For those who ride on a regular basis alongside cars in traffic, it can be pretty scary. We not only have to be concerned with how we are riding but also how the automobile driver is driving. That is why it is just as serious as riding a motorcycle in traffic. We need to follow steps to protect ourselves with safety equipment, clothing, and lighting to ride a bike safely in traffic.
Inspecting Your Bicycle
When riding a bike we want to make sure everything is functioning properly. We want to ensure our breaks are working properly, our wheels are not bent or going flat, our handlebars are secure, our pedals are secure, our crankshaft is solid and we have a clearance of anything we are wearing from getting caught in the sprockets.
There are two types of drivers around you when riding. There are the courteous & uncourteous drivers everywhere you go. The courteous driver tends to be aware of the laws concerning bikes and act accordingly. And even if they didn’t know the law they still give you some kind of respect. The uncourteous driver may or may not know the laws and can care less about your riding space since they are in the larger vehicle.
State Laws Are Built For Protection
There are some States that have bike passing laws for cyclist and some that don’t. Below is a chart to help you determine if you are protected where you are riding. This law provides a safe distance between you and a car that has to pass you. Varying from State to State a vehicle should give you 2-4 feet of the left of you when passing. And other conditions apply in some States like the speed traffic is flowing. Keep in mind that it will depend on where you are for the distance law if any.
Street Riding Awareness
If you are anything like me, you will ride whether it is day or night. Darkness is is the most dangerous time to ride for a lot of reasons. One reason is that if someone is going to drink and drive it will usually be in the evenings or late night. Another reason is the rider won’t be as visible as he would be in the day. Visibility can be a problem in the day or night for a rider who is not riding properly. Dipping in and out between cars in traffic is a serious form of not properly riding. By all means stay to the right going with traffic. Then you will know you are properly riding in traffic. People who are driving with the thought of the laws for motorist around bicycles will expect you to do your part as well. It’s a winning situation for both concerned.
Making Yourself Visible
There are many products available to the cyclist that will help in being visible. There are reflectors, reflective vest and many variations of lighting. All of these items will help the motorist notice you at a good distance. It will give them time to adjust if they have to pass you. Personally, I prefer a blinking red light on my rear because it will most certainly make the motorist aware there is something up ahead. The headlamp will not only give you a view of what you are riding towards but will also alert cars turning onto the street you are on that you are present.
Safety Precautions + Safety Gear = Safe Riding
Before we begin to ride we should treat it as if we were going to fly a plane. Being an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force at one time, I totally believe in the Operational Check as a safety procedure. Breaks, pedals, wheels & chain linkage is more important than it seems. Also, make sure the proper safety gear of your choice is in the picture. This includes everything from head to toe. Make sure that you have something that will illuminate and show your presence. One thing that some riders don’t consider is eye protection. If something was to get in your eye while riding it could cause you ride erratically and that is dangerous. But to follow the precautionary & preventative measures before and while riding is of virtue. I would like to see all riders continue to safely Keep on Pedaling!
I like this site it seems to have almost everything that would engage me, from the low impact for those of us who can longer run fast and jump high to those of you who can, the imagery is good and the content is relative.
The map showing the driving laws when passing bikes is very helpful to me because I have lived in many states in my life.
Thank you. I try to supply everyone with what I know when it comes to bike riding especially street riding. There are many factors that determines how safe someone is riding. I know I felt better knowing where I stood as far as riding in traffic with automobiles.
Ronnie, I do not ride a bike which moves, but I do appreciate your content. Safety is paramount. You have said it all. Thank you. Nice site.
Really nice topic and post! I’ve learned a lot of new things and when I will go by bike somewhere, I will definitely control everything for my safety ride.
Yes it is really important to make sure you are riding in a safe manner. It is too easy to get hurt out there in traffic especially.
Lots of good sound information on bike safety, thankfully where I live in southern Spain there is a huge cycling culture with, for the most part very respectful motorists. I would be interested to here your opinion on cyclists wearing headphones on the bike?
Yes Stan that is a good one. As much as I enjoy riding with music I have to say it is probably not a good idea in traffic. Sometimes you can hear when there is getting ready to be a problem coming up. If you hearing is impaired it could cause you to miss that opportunity to prevent an accident from happening.
I love bike riding ever since I was a kid. We didn’t wear helmets back then but safety is important these days.
I make sure I inspect my bike and if there are problems, I bring right to my bicycle mechanic.
I am very aware when I am riding and try to ride where there’s no traffic or little traffic anyway.
I make myself as visible as possible and always ride defensively just as I do when I drive.
Do you recommend any specific biking gear?
I generally believe that all manufacturers deliver the same product as far as safety is concerned. It boils down to style and color to me. It is good that you are being what I call bike rider aware. This will help you prevent any possible accidents from happening. I could have not said it any better when you said being defensive as you were driving your car.