turn right is too long. It is sometimes better to get in line with the queue of cars, despite the slowdown.
- Be aware of your surroundings and don’t assume you are safe staying in the bike lane.
3. SWITCH YOUR EXPENSIVE BIKE FOR AN ALTERNATIVE
Those who drop four figures on a bike may feel uneasy locking it up on a busy sidewalk or riding it on streets full of potholes. Luckily, many cities across the country provide an alternative: bikeshares. Save your posh bike for the smoother rides, and bike through the city using this affordable transportation substitute. Samantha Herr, executive director of the North American Bikeshare Association, affirms bikeshare bikes’ safety: They come with features like blinking head and tail lights and offer good visibility because they stand out. In addition, they receive routine maintenance and “safety checks that exceed most people’s standards for taking care of their personal bikes,” she says. “A recent study has found that bikeshare riders have been the safest segment of bicycle ridership in the U.S.” New riders will appreciate them, too; they are sturdy and easy to handle.
READ MORE > BIKES AS A GREAT ALTERNATIVE TO CARS
4. KNOW THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION RULES
Cyclists finishing an out-only ride should research their city’s public transportation regulations on how, or if, it accommodates bikes. For example, “Amtrak in San Diego allows free bike transportation, but you have to make a reservation ahead of time,” says Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the San Diego Bike Coalition. “Knowing this information can help you better prepare yourself.” He also recommends knowing public transportation capacity limitations. San Diego’s “Trolley” serves as a well-established transit option allowing bicycles. However, during peak hours, only one bike is allowed per trolley cabin and two is the limit at all other times. Familiarizing yourself with bike guidelines like these ensures you remain citation free and also generates positivity among residents about the bike community — that’s a win-win.
5. REPORT ROAD HAZARDS
As a citizen, you have the power to report potholes, construction hazards and other roadway issues that could inflict harm to cyclists. Some cities even offer easy means to notify government officials. For instance, in San Francisco, you can call 3-1-1, tweet @sf311 or download an app to report road issues. In addition, you can also report construction workers who impede bike access. If contractors don’t follow your city’s regulations, they can receive citations.