There’s something magical about exploring the city or going on a scenic trail on a leisurely bike ride, especially when the stars align and the weather is lovely. Whether you are a newbie who is just getting comfortable with learning how to ride a bike or a well-seasoned bike rider who is completely comfortable navigating everything, from rocky paths to traffic-heavy thoroughfares, there are a few basic rules that all cyclists should be aware of. It can be easy to think that a few hand signals are all you need to be able to make your way around the city, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
The following are a few rules you should keep in mind before hitting the road
Wear a Helmet
This should be an intuitive one. A helmet is one of the most important essentials any biker must have before hitting the road. However, surprisingly, many bikers make the mistake of riding without a helmet. No matter how experienced you are, wearing a helmet is essential to your safety, whether you are out in traffic or on a relatively calm bike trail. Not wearing a helmet is a major cause of the most dreadful accidents. So, save yourself the potential pain and make your way through your bike rides safely with a helmet.
Avoid Riding at Night
Most bike accidents occur late in the evening. You can read more here about the exact statistics, but all in all, it is strongly recommended to not venture out between the hours of 6 PM-9 PM, when the sun has usually disappeared. If you have to be on the road after dark, be sure to have reflector lights on your bike, and wear reflective clothing so that drivers and pedestrians can clearly see you.
One key rule is that you absolutely must slow down and make way for pedestrians and other vehicles already ahead of you. If you see you’re getting close to cars or other bikes that have stopped or are moving slowly, then yield till it is safe to pass. Cyclists basically follow the same rules as cars, so you need to be extra careful and exercise caution at all times.
Follow the Traffic Flow
Bikes must travel in the same direction as the general traffic. This means that you should be riding on the right side of the lane at all times unless it is unsafe for you to do so. Going in the opposite direction of traffic can be a major mistake resulting in an accident, especially if you are biking in a more busy thoroughfare.
In many states, it is illegal to bike on the sidewalk. But, aside from the legalities, it is fairly unsafe. The sidewalk isn’t always even, and you will ride a lot slower in general than when on the road. You’ll also risk the possibility of tripping over something on the sidewalk, and people moving out of parking lots won’t be able to see you till it’s too late. Besides, it will also be unsafe for pedestrians walking on the sidewalks, risking the potential of someone getting very hurt.
Follow Traffic Signals and Signs
Never cycle through a stop sign – they are there for a reason. Also, don’t bike through a red light or enter a crosswalk when pedestrians are present. The traffic violations apply in the same way for cyclists as they do for car owners. The best way to ensure your safety and everyone else’s is to pay attention to traffic signals and signs and pretend that you are operating a car – even if you aren’t.
Study Hand Signals
Take the time to study hand signals so that you may comfortably make your way through the town or city while communicating effectively with drivers. In fact, many states mandate that cyclists use hand signals to alert others of their next move. You can find guides detailing commonly used hand signals online, so be sure to look it up. In all cases, there are three main ones for you to know: the stop signal, the right-turn signal, and the left-turn signal. This will help keep you safe and will also ensure that you avoid unnecessary accidents.
Cycling is a great deal of fun and an excellent way to get some much-needed exercise. However, to be able to enjoy it fully, you must be aware of the different rules of the road and focus on staying safe, not just for your sake, but for the sake of pedestrians, other bicyclists, and drivers on the road. Haste makes waste as they say, and it always helps to be prepared before venturing outside.