One of the great things about cycling is you can do it just about anywhere. You’ve read on this blog about Montague folding bikes flying and riding across Texas, riding through Alaska, competing in off-road triathlons and traversing the Iron Curtain trail. A unique characteristic and certainly a big benefit of these adventures is not having to worry about sharing the trail with cars.
For most cyclists, however, we are sharing the roads with cars on a daily basis. It may be our everyday commute or running errands but whatever the reason there are a few things you can watch out for to keep safe and insure you arrive at your destination without any unwanted encounters.
Riding next to parked cars
If they are parallel parked the big concern is a door unexpectedly opening or a car pulling out as you ride by.
- Pay attention to brake lights coming on or off.
- Look at the driver’s side rear view mirrors - sometimes you can catch a view of whether or not there is someone in the driver’s seat – a warning to pay extra attention.
- If you think there is a chance that a door will open or a car will pull out, be prepared to take the lane after insuring you aren’t cutting in front of a passing motorist.
- Most states require cyclists to follow the same rules as a car when encountering a stop sign or a lighted intersection. So, not only is it the law but it is certainly safer to do so also.
- Even if you are only going through intersections on green and stopping at stop signs, as a cyclist you should exercise extra caution by checking to make sure there are no vehicles or pedestrians crossing your path. Getting hit by a car running a red light or stop sign while you are in a car is bad, but it is almost guaranteed that getting hit by that same car while you are a bike will be much worse.
- Bikes have a smaller profile than cars and as a result aren’t as visible to pedestrians who are primarily checking for cars before crossing the street. Don’t assume that pedestrian sees you before speeding through the crosswalk.
- Any time you are approaching a cross street and there are cars in the oncoming lane or passing you on the same side of the street, watch out for turn signals indicating the car may be turning onto a street that you are about to cross. An even safer strategy is to ride as if they are making the turn in front of you, whether or not they have their signal on. You can do this by slowing down and having your brakes at the ready, just in case.
- There are countless numbers of things that can get in the way on your ride from broken glass in the road to delivery vehicles parked in the bike lane to needing to pass other cyclists. Being aware of the road ahead and the rest of your surroundings at all times will help you make quick decisions when trying to determine if, for example, it’s safe to swerve into the street to avoid that broken glass, brake quickly, or just ride through it and take your chances because it’s the safest of all the options.
- Railroad tracks are a common obstacle that can wreak havoc for cyclists if not handled correctly. Try to cross railroad tracks as close to perpendicular as possible and be especially careful if you are on wet roads. The wet metal of railroad tracks is much slicker than wet roads.
Every cyclist will likely experience one of these things, often times on a daily basis. What other tips would you give to your fellow riders?