I did it. I graduated from my indoor stationary bike to a heavy framed, fat tire bike that I’ve been using to shred gravel roads and single track. And I’m not the only one! Throughout the COVID19 stay-at-home order, people around the country have taken to two wheels for adventure.
Car accidents are down nationwide due to fewer people getting behind the wheel, however, more bikes mean more bike accidents. In populated places like New York City, bike accidents are up as much as 40 percent from last year.
While I do most of my bike rides on dirt roads or trails that don’t see much automobile traffic, I do have to connect to those trails via Highway 119, one of the busiest mountain highways in Colorado. Give me steep, technical singletrack, and I know I’ll survive, but I always find myself white-knuckling in fear biking to and from the trailhead.
Sharing the road with motor vehicles is a fact of cycling life. Legally, bicycles have all of the same rights and responsibilities that automobiles do, yet too often cyclists are treated as second-class citizens of the road. In my short cycling career, I have already seen my fair share of finger wags, no matter how tightly I hug the shoulder.
Cyclists are expected to follow all of the same traffic laws as motorists, yet must mingle with larger, faster vehicles and the often impatient people who steer them. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up to become a safer cyclist.
Basic Rules of the Road
1. Wear a helmet on every ride. Make sure the helmet is certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
2. Wear bright, highly-visible clothing, preferably with reflective tape or patches.
3. Obey the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs and lights.
4. Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it.
5. Ride in control at all times. Ride at a safe speed that allows you to react quickly to unexpected circumstances, potholes, and reckless drivers.
6. Did I say wear a helmet? WEAR A HElMET.
1. Keep a safe distance between yourself and other riders or vehicles—enough space to allow you to react to something unexpected.
2. Ride in single file. This is required by law in most states. Although some states allow cyclists to travel two, side-by-side, it only applies to less-traveled roads that are free of traffic.
3. Don’t ride on sidewalks unless no other safe option exists. Motorists at intersections or when leaving or entering driveways often do not see swift-moving cyclists traveling on sidewalks. Fun fact: I was hit by a car on my bike on my way home from work because I crossed the street from a sidewalk. I had the right of way, but because I was coming off the sidewalk, the driver didn’t see me.
4. If there are five or more cars behind you, pull over and let them pass.
5. Stay alert to changes in your surroundings at all times.
6. Communicate your intentions to drivers and other cyclists as much as possible. Use hand signals whenever you turn or stop, but assume that every driver might not understand them.