Be Smart, Be Safe: 5 Cycling Safety Tips For Commuters
Be smart and keep safe while biking to work in an urban environment.
The following 5 Cycling Safety Tips For Commuters can be utilized on your way to work, or wherever you want to go, that involves riding a bike on shared roads.
1.Wear a helmet! I cannot stress this one enough!
Probably the most important, ever, WEAR A HELMET. I can honestly say that I would not be alive today if I didn’t wear a helmet, on two seperate occasions I would have met my maker had it not been for the helmet. I know, I know, i’m not your parent… but if you’re old enough to ride a bike then you probably know better than to forego wearing a helmet to protect your skull and brain. Forget about feeling un-cool or trying to keep that hair pristine before getting to work, instead, anticipate these sorts of things and leave your place of departure early enough to have time to freshen up.
2. Situational Awareness: Head up, alert, anticipate.
- Learn, and use, handsignals (check our diagram below showing proper use of cyclist hand signals). If other road users or pedestrians don’t know what you are doing, where you are going, that puts everyone in danger.
- Be careful passing stopped vehicles. A door could easily be opened in front of you either causing you to crash into it, into the person exiting the vehicle or swerving into traffic. Leave enough space when passing so there is enough room for a door to open.
- Always proceed with caution when a courteous motorists gives way and waves you on. Just because that person is being nice doesn’t mean that the person coming up behind them or next to them will be.
- Watch out for wet and slippy surfaces, those drain covers can be as bad if not worse than an oil slick, especially in winter!
3. Assume You’re Invisible.
It’s easy to get stuck in a passive do-gooder mindset where for instance you see a motorist drive up to a 4-way stop as you approach on your bike, they then barely slow down and continue on through the intersection. You can think, “hey that guy didn’t stop, that’s not legal, if he had hit me it is his fault,” or instead, you can be the person who realizes, “hey that guy didn’t stop, it’s a good thing I anticipated this possibility and I slowed down.”Legal or not if you get hit by a car it’s going to be the same kind of bad regardless of who is at fault.
Rather than entrusting your safety to others it’s best to assume one-hundred percent responsibility and keep your personal safety in your own hands. When you’re sharing the road it’s safest to assume you are invisible to those around you, with this mindset it will encourage you to better proceed with caution and help you navigate scenarios with a more open mind to better anticipate potential dangers.
4. See and Be Seen. Headlights, Taillights, and Hi-Vis
As a cyclist, especially as a commuter, although it is best to mostly assume invisibility to motorists and pedestrians there are precautionary measures that can drastically improve the likelihood of your visibility while riding.
- Headlights — Use a bright forward facing headlight not only to light your path when it is dark but also use it to add front-facing attention grabbing visibility to your ride. Features to look for include: high capacity rechargeable batteries, long lasting high quality white color LED, several light output modes: flashing/solid, and easy installation/removal. Flash modes are perfect for daytime use because it will help conserve battery life and the bright flashing patterns will draw more attention. When it is dark outside a headlight will illuminate your path and help you discover obstacles and potential hazards on the ground.
- Taillights— Use a bright rear facing taillight not only during the nighttime but also to gain attention grabbing rear visibility during the daytime. Features to look for include: long lasting high capacity rechargeable batteries, high output red color LED light, various light output modes featuring: flashing/solid, and easy installation/removal. Flash modes are a perfect solution for both day and nighttime riding, especially when trying to conserve battery life compared to a steady solid light mode. Also, look for helmet mountable rear-facing tail lights for additional safety and added visibility. Helmet safety lights are especially great because they are located up higher than frame-mounted taillights and move along with the turning of the cyclists head.
- Hi-Vis — Short for, “High-Visibility.” Hi-Vis clothing and/or bicycle accessories can add visibility to the cyclist and bike by way of colors scientifically proven to enhance visibility to the human eye, these colors are typically a sort of neon yellow/orange/green color.
- Saddle Bags, Panniers, Frame Bags, etc. — Cycling bags are often designed with added reflective safety conscious features and taillight attachment points to improve visibility. Adding bags to a bike, especially panniers which are side-mounted, are a smart functional way to increase road presence by physically taking up more space which can encourage passing vehicles to give you more room.
5. Pay Attention To The Weather
To avoid the rain, create the habit of following the weather forecast. And please have a plan B. It’s not nice to get to work wet as a compromise. Well, we are talking of Limerick… anyway, always have a waterproof jacket in your backpack.