Biking has fast become one of the mainstream modes of alternative transport over the years. The commute to work has been made much smoother and hassle free as a result. Cyclists rarely have to deal with the stress of the morning and evening traffic jams most motorists face going to and fro from work.
However, before getting onto the road, a cyclist must do their research onto the various laws in order to stay informed of the dos and don’ts of the roads.
There are a couple of great posts to read online that go deeper into various cycling laws. In the meantime, this article will serve well as a primer into the various tips and tricks on staying safe whilst biking on the busy roads of your city.
- Don’t Get Distracted
It is important to keep your attention on the road at all times. It is easy to get lost in the freedom that riding a bicycle brings but it is important to keep yourself focused at all times. Using a phone while biking is not appropriate as it slows down your reaction times. Om busy roads you will need fast reflexes and a quick response time.
Listening to music on your headphones is highly discouraged. The music will mask the approach of vehicles behind you. You also won’t be able to hear bells or hooters of motorists that wish to catch your attention.
- Anticipate Hazards
Hazard perception is an essential skill to develop for both motorists and cyclists alike. Hazards are objects or obstacles that get in the way of the riding experience. Common hazards that cyclists encounter include:
- Dogs walking without leashes
- Pedestrians crossing the road
- Potholes and other debris
- Vehicles swerving to avoid hazards
- Vehicles entering the road
You should also be on the lookout for parked cars with occupants inside. They may open their doors at any time and require you to take evasive action. A reliable solution to this is to calculate what is known as the ‘door zone’ this is the space that the door will occupy when open.
- Be Visible
Cyclists are often overlooked on the road by motorists. They do not do this intentionally. They are just wired to watch out for larger objects (other cars). Cyclists can improve their road presence on the road by wearing high visibility clothing. Alternatively, they could wear a reflector vest over their clothes and attach reflective straps to their ankles.
Maintain eye contact with other road users to improve your visibility. This ensures that they notice your presence on the road and can mitigate the chances of a misunderstanding or accident happening.
- Know Your Signals
As a cyclist, it is important to know the rules of the road. Most cycling accidents are a result of improper signaling at intersections. A driver cannot interpret or anticipate your actions without getting the appropriate cues from you. Basic signaling indications include:
- When turning: One arm should be extended horizontally pointing in the direction you are about to turn
- When slowing down: One arm slightly extended to the side with your palm facing down. Raise your hand up and down at wrist height.
- When stopping: One arm extended vertically upwards with your palm facing forward
- Avoid Blind Spots
As a cyclist, you must be aware at all times and ensure that you’re not travelling in a blind spot. Trucks and other big vehicles have bigger blind spots compared to normal vehicles. Take into consideration that if you cannot see their side mirrors, chances are they cannot see you.
- Behave Like You’re In A Car
The laws governing motorists are more or less the same laws that govern cyclists. This means it’s best for you to behave like you’re driving a motorized vehicle. That way, you won’t be tempted to take any shortcuts that you wouldn’t have had you been in an actual car.
Instead of switching lanes abruptly, signal when you should and also stop when you should, that way, car drivers will be more likely to follow suit and respect your right of way. Road rules are meant to protect you and limit the extent or even the possibility of road accidents, so other riders will also be eager to let you make a safe lane change.
- Stay In Your Lane
Wherever possible, stay in your designated bike path. If there’s no bike path, stay in the correct outer lane and be predictable in your movements. Resist the urge to go onto the sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and, more likely than not, you’ll just end up colliding into someone.
While it is not an exhaustive list, these tips will help you enter the roads with confidence that you have taken the basic precautions to ensure your safety while biking along busy roads.