New to city bike riding

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Topic: New to city bike riding

Travel and Transportation May 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm

New to city bike riding


I finally decided to get a Capital Bikeshare membership. Though I am not new to riding a bike, I am new to riding a bike in a city. I have a helmet and plan to try to stick to bike lanes as much as possible, but any other tips?

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Don’t hesistate to take the lane if you feel the need to.

Ditto on the take your lane. If on a road with no bike lane that feels narrow, take the full lane and let the driver behind you worry about it. One of the more dangerous things to do in city biking is trying to hug the edge of the road so that drivers feel comfortable whizzing by you. By taking you lane, you largely eliminate that problem and the only way the car can pass you is if no car is coming in the other direction, thus the driver has plenty of room to swerve around you.

WABA also offers classes on city biking. I’d also recommend doing some riding on the weekends when there is less traffic to increase your confidence.

WABA is a good place to start. I’ll also add the best advice I found on WABA was to maintain a straight line while passing rows of parallel parked cars, don’t move to the side of the street just because there’s no parked car there, as drivers will misperceive your attempt to get around the next parked car you pass. At night, LED lights are a must (especially as I’m always prone to wearing dark colors)!!

Make sure to stop at all stop signs and red lights, and learn the proper bike hand signals for left turn, right turn, and stop (don’t just point in the direction you’re going like some people do). This keeps you safe and makes you predictable so that motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians know what you’re doing. Stopping at red lights and using signals also means you are representing cyclists well as a group–I think people like to see safe, responsible cyclists out there. Always wear that helmet, even for short trips (I had to get a piece of windshield stuck in my head before I learned that lesson). And if you ever feel unsafe because of traffic or a crazy intersection, just pull over and walk it. And this should go without saying, but don’t bike with headphones on or while talking on a phone. I guess in short, just ride a bike the same way you would drive a car.
Be safe, and we’ll see you out on the streets!

–  Find routes that have bike lanes or aren’t busy.  If you have to ride on a busy road take up the full lane if you need to.  It’s your right and it’s much safer than having cars squeeze by you.
– Ride a car’s door length away from parked cars at all times.
– Be chill.  That’s my motto.  If you gain 30 seconds getting to your destination by risking your life, is it worth it? 
– Know when to go slow.  When there are a lot of people around, when you’re splitting a lane (riding between rows of stationary cars at a red light) or it’s just hectic, go slow so that if something happens, you can react/you won’t get hurt badly. 
– Be visible by wearing brightly colored clothes, using reflective tape and plenty of lights.   
– Be courteous. 
– Be confident.  You can do this.  I promise!
As others said, WABA is a fantastic resource. 

1. Don’t always stick to bikelanes, sometimes taking the full lane and riding in traffic is safer.
2. Watch for people in cars that may open their door. Look out for cracked doors on parked cars, taxi cabs pulling over, and people inside their cars. Give these guys space, even if that means getting out of the bikelane and riding in traffic.
3. Slow-down and be aware at intersections!!!! Most accidents happen at intersections, so this is where you need to be the most cautious (this applies to drivers too).
4. Watch out for cars/trucks turning right at intersections. The two most severe DC bike collisions in recent memory were caused by this. Cars/trucks often can’t see you in their blind spot. If they turn right and you are there, you will get hit. Even though this is the fault of the vehicle, beware and don’t put yourself at risk. 
5. Remember that pedestrians often cannot hear you, and may wander out into the street because they don’t hear a car coming. Try to look out for pedestrians who may act stupidly before they actually act stupidly.
6. Watch out in poor visibility conditions. At the bike messenger place I worked in NYC, they told us that most accidents happened late in the day about an hour before sundown until sundown, when the lighting was odd (because of buildings, there is often bright glaring light in your eyes from some angles, and no light from others). If it’s hard for you to see, it’s hard for drivers to see.
7. Look ahead of you. If a car is blocking the bike lane a half a block up, adjust sooner, and you’ll be safer.
8. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS. I cannot emphasize this enough. Look around you and try to predict accidents before they happen.

There’s a lot of good advice on here already, so I’ll just add, bike defensively. I don’t believe drivers or pedestrians are out to do bikers harm, but all people on the roads are just trying to get where they’re going and they are going to be more focused on what they’re doing than on you. Just like if you were driving a car, try to anticipate what other road users might do so you can stay safe.

Don’t be afraid to be vocal to get pedestrians’ and other cyclists’ attention. Most won’t react to bell (can’t hear it, not paying attention, etc.) I very loudly say “heads up” or “passing on the left”. This has prevented several collisions with pedestrians not paying attention and letting other cyclists know you’re passing is a welcome courtesy. Lastly, it’s not a race. It’s ok to wait for the red light and go a few blocks behind the slower biker before passing. 

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