When you’re on a bicycle in the middle of the street, the feeling of fragility and vulnerability can be a source of fear and uncertainty for many people. Even experienced cyclists can get lost in busy city traffic.
Safety in numbers
The logic is simple. When there are few cyclists in a city, drivers are not prepared for them. The speed difference between the two vehicles can be as high as 40 mph, causing dangerous situations.
On the contrary, a constant flow of cyclists in the city not only mobilizes the attention of drivers, but also leads to the emergence of necessary infrastructure: bicycle lanes, parking lots, special signs and fences that increase the safety of cyclists, and bikes becoming a new public transportation option. The tendency to displace cars from cities in favor of bicycles has become the norm in many countries in recent decades. So how do you overcome the fear of being hit while bicycling in the city?
Study the regulations
The police won’t ask for your driver’s license on a bicycle, except that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse not to read the rules. They’re written in blood quite literally. Pay special attention to the word of law if you plan to navigate the busy city streets.
Get all the necessary items
A cyclist simply needs these accessories:
- A helmet. It will not only save your life, but also inspire a more respectful attitude from drivers.
- A red flasher. It should always be there because you can never guarantee that you’ll get home before dark.
- White front headlight. Buy a good powerful light right away – it will mark you to drivers, and brightly illuminate your path at night.
- Rearview mirror. Unfortunately, few people drive with it. Whereas in front you can see everything perfectly well, the situation behind you is full of surprises. Find a mirror for your handlebars or for the helmet.
Follow the rules of the road
Despite being smaller in size and speed on the road, drive according to the rules. Realize that you are not an outsider, but a driver like others. Keep a normal speed (neither too fast nor too slow), move smoothly, without wiggling, within 1-1.5 yards of the edge of the road.
Warn before turning
When turning, keep your left arm outstretched to the respective side. Hold your hand for 4-5 seconds before turning so that drivers can see it, and just before making the maneuver, grab the steering wheel with both hands. Right turns are very easy to make: you are always near the right edge of the road.
Learn how to turn left
Cyclists turn left easily only on the roads with one lane in each direction. Let me tell you right away, if you don’t have a lot of riding experience yet, there is a great trick here. At the intersection where you need to turn left, go straight through and stop behind it. Dismount and cross to the other side in the proper place as a pedestrian, bike in hand. Once you are on the correct side of the road, you can continue your way.
If you are okay in the saddle, then try turning left like cars. Look in your rearview mirror to assess your surroundings. If you still don’t have your mirror, you will have to look back for a brief moment, but do it quickly to avoid losing control. The goal is to make sure there are no cars behind you going too fast or too close. Also remember that giving a turn signal does not give you the advantage.
And there’s another important caveat here. Before turning, look for a protection – some cars turning left as well. Turning together with them wouldn’t be a bad choice.
Hopefully, reading these tips will give you the knowledge and confidence to master cycling in the city. With due attitude you’ll fit into the environment and start to enjoy the ride quickly and easily. Just remember about the traffic rules, be sensible on the road and multiply your personal experience of riding in a city.
And one more thing: you don’t have to own a bike to ride it. Renting is also a good option. Especially when visiting other cities. For example, as a traveler, you can easily find a good bike rental in NYC.