Three Tips For City Commuting This Spring
Spring is slowly lifting its head here in the Midwest, and with temperatures in the morning hours a bit more comfortable, plenty of us our returning to our bike commute routes. We put together a few tips on how to ride safely as you get back in the groove of riding to work.
Whether your ride to the office is two miles or twenty, arriving on two wheels is a great way to tack on more miles to your weekly total. It burns calories, reduces stress, and gives you just a bit of time to mentally prepare for the day, rather than deal with crazy drivers in the fast lane. Aside from wearing bright or reflective clothing, using front and rear lights for visibility, and obeying the rules of the road, there are a few ways to stay safe on your way to or from work.
Don’t Get Doored. If you’re riding through a city or urban center, parallel parked cars might be the most dangerous aspects of your commute. In city limits, speed limits and traffic lights typically help slow the flow of traffic and contribute to a safer ride, at least between intersections. Instead, parked cars offer unpredictable obstacles that literally jump out at you. For most commuters, getting doored, or riding into a the quickly opened door of a parked car is their absolute worst nightmare. Looking up, watching for heads in parked cars and rear-view mirrors, and listening to that familiar clunk of an opening door can help, most of the time these cues either aren’t visible, audible, or noticeable soon enough to avoid a collision. Even when you’re riding in the bike lane, never trust parked drivers to see you. Ride as far from parked cars as you can safely, and if you need to assume the normal traffic lane, do so when traffic isn’t present. It’s easier for a car overtaking you to see you than a driver parked and not looking for cyclists or pedestrians.
Put Yourself On Display. In addition to wearing reflective, visible clothing and using lights, how and where you ride can also make a big difference in how easy it is for drivers to spot you. At intersections, ride to the edge or in front of the crosswalk (don’t block pedestrians) so cars at every point on the road can see you. If pedestrians are present, start crossing the intersection behind them; drivers are conditioned to see people in the crosswalk, but may be less familiar with riders crossing the intersection in the bike lane or on a road’s shoulder.
Be A Human, Not Just A Cyclist. Use your arms, your head, and your eyes to communicate with drivers. Especially at intersections, make a point of making eye-contact with drivers at four and two-way stops. Never trust the driver to obey a stop sign or red light. Instead, make your intentions obvious and predictable. If you have a foot down, keep it down while seeking eye contact with one, two, or all the drivers at the intersection. If you are on the move and pedaling, be assertive, but sweep the intersection with your headlight (at dawn, dusk, or dark) and with your eyes. Don’t simply flash your hand out when signaling, either. Instead, confidently indicate your turn going into and through the intersection so everyone knows exactly where you’re headed. Using your eyes and your body helps communicate and helps people see you as more than a bike, just as it helps you see drivers as more than just a car.
Questions on other commuting safely tips, spring riding, or other cycling safety tips? Drop us a line!