With bicycling more popular than ever, there’s no time like the present for bike safety. If you’re a beginner, these tips can help you feel comfortable riding on the road. If you’re a regular cyclist, this post can act as a helpful refresher.
Remember that bike safety doesn’t end with those on the bikes. Auto drivers need to be aware of people riding bikes and practice safe driving. Never ride or drive distracted and always take responsibility for safety.
13 Bike Safety Tips for Beginners
1. Wear a Helmet
There’s no better way to protect your noggin than wearing a helmet. Even if it messes up your hair, a helmet is an essential piece of bike safety.
2. Ride with Traffic
It’s strange this needs to be said but ride your bicycle with traffic. Riding against traffic is dangerous and means you likely won’t be seen by turning drivers. Whether there’s a bike lane or not, follow the flow of traffic.
3. Obey Traffic Signs and Signals
In most of North America, bicycles are considered vehicles. That means they’re subject to the same rules. If you’re riding a bike, follow stop signs, traffic lights, and other signs and signals. It’s not only safe, it’s the law.
Some states and cities have exceptions. Notable is the “Idaho Stop” law in Idaho, Oregon, Delaware, Washington, and a couple other states. Under this law, people on bikes can treat stop signs as yield signs. This allows bicyclists to maintain momentum if they have the right of way, rather than stopping at every stop sign.
4. Use Hand Signals
Cars and motorbikes have turn signals, but bicyclists rely on hand signals. When you’re turning or changing lanes, stick the corresponding arm out. For example, if you’re turning left, raise your left arm for at least three seconds before turning. This warns others on the road of your intentions.
5. Don’t Wear Headphones
This is a big bike safety tip that’s often overlooked by beginners. Under no circumstances should cyclists wear headphones while biking on the road. Listening for cars, pedestrians, emergency vehicles, and other road users is essential for riding on city streets. Use your ears and stay safe.
6. Turn on Lights at Night
Don’t be afraid to deck out your bike with lights. At night, you need a bare minimum of a bright headlight and a red taillight, preferably flashing. We recommend using even more lights, such as wheel hub lights and reflective strips.
7. Dress for the Weather
There might not be anything worse than getting to work wet and cold. When riding your bike, dress for the weather. That might mean wearing a raincoat, earmuffs, gloves, or in summer, shorts.
Remember that temperature acts differently on a bicycle. Your body will heat up while pedaling, so don’t dress too heavily in winter. Do remember the wind chill effect though. Air feels a lot colder when you’re moving at 20 miles per hour, so use gloves, hats, earmuffs, and scarves to protect exposed skin.
8. Make Eye Contact with Drivers
An excellent bike safety practice is to make eye contact with drivers. This applies when making turns, crossing intersections, and giving way at stop signs. It’s also good when changing lanes.
By making eye contact with drivers, you can ensure they see you. Most bike accidents occur because drivers haven’t seen cyclists. While it’s the driver’s responsibility to watch out, cyclists can help by making eye contact.
9. Don’t be Afraid to Use the Lane
Beginner cyclists are often uncomfortable biking in mixed traffic. It’s a skill that takes practice and grows easier with experience. A great tip is to not be afraid of the lane. As a vehicle on the road, you’re entitled to use the full lane. In fact, riding in the middle of the lane can be safer than riding on the side. It increases your visibility to other road users.
10. Always Use Both Hands
You may have seen cyclists biking with one hand or no hands. Don’t risk that. It’s far safer to keep both hands on the handlebars. This allows you to maintain steering control if you hit an unexpected bump or pothole.
11. Look Behind You
Always, always, always look behind you! This vital when changing lanes or turning but is always important. Regularly glancing behind you, along with listening, keeps you aware of your surroundings.
If you don’t like looking over your shoulder or have neck pain, try a rearview mirror. Handlebar and helmet mirrors are readily available at bike shops.
12. Watch for Road Hazards
Always keep an eye out for road hazards. Potholes, nails, and debris are obvious items. But there are also lesser known hazards. For example, shiny spots on a wet road can indicate slick oil patches. And loose gravel can send your bike sliding out of control.
Additionally, avoid puddles. They may seem fun to zoom through, but puddles often hide dangerous potholes. The last thing you want is to go flying over the handlebars in a puddle.
13. Advocate for Safer Streets
An important component of bike safety happens off the bike. You can use your voice to advocate for safer streets, including protected bike infrastructure, slower speeds, and more visible crosswalks. A great way to do this is by speaking up at council and neighborhood association meetings. Together, we can make the streets safer for all road users!
We hope you’ve enjoyed these bike safety tips. With biking opportunities at or near our resorts across North America, we’re proud to support cyclists. If you are too, give this post a share!