Cycling has, since its invention, proven to be a both popular and healthy means for a person to get around. A scenic bike ride along a nature trail has long been a staple summer activity, and many look to cycling as a fun way to keep healthy and active. In recent years, it’s been finding popularity with inner-city commuters, as well. With the expense of rising gas prices and the nightmare of daily traffic, more and more people are turning to bikes as a more economical and efficient alternative to driving or suffering public transit.
That said, cycling on the road also requires a good deal of awareness regarding your health and safety. As you can imagine, suffering an accident while cycling can pose a significant risk of injury, so ensuring you have adequate protection is necessary if you intend to do much biking.
You’ve probably seen exactly the same warnings and advice given all the time while growing up, whether on TV or at school. But they bear repeating here: always consider your safety first. Before you set out cycling for any significant distance, make sure you have the proper safety gear on.
This is at least a crash helmet to protect your head in the event of an accident, but knee and elbow pads, as well as gloves to protect your hands, are not bad ideas either. You should also make sure that your bike is safe to ride. Frequently check it over to make sure all necessary parts of working, especially the breaks, and that the tires are suitably inflated. Make sure your bike has reflectors on the front, back and the wheels for night time driving. Getting a bell and headlight are also sound considerations if the latter isn’t downright mandated by law in your area.
And remember: never leave your bike in a public space without a secure chain and lock as well. Just as you’re responsible for yourself, you’re also responsible for your bike. A few minutes away from your bike is all someone needs to make off with it.
Be Aware of the Things Around You
The chief causes of accidents tend to be incidents where at least one person involved in them was not aware of the people and objects around them. This is a rule that especially applies to cycling.
While you’re certainly more nimble and manoeuvrable than a car or truck, you’re also far more exposed and a lot less durable. Make sure you’re conscious of the objects around you while cycling and be aware of your own visibility.
Always make sure there’s a decent amount of space between you and other objects, especially other vehicles. As a rule, try keep at least a car door’s space between you and any vehicles you pass on the road. Never swerve directly in front of them — try to leave at least another car’s worth of space between you and any traffic before you overtake them. Likewise, always indicate your intent to turn or stop, and always make sure any roads you turn onto are clear. Always be in a position where you can be clearly seen by any traffic on the roads. To help keep yourself aware of traffic, never cycle with headphones in. Doing so will limit your concentration, and leave you literally deaf to the world around you. It should go without saying that you should never use a cell phone while cycling either.
When travelling through busy, clustered or uneven paths and roads, such as a particularly “natural” bike trail through a wood, resist the urge to speed through it, especially if you’re not familiar with the route. Feel free to slow down, take your time and be careful of the objects in your way. At lower speeds, it’s easier to react to sudden obstacles and brake if need be. Always give any pedestrians priority when crossing the road, and use a bell to indicate your presence if you have one.
Be Bold and Decisive
It’s possible to be too meek while on the roads. When cycling ahead of traffic, never feel pressured into cycling too close to the sidewalk. Instead, keep as much to the centre as possible. While sticking to the curb may allow impatient drivers to pass, it also tends to be cluttered with rubbish, debris and drains that make for potential crashes.
In addition, cycling in the centre of the road will also encourage any drivers on there to drive a little more carefully. This is never a bad thing, so don’t feel as though you have to move along for their sake. You have as much right to the road as they do, but everyone shares the responsibility to conduct themselves safely. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your local traffic laws, and always carry a phone in case you need to call emergency services or a personal injury law firm like Heil Law.
Christian Mills is a freelance writer and family man who contributes advice and insights into the latest trends in technology as well as the concerns of parents and families.