Riding in the Road: 8 Tips for Safe Cycling

Andrew_Peter_May07-001As a bike rider, it can be challenging to feel comfortable riding in the road with motor vehicles, but roads are often the best way to get from A to B whether for shopping, commuting or enjoying a ride. Learning to ride defensively can increase your comfort and safety, and expand the number of roads where you can ride. Here are some tips for defensive bicycling.

  • Choose your route 
    • Before your ride, select a route with the lightest or slowest traffic or the widest shoulder that gets you where you want to go. Select a route where you’re comfortable riding.
  • Ride predictably
    • Ride in a straight line, in the direction of traffic on the right side of the road. However, don’t hug the curb. Leave room to safely navigate issues such as pot holes, debris, sewer grates and other obstacles.
    • Obey traffic signs and signals, they’re for both bicyclists and motor vehicles.
    • Use extra caution around turning vehicles and at intersections. Avoid passing stopped vehicles on the right.
    • Use extra caution around large vehicle like trucks and buses, which have a larger blind spot and make wider turns.
    • When there is a short gap between parked cars, ride in a straight line rather than weaving in and out. This way, drivers see where you want to go and you can avoid merging back into the travel lane when you have to pass the next parked car.
    • Don’t swerve at the last second to avoid potholes or debris. Instead, move over early when you notice an obstacle up ahead.
  •  Be visible
    • When a travel lane is too narrow for both a bike and motor vehicle to share, move towards the center of the lane to make yourself more visible to motorists.
    • Use a front white light and red rear light in low-light conditions and at night. It’s New Jersey law.
    • Wear bright, highly visible clothing, preferably with reflective tape or patches.
  • Avoid distractions and hazards
    • Keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings.
    • Ride four feet from parked cars to stay out of the “door zone,” where you could collide with an opening car door.
    • Avoid drinking, eating, using your phone, or anything that requires your hands while bicycling.
    • At large, complicated or busy intersections, consider getting off your bike and walking across.
  • Communicate
    • Look behind you and scan for oncoming vehicles before making all turns.
    • Signal your turns, especially in mixed traffic and around other cyclists.
    • Make eye contact with drivers and pedestrians.
  • On the trail or sidewalk
    • When riding near pedestrians, let them know you’re there using a bell or your voice.
    • Reduce speed when passing pedestrians and other cyclists.
    • Slow down and use extra care at intersections and blind corners.
  • Have the right equipment
    • Wear a helmet every time you ride.
    • Ride a bike that’s the right size for you.
    • Keep your bike in good working order. Check tire pressure, brakes, and chain regularly.
  • Ride more and learn more!
    • When driving look carefully for bicyclists before turning left or right, merging into bicycle lanes and opening doors next to moving traffic. Respect the right of way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with you.
    • Consider taking a Smart Cycling class from the League of American Bicyclists.

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