While cycling is one of the greatest ways to stay healthy and have a positive impact on the environment, sharing the road with thousands of other people in vehicles that weigh several times the combined weight of you and your bicycle means safety is always a concern. No list of safety tips is complete, but these five are overarching principles that can help guide you to a safety-conscious mindset while cycling.
1. Keep Visibility in Mind at All Times
Wandering roads with dips and bends reduce the amount of time both you and any automobiles have to respond to an impending accident. Don't risk the middle of the road around blind turns and sharp corners, and obstructions that limit the field of view should be treated as hazards to keep a close eye on as you pass near them. Night and inclement weather should be considered more dangerous than daytime riding both for the reduction in visibility and the tendency for drivers to be a little more sloppy during these times.
2. Bicycle Safety Equipment
The right safety equipment both makes it easier to stay visible and helps protect your body against crashes ranging from embarrassing topples to serious collisions. Your bike should have reflectors pointing to the front, back, and sides, even if you don't intend to operate it at night. Helmets should always be worn, and pads for the knees and elbows are highly recommended. Bright clothing in colors like orange, red, and yellow warn drivers to your presence more prominently.
3. Assume the Worst when Dealing with Automobiles
As you move about the world, most automobiles that pass near you will be nothing more than a blur of light and sound that is in your life for a moment. Their drivers are responsible operators who keep their eyes on the surrounding, but happenstance can distract even the most diligent person. With thousands of pounds moving at high speed, a single moment can change everything. When operating your bike around roads, always assume that a car might not behave exactly as it should and drive defensively. The cost of not doing so could be your life.
4. Group Up for Safety
One of the most basic survival tactics of life in all forms is to group up for protection. For cyclists, a larger group patrolling together will be more visible from a distance, and the added benefit of peer pressure to keep the pace up should always be welcome. Keep in mind that one of the most common laws for riding in groups is to keep the width of your group to two cyclists side by side, which brings us to our final point.
5. Check Your Local Laws
For something as simple as riding a bike, the laws governing where and how you can ride vary widely from region to region. A rural region might have lax restrictions because of the open space, but a metropolitan area could restrict bicycle operation on the sidewalks of a high pedestrian traffic zone. Various pieces of equipment may be required or forbidden, riding may be prohibited during certain hours. There is no limit to the amount of weird rules that can be put in place by overzealous legislators, so make sure to examine both your state and city regulations for any oddities.
Stay Safe and Keep Pedaling!
Discussing safety can be both dour and boring, but it is absolutely necessary to give it close attention. Every cyclist is a loved one to someone who will feel incredible pain if anything were to happen, so it is up to you to stay safe both for your own loved ones and to set an example for those you love who might get behind the pedals someday. With safety set snugly in the back of your mind, it will be easier to keep fun and happiness in the forefront.