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The Cyclist’s Guide to Biking Safely in the City

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Riding a bicycle in the city can be quite dangerous, but there are several things that cyclists can do to help ensure their own safety.

More and more people are using bicycles for transportation in urban areas for health and enjoyment. Plus, sustainability also becomes a factor in choosing this mode of transportation over others.

But along with sharing the road comes the risk of accidents, which can lead to serious injury or death for cyclists. Since there are bigger & powerful vehicles which can topple a cycle, causing a grave accident. According to NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), an estimated 41,615 people were injured in bicycle accidents in 2021, and 966 people were killed.

Challenges Cyclists Face in Urban Areas

Challenges Cyclists Face in Urban Areas

When biking in urban areas, bicyclists face a number of challenges. 85% of all fatal bicycle accidents occur in urban areas, as opposed to rural areas.

From weather or heavy traffic to distracted, drunk, or drowsy drivers, the conditions and the actions of others with whom they share the road can impact the safety of cyclists in the city.

Not all bicycle accidents resulting from these challenges can be prevented. However, there are steps that cyclists can take to help increase their safety and reduce the chances of getting into a serious or fatal crash.

Try to be Visible from Afar

Over half of all bicycle accident deaths occur during dawn, dusk, or nighttime hours — because visibility is often an issue.

Bicycles are tiny compared to motor vehicles, and that makes bikes easy to miss for drivers. The blind spots on either side of these vehicles also play a huge role in these sudden accidents.

Drivers are not trying to be malicious, but people can make mistakes. Often, drivers don’t see a cyclist until it’s too late.

This is why, when going for a ride, dress to be seen. Drivers need time to prepare to react. Especially when they are on a highway, driving at higher speeds, or when visibility is low (night).

Having Essential Gears

Having Essential Gears

Cyclists can have equipment on their bikes that helps drivers avoid overlooking them, like lights and reflectors for both daytime and nighttime riding.

These lights should be bright enough, not only just visible but visible from far away, making drivers aware even at low light conditions such as early morning/evening, a cloudy or foggy day etc.

Another excellent piece of equipment is reflective tape that can also make portions of the bike into reflective surfaces, such as over pedals, wheel frames, etc. The ultimate goal is for the bike to be visible from all angles.

Increasingly Visible

What you decide to wear is also important when it comes to being visible from afar.

If you want to prevent a sudden ambush by a bigger vehicle, wearing brightly colored clothing against a dark background will have higher protection.

You can also opt for ankle straps, which are either neon or fluorescent depending on the time you are going out for a ride.

However, if you do not wish to wear these concoctions during the day, a spare reflective vest will be handy. The moment it starts getting darker, you can simply wear this vest.

Colors like neon, yellow, green, and fluorescent orange are the most reliable colors to prevent a bicycle accident.

Follow the Rules of the Road

Bicyclists should also follow the traffic rules of the road when biking in urban areas. Just because you do not require a driver’s license doesn’t mean you will ride recklessly.

City drivers typically move with the flow of traffic and expect those around them to adhere to these measures. This is to keep themselves and everyone safe.

By riding with the flow of traffic, following signals and signs, and adhering to other rules of the road drivers know what they can expect from you. Oftentimes, it is to help them avoid hitting you. You should always follow rules like stopping at red lights and stop signs, stopping for pedestrians, or using hand signals when turning or stopping.

Riding safely not only keeps everyone safe on various types of custom bikes but also promotes a harmonious sharing of the road.

Ride Defensively to Prevent Bicycle Accident

Yes, you can always take a leisurely bicycle ride for your body and mind. However, cycling in an urban setting demands riders to be defensive. This is in order to reduce their chances of getting into accidents.

Bicycles also need to limit their distractions while riding. It is all about keeping your eyes and ears open to make quick decisions when needed.

Riders should position themselves well away from parked or stopped cars for unexpected activities. These include opening doors that can easily crash into it. (This hazard is known as “dooring”.)

Ensure you have enough time to brake safely if someone opens a door without checking behind for approaching riders.

Keep an eye open for movement inside parking curbs.

Exercise caution approaching intersections where the vehicle might turn unexpectedly.

Because of your smaller size, it can be very difficult for some motorists to see you. This is why most bicycle accident occur. Best to anticipate they don’t rather than hope they will be careful.

Anticipate Driver Behavior

This brings us to the next point, which is anticipating behaviors.

When cyclists assume drivers didn’t see them, they’re better prepared mentally to take evasive action, especially if anything unexpected occurs.

As a cyclist, you should prepare for imaginary expected moves by other vehicles on the road.

Plan Your Route

There is no better way to prevent a bicycle accident than following a different route. Yes, you can always anticipate behavior and try to avoid accidents. However, sometimes, other vehicles can truly be reckless on the road.

This is why whenever you are out on a leisurely bike ride, it is better to look for bicycle safety routes.

Some streets also have separate junctions for bicycles. Better to stick to them!

Regular Maintenance

Keeping your bicycle in working condition is crucial for safe riding. Regular maintenance checks should include inspecting the brakes, tires, and gears.

Ensure that your tires are properly inflated and free of punctures, your brakes are functioning correctly, and your chain is well-lubricated.

Regular maintenance extends the life of your bike, and also ensures that it performs optimally, reducing the likelihood of mechanical failures that could lead to a bicycle accident.

Stay Informed

Staying informed about the latest cycling safety tips and local regulations can also enhance safety. Join local cycling groups or online forums to share experiences and learn from other cyclists.

Many communities offer safety workshops and events where cyclists can learn new skills and stay updated on best practices. Knowledge is power, and the more informed a cyclist is, the better equipped. Especially when it comes to navigating the complexities of urban cycling.

While cycling in the city comes with its challenges, there are steps that cyclists can take to enhance their safety.

From being highly visible and following the rules of the road to riding defensively and preparing for emergencies. These measures can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. By adopting these practices, cyclists can enjoy the many benefits of urban cycling while staying safe.

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