How to Ride Safely & Aware (+CycleAware Giveaway)
When people think of being safe while riding on their bicycle, they think first and foremost of wearing helmets. But wearing a helmet is not going to help you very much if you are not riding in a safe manner and are unaware of your surroundings. Riding your bike in dark or low light conditions can be even more dangerous, but having the right equipment will help you to see and be seen. Last week’s change back to Standard Time has resulted in a suddenly dark evening commute. Just after tonight’s sunset, I watched cyclists commuting home on a major street that leads to and from both a university and a college. I quickly lost count of the young adult cyclists riding without any lights or reflective gear. Some dark-clothing clad coeds were nearly invisible in the darkness. I’d bet they wouldn’t drive a car around at night without turning on the car’s lights, so why do they think it’s okay to ride a bike without a light?
SIX WAYS TO CYCLE SAFE & AWARE:
Learn the rules of the road: Generally, cyclists need to follow the same rules as motorists and ride on the same side of the street (the right hand side.) In one sad study that the state of Washington released, 11% of cyclist fatalities were of bicyclists who were riding against traffic on the wrong side of the road. It’s important to know how to ride safely in traffic. I really like the quick overview of safe cyclng tips that pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie gives on his Yield to Life page.
High quality reflective gear makes you visible in cloudy, dull days as well as in the deepening dusk or at night. If you are wearing a reflective jacket or safety vest, straighten up when you hear a motorist coming so they can see you better. Have reflective touches which can be seen from the side as well (Such as reflective ankle cuffs or some reflective tape on your sleeves).
Get a rear light—Reflectors are just a part of being seen at night, but they can’t do the full job. You need an active light to be seen. According to the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, over half of all cyclists killed are hit while riding at night without lights, even though only 3 percent of bike riding is done at night. There are many inexpensive ($20 or less) rear lights on the market. You may also have to pay a few dollars for fresh batteries. But ask yourself: is that $25 worth it if it keeps you safer? (Note that lights will glow dimly for awhile before they go out. Ideally, you need to recharge or refresh the batteries before they get too dim and ineffective, well before they run out.)
Get a mirror and use it while riding. You not only will feel safer when you can see the cars, you can avoid trouble because you can see it coming and be defensive. Get a mirror and try it out for a month of good riding. Then take the mirror away for the next several rides and you’ll find yourself looking down to where it once was and then psycho-analyze yourself. Do you feel less safe without that mirror now?
Ride where you are visible: Don’t play hide and seek by darting in and out of the parked cars on the side of the road. You also don’t want to hug the curb. Both actions make it hard for cars to see you well. Hugging the curb may put you just out of the periphery of their sight and it leaves you nowhere to go if you see a car approaching from behind (through your rear-view mirror) which is coming too close.
Finally, learn the safest routes to ride. Some roads with little shoulder and high speeds are just too dangerous to ride on. Taking the wrong turn in a sketchy inner city area is also not ideal. You might also be missing out on some great places to ride just because you aren’t familiar with the area. Many cities/towns offer bike maps (some are online) and Google Maps now gives a route options for biking or walking. There are also some great apps for your smart phone such as Map My Ride which can get you safely from Point A to Point B. Some cities or states have great bike advocacy groups which offer personalized commuter mentoring and will not only map out your bike-to-work route but will ride with you the first few times or pair you up with a commuting buddy with the same route.
CYCLEAWARE (& GIVEAWAY)
CycleAware is a company that makes products for cyclists to help them be aware of their surroundings and helps them to be highly visible to others. They make a wide variety of rearview mirrors so you can see what’s behind you and great reflective products so you can be seen. As they say themselves, “ When you’re visible and know who’s coming up on you, you can actively acknowledge them with a five finger salute and a smile. It really works and it makes your roads safer and more inviting for all.”
CycleAware has a great goodie bag for a lucky Cycle & Style reader: featuring: the Slap & Wrap, the Beamer saddle bag, a mirror all neatly packaged in a StowAway mesh backpack.
Slap & Wrap: This highly reflective and water-resistant wrap does double duty: protecting your pant leg from the bike chain and providing great nighttime visibility. It has a non-constricting design with a felt backing for extra comfort!
Beamer: CycleAware has made a fully-reflective saddle bag that adds that extra reflectivity while being fully functional as a saddle bag. It has a wide mouth zipper top for easy access, but essentials won’t be lost as there is an interior ID holder and key hook for extra safety. The Beamer saddle bag measures 6 x 3 1/4 x 2 1/2-inches and the strap is closed with a snap instead of Velcro, so it can’t snag those Lycra shorts!
Mirror: CycleAware has a wide variety of rear-view mirrors to choose from from helmet mirrors to those that attach to the handlebar. The most discreet is a tiny mirror that attaches inside your sunglasses lense which gives you a rear view with a quick glance. The newest mirror is the Urbie, made just for bikes with flat handlebars.
Stow-Away backpack: This lightweight and reflective mesh backpack can be folded into its own pouch, so it’s ready when you need it. It’s handy for those times when you want to shed an extra layer or carry a few items home from the store. (It comes in four colors: bright green, pink, black and silver.)
Rules of the CycleAware/Cycle & Style GIVEAWAY: To enter our giveaway for CycleAware Goodie Bag, comment below and use your real (first) name and a valid e-mail. You can make a comment about the article or share your own safety tips for cycling!
We’ll make a random choice from among the best quality comments to select the winner. The winner will be chosen on December 5th and they will be notified via e-mail on December 6th. If we have trouble getting a hold of you, we may have to choose another, so please use a valid email. We can mail to addresses within the US or Canada only.