Biking to work is a great way to stay active, cut back your commuting expenses and reduce your personal carbon footprint. While cycling is an environmentally-friendly way to get to work, it can be just as dangerous as driving a vehicle to work.
Here are four tips to help you stay safe on your bike commute.
1. Always Wear a Helmet
The first and most obvious safety tip is to wear a helmet – always. Bicycle helmets can reduce the probability of serious head injuries by 50%.
Don’t just wear any old helmet on your commute. Make sure that your helmet fits your head properly. Tighten the straps for a snug fit, and make sure that you’re wearing the helmet correctly.
It’s also important to make sure that your helmet meets international bicycle safety standards. There should be a sticker inside of the helmet.
Never wear a helmet that has been damaged in a crash.
2. Wear Clothing That Motorists Can See
Be smart when choosing your cycling attire. If you’re commuting in the early morning or late evening, wear reflective gear and consider putting a flashing tail light on your bicycle.
If you’re traveling in the dark (or low light conditions) and wearing dark clothing, motorists won’t be able to see you and you’ll have a much higher risk of getting into an accident.
Even if you’re commuting in broad daylight, wear bright colors that can easily be seen by motorists.
3. Avoid Busy Roads
Try to take routes with minimal traffic. It may take you a bit longer to get to and from work, but there’s a good chance that the long way is the more scenic and safer route.
Busy roads and intersections are the most dangerous for bikers. In a recent blog post, law firm DePaolo & Zadeikis points out that there are 70 bike crashes per mile on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.
The last thing you want is to get caught in the middle of traffic during rush hour on a busy road.
If you’re lucky enough to work in a bike-friendly city, try taking the bike paths instead. Your commute may be a little quicker and you’ll be safer taking this route.
Don’t ride on the sidewalk (it’s illegal in the U.S.), and try to stick to wide roads with plenty of space.
4. Put Away the Distractions – Including Music
Biking, just like driving, requires your absolute focus. It’s important to be alert and aware of your surroundings if you want a safe commute.
That means putting away all distractions, including your music. Never use headphones or listen to music while you’re biking. You won’t be able to hear the vehicles coming up behind you.
Don’t use your smartphone while you’re riding either. If you’re fiddling with your phone while you’re riding, you may lose your balance or be so distracted that you become completely unaware of your surroundings.
If you’re using your phone to navigate, pull over to a safe spot if you need to change or check your route.