It’s hard not to notice the influx of bicycle riders out there now. People of all ages have turned to regular bikes and ebikes as their form of outdoor recreation as well as exercise. However, one thing that’s seriously lacking is bicycle safety awareness. So, here’s the straight scoop on how to ride a bicycle safely on bike trails, sidewalks and the road.
Recently, we decided to join in the fun of bicycle riding. And since we travel all over the Country, we’ve found some pretty neat bicycle trails. As well, we’ve realized their importance of transportation. Being we preach safety, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some important tips on bicycle safety. But it’s equally important to know the rights and wrongs of bike riding etiquette.
This blog article contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
Bicycle Safety Tips: How to Ride Safely on Trails, Walkways and Roads
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are a few important bicycle safety tips that can help mitigate and decrease your chances of bicycle accidents. Bike riding is about 500 times more fatal than riding in a bus.
Bicyclist deaths typically occur in the early evening hours between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Also, bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (78%) compared to rural areas (22%) (2019 figure). And collectively, in 2019, 843 bicycle riders lost their lives while riding. And though cyclists’ deaths account for approximately 2-3% of all motor-vehicle traffic fatalities, that’s a high number; especially if you’re part of that percentage.
So, keeping all of that in mind, what can you do to increase your chances of coming home alive and in one piece? Before jumping on your bicycle or ebike, let’s take a look at these bicycle safety tips.
Wear your PPE
When riding your bicycle or ebike, it’s imperative you are equipped with the proper personal protection equipment (PPE). Your PPE should include protective headgear, eye protection, foot protection, and visible clothing.
Wearing a helmet is a controversial issue amongst motorcycle riders. Also, the same is said about bicycle riders. But as motorcycle riders, we always kept in the backs of our heads, ‘what if we went down?’ Your head weighs approximately 8 pounds. And when you go down, I promise you it’s going to hit something. Whether it’s a concrete curb, pole, fence or the asphalt, without protection, you’re going to end up with at least a really bad headache.
When we bought our ebikes, our very first question was which helmet did we want. We first started with regular bicycle helmets. But then, our son who is an avid ADV motorcycle rider, introduced us to helmets that have bluetooth communication capability. In fact, because he cares about us, he and his wife gifted our new intercom bicycle helmets for Christmas!
We can pair both of our bicycle helmets to each other OR up to three other bicycle riders who have the same model bicycle helmet intercom capability. Now, we can communicate with each other; warning each other of traffic issues ahead or behind, passing pedestrians, obstructions, or cool scenery on the way to our destination. But most importantly, our bicycle helmets protect our noggins. Because you only have one head and one brain. Take care of it!
Most bicycle riders today don’t really think about, let alone wear proper eye protection while riding. While your favorite sunglasses offer great UV protection, you need applicable eye protection that is made to withstand hits. Riding glasses will protect you from bugs, stones, pollen and airborne debris that can fly into your eyes that can cause temporary or even permanent blindness.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve noticed bicycle riders who aren’t dressed accordingly for the road. Regardless if you’re riding on a backwoods bike path or on the road in traffic, it’s important to be seen anytime of the day or night. A high vis riding shirt will be more visible than that muted color t-shirt.
Something to consider, the wick-away long sleeve shirts protect against UV rays and offer a layer of warmth on cooler days. Plus, they offer protection from small stones and bugs that may hit you while riding
For cooler days when a lightweight shirt may not be enough, look into hi-vis cycling outerwear that are fluorescent, reflective, waterproof, windproof and comfortable.
While flip flops are great for getting around on your walks, it’s not safe to wear them while riding your bicycle. Wearing loose fitting shoes, sandals or flip flops have potential of slipping off your bicycle pedals, get twisted or interfere with moving parts such as the spokes. Worse, if you fall, your toes and feet are going to get the brunt of your fall. We wear multi-purpose outdoor shoes than are perfect for riding, hiking and even walking on the beach or water.
Another great bicycle safety measure is to tuck and tie your shoe laces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain or other moving mechanisms on your bicycle.
Leave your earbuds at home
Look, I love my earbuds as much as everyone else. We can appreciate listening to our jams but NOT while enjoying our Sunday bicycle ride. It is extremely dangerous because they block all other sound which means you won’t be able to hear vehicles approaching, emergency vehicles, etc.
In fact, it’s actually unlawful to wear earbuds while operating or riding your bicycle on the road. Bicycle riders are subject to the same applicable vehicular laws.
That said, if you do wish to listen to your favorite tunes while riding your bicycle, I suggest attaching a small bluetooth speaker to your handlebars. You can pair it with your phone. However, don’t blast the volume as to not be able to hear traffic, emergency vehicles or others giving voice commands or their own bicycle bells.
On the same note, those cool bluetooth intercom helmets (above) we wear can be paired to our phones which enable us to listen to our beats without obstructing any other noises around us.
Bicycle safety equipment
While yes, you can buy a bicycle that’s ready to ride, you’ll still want to equip your bike with handlebar mirrors, enough bicycle reflectors, and bicycle riding lights. Again, you want to make yourself as visible as possible while riding your bicycle.
A simple reflector can be a lifesaver when a headlight shines on it. And, it’s wise to have at least one handlebar mirror placed near your left handgrip. This placement is so you can see traffic approaching you from the rear. And whether you’re riding day or night, bicycle headlight and taillight helps alert motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists that you’re approaching or leaving.
For more information on the below recommendations, click on each image.
Conduct a pre-ride inspection
Before jumping on your bike to take a ride, it’s important to give your bicycle a pre-ride inspection. Even if you stop for lunch and leave your biked locked, you should always inspect it before throwing your leg over the saddle.
- Check your tire pressure; inspect your bicycle tires for leaks and anything that may be sticking in the tire.
- Look at your wheels; making sure all spokes are present and not bent. Make certain your wheel rim is not dented or impeding proper tire placement.
- Ensure your brakes work properly; both front brake and back brake.
- Check your wheel quick-releases
- Make sure your pedals and crank arms move properly
- Check your bicycle chain; making sure it’s tension is correct and not going to fall off while riding.
- Inspect your seat stem and bracket ensuring your seat is locked on securely.
- Ensure your bicycle frame and welds are not cracked or showing signs of contradiction.
- Test your lights and ensure your reflectors are all present.
- Adjust your mirrors, seat height and pedals.
- Make certain no strings, straps, ropes, bungie cords, or anything interferes with or impedes safe operation of your bicycle.
Share the road!
Not sharing the road is one of the biggest culprits in cyclist accidents. As bicycle riders, we must appreciate that we are smaller than motorized vehicles which makes us more vulnerable.
When riding on the road, bicycle riders are subject to the same traffic laws as motorists. That said, realize you are slower thus, to keep proper traffic flow, it’s best to stay to the right of traffic.
Other bicycle safety tips:
- Always ride with motorized traffic; never against traffic.
- Use designated bike lanes when possible.
- Never impede traffic by riding slower than the speed limit in the center of the lane. If you do ride slower, stay in the right third of the lane unless you are proceeding and have signaled to turn left.
- Watch for opening car doors, vehicle mirrors and pedestrians who may step out without looking.
- Use your hand signals to signal your intentions to motorists, other bicycle riders as well as pedestrians.
- Always be on the lookout for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall. Watch for loose gravel or sand, potholes, train tracks, slippery grates, etc.
- Alert pedestrians, joggers or runners and other cyclists by verbal warning such as passing. Never sneak up to anyone on a sidewalk or roadway. A simple loud ‘passing on your left’ is perfectly fine if your bicycle is not equipped with a bicycle bell.
But, this goes for trail riding and riding on sidewalks also. Be respectful of all those who you may be sharing the road, sidewalk or trail with. Practice good bicycle riding etiquette everywhere!
Check out this video on proper use of hand signals while riding a bicycle:
Hydrate and Nourish
Staying hydrated can be a big concern especially in warm and dry climates. As well, if your ride is long or exerting, you need to figure in your water intake. As well, you’ll want to make certain you take some healthy protein snacks so you don’t end up looking for an Uber or Lyft to come take you home.
On longer trips where I know we won’t be stopping often, I will just wear my hi-vis hydration backpack. But, for short tips, I will pack our water filter bottles. That way, I’m not only helping to save the environment by not buying plastic water bottle but also, the the water filter insert will filter from any water source. The most important thing is to take in as much water as possible so your body reacts positively to the awesome exercise you’re getting.
Never ride impaired
While you may think it’s cool to take your bike for a spin to the bar for a few rounds, don’t do it. First, like we mentioned several times, as a cyclist, you’re subject to the same traffic laws as motorists. One of those is getting cited for DUI.
You may get stopped by law enforcement should you be suspected of riding under the influence of alcohol or illegal substance(s). If you, as a rider, are exhibiting erratic behavior that may indicate intoxication, law enforcement authorities do have the right to detain you as well so you are not a danger to others or yourself. In other words, don’t drink and ride!
Don’t ride like a jerk!
No one owns the road, trails or sidewalks. Be a respectful bicycle rider. Slow down when approaching other cyclists and pedestrians. Also tone it down when wizzing through intersections. Abide by all traffic laws, signals and signs.
Lastly, if you come upon another cyclist who’s broken down, please stop to help them. At the least, help keep traffic away from them until they can get to a safe location.
Final thoughts on bicycle safety
We hope these lifesaving bicycle safety tips will help mitigate accidents that may ruin your day or worse! Always be completely cognizant and aware of your surroundings. When riding your bicycle or ebike, never multi-task. If you need to answer your phone or need to check equipment, pull off to a safe location.