The prospect of commuting to work by bike sounds risky to a lot of people. Free travel, environmentally friendly, great exercise, short travel time — what's not to like? And then you remember the terror of being involved in a road cycling accident. The thought is enough to put many people off for life.
However, we're here to tell you that it's possible to decrease the risk of getting injured while bike commuting. Here are 8 tips you should know to safely and confidently bike commute to work, as well as additional safety information you should know about cycling.
Is it fair that road cycling has a dangerous reputation? Certainly, road cycling accidents are no laughing matter. However, this absolutely is not a reason that should put you off a bike commute to work. A few road safety tips can keep you as safe as you would be traveling any other way.
Many people feel safer in cars than they do on bikes, owing to the four metal walls around them. However, car accidents are more common. In 2015, there were 6,296,000 car accidents in the United States, and only 45,000 reported bike accidents. Car accidents happen all the time, and largely for the same reason as cycling accidents: one or more parties were not paying attention before the accident.
Following a few road cycling safety tips will keep you safe on the road without giving up a fantastic way to commute to work.
We should start by pointing out what makes the bike commute to work so worthwhile. There are a few simple reasons:
Road cycling is an excellent form of exercise. Best of all, it takes place within the ordinary framework of your day. You don't have to put time aside for it; your routine does the workout for you.
Skeptics will always point out that bikes cost money, and bike maintenance is expensive. It's also true that compared to the cost of buying, insuring, maintaining, and fueling a car, you'll pay significantly less to maintain your bike than you would by taking care of a vehicle.
Fees for commuters on public transport also add up as time goes on, whereas a good bike requires only rare servicing.
What about walking? Well, walking's free, but it's slow.
Walking also beats cars and public transport when it comes to environmental impact, of course. Commuting to work by bike is also a way to make a difference to the local air quality.
Nothing can compare to a bike commute for how fast and direct it is. Driving is faster — when the roads are free. In a metropolitan area, road cycling at rush hour is often faster than sitting in a traffic jam. You never have to put up with a slow bus - you have more control over how fast you get to work.
Road cycling is a blast. Riding a bike is a personally liberating feeling, not to mention that you get the additional boost of endorphins from exercise.
Once you know a few good safety tips by heart, you'll enjoy your ride even more.
Below are some of the best biking safety tips we can offer you. Following this advice when road cycling won't just save your life; it will make you a more confident cyclist.
You'd think everyone would know it by now, wouldn't you? However, many road cycling accidents lead to fatalities because the cyclist did not wear a helmet. For this reason, the first and most urgent of our commuter safety tips is to wear your helmet at all times.
A 2016 study found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of a fatal head injury in a cycling crash by 65% and the risk of a serious head injury by 70%. Of course, avoiding a crash at all is the best policy, but if it happens to you, you have to be wearing a helmet.
It might not look as sleek as you want to look. It might not feel that comfortable, which is why it's worth really taking the time to find a helmet that works for you! It will protect you when cycling and send a message to drivers that you're taking your safety seriously.
With a good bike, long-term maintenance isn't much of an issue. However, there are some quick fixes that bikers tend to put off that could cause an accident. We're talking about everything from addressing ‘that strange clicking sound’ to checking your tire pressure and making sure you didn't kick your chain after an emergency stop.
Keeping your tires in check is one of the main issues. A hazard of road cycling is inadvertently running over debris and getting a puncture. Check before you ride, every time.
If your bike is making strange sounds or faltering in any way, take it to a mechanic. Settling for ‘it’s probably fine' isn't an option when you're driving a car; it's not an option when you're cycling, either.
If your bike commute takes you through an area with pedestrians, understand that it's your responsibility to avoid them. You're cycling and so traveling faster, which means that you bear the greater responsibility.
If you're approaching a pedestrian on your bike commute, slow it down just a little and let them know that you're there. Pedestrians tend to naturally sidestep cyclists, so slowing down and holding your course is the best way to prevent hitting someone if they're not paying attention and enter your lane.
Remember that you are all commuters, and thus allies for finding a safe, sustainable means of commuting to work. Treat each passerby with respect.
Cars are the no. 1 reason that people are afraid of commuting to work on a bike. Should you fear them? Not if you understand that behind every car is a well-meaning driver. Nobody wants to get in an accident.
However, some cyclists assume that drivers are antagonistic. If you're triggered, this type of attitude could lead to altercations that escalate a small accident into a huge ordeal.
On your bike commute to work, you will encounter all manner of drivers. Some kind, some unkind, some weirdly aggressive, some almost asleep at the wheel. You have to treat them all equally. Never assume that a driver who hasn't waved at you is either rude or just another tired commuter. They might not have seen you at all. If you get in an accident, stay calm and avoid an altercation. It's possible to put yourself in further danger if you foster a verbal or physical fight.
Again, you're sharing the roads. You're partners in this, not enemies. Do everything you can to do right by those you meet on your bike commute. However, never make assumptions, and you'll find road cycling a much easier and less combative place to be.
Safe road cycling involves a lot of concentration. It can seem silly at first, but one of the best safety tips is exaggerating every signal you're making (and you should be making signals). If you feel like you're overdoing it at first, you'll soon learn the benefits of strong signaling on your bike commute.
Remember: safety tips for you are also safety tips for pedestrians and commuters, and they'll appreciate it if you signal. Keeping an eye on everything around you while cycling is your priority, as well as communicating your moves to other drivers and pedestrians. As a cyclist on a busy road, you can't be signal too much.
Once you get into your biking routine, it's easy to slip into auto-pilot when cycling. You know the way like the back of your hand, and you could get there with your eyes closed.
However, your path will always be unpredictable. It could be icy one day, and suddenly the road conditions are hazardous. Speeding as fast as you normally go is extremely dangerous.
Just as it's easy for commuters to adjust to the regularity of their routines, it's easy to get riskier when maneuvering through car and people traffic. Some bikers also think it's important to be aggressive as a way of making their presence known. However, this does not make you more present in the eyes of drivers or passengers; it just makes you more reckless.
Instead of thinking aggressively, focus on being aware of your environment at all times. You don't need to abruptly swerve into another lane to be noticed by other drivers, and the time you save getting to your destination isn't worth the risk of injury.
Everyone who has ever ridden a bike while listening to their favorite tunes knows the tedium of commuting to work without music. However, you cannot listen to music while you bike. Cycling on safe roads while listening to music is a beautiful experience. Road cycling on a commute during rush hour is also amazing and satisfying for many reasons, but you need your ears. Not only do you need to be alert in case a nearby commuter cuts you off, but you also need to make sure you won't hit anybody else.
For this reason, one of the safety tips we must press home is that you must not listen to music on your bike commute. However, if you give yourself plenty of time to arrive early, your commute will be so fast that you'll have time to cool off and listen to a few songs before your colleagues even arrive.
Is road cycling a satisfying, enjoyable way of commuting to work? Yes. Will it get you there faster, improve your health, and help create clean air where you live? Yes. Is it dangerous? Not if you follow the safety tips above.
The bike commute to work is, after all, a straightforward affair that millions of people make around the globe every day. Preparing yourself is essential, and this means having the right gear, knowledge, and attitude.
Change your commute to a more sustainable, inexpensive, and enjoyable form of transportation. As long as you remember to stay alert, communicate, de-escalate, and never underestimate the road, you'll be prepared for any journey on your bike.
For more bike riding safety tips, subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates regularly.