The pandemic, rising fuel prices and concerns about climate change – along with improved battery technology and electric bike options – have combined to create a boom in cycling.
If you’re part of that boom, keep these tips in mind to stay safe and accident-free.
1. Be seen, but ride like you can’t be – Adding lights to your bike makes it more visible, day or night. Strobing lights are better than reflectors. You can even add light to your clothing, with high visibility clothing that works wonders at dawn, dusk and when the sun is shining. Despite the effort to be seen, ride like you̵7;re wearing Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak.
Drivers naturally look for vehicles that occupy an entire lane rather than thin vehicles that occupy about a third of the lane, as that is what they experience most of the time. To protect yourself:
- Avoid stopping directly next to vehicles with large profiles; they probably can’t see you in their mirrors – a potential problem if they turn around.
- Look in all directions through intersections before crossing, even if you have a green light.
- Continuously scan for obstacles with your hands over the brakes. Defensive driving also applies to cycling.
2. Be prepared with the essentials – You wouldn’t drive a car without airbags or seat belts. You should also not jump on a bike without the necessary safety equipment:
- Helmets protect your head should you fall or be thrown from your bike.
- Sunglasses or clear goggles can protect you from dust, debris, wind and even rocks kicked up by cars or trucks.
- Gloves provide protection if you fall. A person’s natural reaction to a fall is to reach out a hand to brace themselves for a fall, but having a hand that is restless for weeks can make daily tasks challenging.
- Always be prepared with enough water to stay hydrated.
- An extra hose with a mini pump is handy in case you get a puncture.
- Your cell phone is a lifeline with location tracking in case you get lost or there’s an emergency and you need to call for a ride.
And don’t forget the essentials: check your tire pressure and test your brakes.
3. Follow the laws and be predictable – Use hand signals to indicate turns. Ride with traffic in cycle lanes, not against traffic.
Avoid riding behind large vehicles that block visibility. Don’t run stop signs or red lights: the goal is to drive in a predictable manner. Local laws may vary.
4. Plan your route – Your choice of path is the key. Consider traffic patterns, road conditions and whether your speed matches the traffic speed. Consider taking side streets when going uphill or into a headwind. This is especially true if you are in a lane. It is also polite.
The more visible the route, the safer. The fewer driveways – both commercial and residential – the safer. The fewer traffic lights, the safer. Riding on pavements is discouraged – and illegal in some jurisdictions. Drivers, especially in car-dominated cities with few pedestrians, are used to watching the road for obstacles. Studies show that riding on the sidewalk is actually more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Eight states even ban sidewalk riding.
Using a bike lane is the best option, but be sure to treat pedestrians as you would like to be treated. Watch out for dogs on long leashes – the sound of a spinning freehub when freewheeling can send our furry friends into an unpredictable frenzy. If you are using a single lane road, you will want to ride on the right third of the lane, but not on the white line. It significantly increases visibility and reduces close passes. Riding along the white line will tempt many to “squeeze” you.
5. Choose the right tool for the job – All bikes are not created equal, depending on what your goal is. Beginner or older riders can choose to use external power to assist their legs, in other words, electric bikes. Riders unsure of their handling, or traveling over gravel or dirt, may choose to use wider tires with deeper treads. If you primarily ride on smooth tarmac over a long distance, you may want dropper steering with thin road tires. This may not seem intuitive for safety, but a mountain bike on the road is too slow to mix with traffic patterns and expectations, and a road bike on a dirt road is a balancing act for ropes.
Remember, you’re dealing with two wheels, not four. It’s easy to forget that bikes don’t turn as easily or stop as quickly, and they definitely don’t have a protective metal roll cage. With that in mind, exercise an extra degree of caution, especially when conditions are appropriate, such as slippery wet tires or poor visibility due to clouds, rain or the position of the sun.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is safety. Your life and health are worth the extra effort.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for the management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent Bolder Insurance Advisor for insurance coverage advice and loss control information.
This article is provided by The Cincinnati Insurance Company, a Bolder Insurance partner.