We can all go on and on for days about safety tips for bike commuting. We are all aware of the risks and these risks may have some new bike riders feeling a bit concerned. We here at Three B Zine feel that these are a few good starter tips for the rider who might be showing interest in commuting on two wheels instead of four.
1. Plan your route - Know where you are going and create an effective plan on how you will get there. There are some good resources out there to help you track and map out your new bike commute. One place is Google Maps, who now has added a feature for bike directions. If you live in San Diego head on over to http://www.icommutesd.com/
2. Safety – When riding long distances make sure you are hydrating properly., especially in San Diego during our summer months. Wear something while riding that will make you noticeable by drivers. Bright neon colors during the day, reflective clothing at night. Check the weather the night before you ride so you are prepared for the ride conditions that you will be facing on your commute. In San Diego, we sometimes forget that yes it in fact can rain on us. Figure out how you will get yourself and your belongings to work and back safely. If you plan ahead you can leave a small hygiene kit at work or small back pack filled with clothing and travel size items. Always be aware of what is going on around you. Everyone loves to have their iPod on full blast to get them going, right? Turn it off when commuting! You always need to be aware of what is happening in traffic and that most definitely includes sounds. Oh, and probably most important… WEAR A HELMET! As much as you may not like to it is a must!
3. Learn the basics of maintenance for your bike – Knowing how to spot trouble signs and fix them before they become a problem is key to avoiding a break down. Get to know your specific bike and know how to check the tires, chains, brakes and gears. You can find many bike maintenance “how to” guides online. Find out what tool(s) would be ideal to keep with you and do just that. Check out www.parktool.com for a place to find good multi tools and check out their 131 step repair guide to get you up to speed. It would be a good idea to become familiar with the local bike shops that will be on your new bike route. Get to know the people who work there. A good relationship with your local bike shop is priceless.
4. Claim The Lane For bike commuters, the sidewalk and far right of the street can be extremely dangerous. On sidewalks you are avoiding people and obstacles all while riding on sometimes unstable concrete that is not set up for you to ride on. A lot of times drivers wont notice you speeding off the sidewalk to cross the street which puts bike riders at a very high risk for being hit. The far right lane of the street will have you dodging all kinds of garbage in the gutters. Cars coming up behind you will try to squeeze by which also puts the rider at risk. When you claim the lane drivers will almost always stay more clear of you. It forces drivers to slow their speed and only pass when they know its certain that they will have enough room to do so. Which in return will give you more room as they pass keeping you safe. Practicing this will also make you more visible to oncoming traffic. When hugging the curb on the right side it is much more difficult for them to notice you. Staying more center away from the curbs keeps the risk of some of that nasty street debris from busting your tire or much worse. All of these things make for a much more enjoyable ride. Always remember your bike is no match to a speeding car, so always be safe when sharing the road with them.
5. Have fun with it After all, bike commuting is supposed to be the fun alternative to commuting by vehicle. Along with all the “be safe” talk its also important that you are comfortable on your ride and that you enjoy every minute of it. Find peace in the open, fresh air. With all that saved money and exercise you will be feeling like a million bucks in no time. Your co workers will be jealous and soon enough you might have a full group looking forward to a ride together. Really… what could be better?