City Cycling 101

In light of our Bike to School challenge, we want to offer up a few tips (courtesy of Intown Bicycles) to help make your clean commute easy, less stressful, and most importantly safe.

Now we know that it can be scary riding on roads alongside speeding cars, but if you use your head, stay focused, and be smart, you can avoid nearly all major issues.

Tip #1: Be Visible. Now this may seem like an obvious one, but you may be surprised at how many cyclists and pedestrians don’t follow this advice. Make sure that you are wearing bright colors, and that your bike has an appropriate number of lights and reflectors. When you’re on your bike, you want car drivers to notice you from as far away as possible, so that they can plan to safely pass you. This is especially important at night. Wear yellow, it is the most eye catching. Do not wear grey, it’s the color of the road.

Tip #2: Be Predictable. It’s important to be as predictable as possible so that other drivers can know what to do. Follow the rules of the road. Stop at all red lights and stop signs; signal when turning; yield to oncoming traffic; ride on the right-hand side of the road, and turn left from the left lane. Essentially, ride your bike as if you’re driving a car.

Tip #3: Beware of Hazards. A lot of things that are bad for cars (pot holes, road plates, construction zones) are bad for bicycles, but there are additional things to watch out for when biking in the city. Watch for cars making left turns in front of you, and look for cars pulling out from side streets and driveways.Watch for cars that pass you and then make a right turn in front of you.

Also watch for sewer grates, railroad tracks, and gravel or other road debris. These items can cause you to lose traction and fall, particularly if you hit them at high speeds or going around turns.

Be aware that drivers cannot see the holes, debris, and other hazards that you have to negotiate. Signal drivers, if possible, before making any unexpected moves to avoid hazards.

Tip #4: Plan Your Routes Ahead of Time. Putting a bit of time in to plan your route can pay off big time. Not only can you avoid the busiest roads, but you can find out which roads have bike paths, which traffic signals don’t recognize cyclists, etc. Make sure to utilize bike paths as much as possible. It is technically illegal to ride on the sidewalk (unless you’re under 13), however there are some situations where it is way safer – so use your best judgement.

Tip #5: Be Prepared. First off, you should always have the proper safety equipment. Always wear your helmet (even for short trips), and wear reflective or bright clothing, as we mentioned earlier. It’s also important to carry some tools and supplies in the event of a problem. We recommend a spare tube for your tires, a patch kit, and a multi-tool, to help fix general mechanical issues.

Tip #6: Pay Attention. This is another no-brainer. Make sure that you are constantly aware of your surroundings. Unfortunately this means no listening to music. It’s important to use all of your senses to be aware. Don’t even think about trying to text while riding your bike. Not only are your eyes not on the road, but your hands aren’t on the handlebars, and you have no way to avoid a problem. It’s not worth the injury or the broken phone.

For a full guide to bycicling in Georgia, see the DOT’s Georgia Bike Sense. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also offers courses on city cycling, and bike maintenance.

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