Staying Safe While Cycling On the Road
Many countries, like the United States, actually have regulations which forbid cyclists from riding on sidewalks. That puts you out in the road. Unfortunately, many drivers today are paying more attention to their car stereo and smartphone than they are to what is going on outside their vehicle. That means you need to take responsibility for your personal safety when you cycle and bike on roadways.
Wearing a Helmet Is Not Enough
Should you wear a helmet when you cycle in traffic? Definitely. That is just a smart safety move and a legal requirement in some places. But it is only the beginning of a smart approach to roadway biking. You really should consider adopting the following attitudes, tips and strategies to improve your biking safety.
Get a Headlight
You should absolutely have a headlight if you ride at night. Even at twilight and in the middle of the day, a headlight makes you more visible.
Get On the Sidewalk
In some jurisdictions, cycling on the sidewalk is considered acceptable. In other areas you could draw a warning or even a substantial fine. Understand the laws in your area regarding bicycling on the sidewalk, and take advantage of this opportunity if it presents itself.
Wear Bright Clothes
If you are cycling for fitness, you have probably seen reflective clothing specifically made for keeping you safe while you ride. But you don’t have to spend money on these biking-specific tops and bottoms. Just wear bright clothes when you are riding in the street, and remember that “loud” patterns and stripes make you more visible as well.
Never Ride Against Traffic
You may think that riding against traffic is smart. After all, you can see the cars coming your way, right? Yes, but people in vehicles are not used to seeing something approaching them in their lane. And if someone is turning onto your road from a side street or residence and taking a right turn towards you, they may never see you coming.
Never Stop In a Car’s Blind Spot
At an intersection or red light when you have to stop, do so directly behind a vehicle. Never stop to the side of the vehicle, especially on the right. When the light turns green the driver to your left may make take a right turn and take you down because he never saw you.
There are some wonderfully helpful websites that keep you safe no matter what type of cycling activity you enjoy. Check out the following websites to keep you safe when you cycle on the road and elsewhere: BicycleSafe.com, Bicycling.com and BikeRadar.com
Why You Should Always Wear a Helmet When Cycling
In the U.S., 2% of the motor vehicle crash deaths in 2013 were bicyclists. Not surprisingly,75% of the bicyclists deaths were caused by head injuries, thus highlighting the importance of wearing a helmet.
Other injuries such as bruises, skin abrasions, even broken bones heal without much, if any, noticeable effects, but traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are different. They can leave permanent and lasting effects. And why would anyone not want to do all one could do to prevent that type of life-changing injury?
For example, even with a mild head injury the person could have a hard time sleeping, not able to stay mentally focused on something, have memory issues or other interruptions of other thought processes.
With a severe head injury, the effects can include any of the above plus vomiting, seizures, convulsions, slurred speech, agitation, numbness, loss of muscle coordination … and the list goes on and on.
So while the goal is to not sustain any type of head injury, although on average careful cyclists crash every 4,500 miles, wearing a helmet at the time of a crash could mean the difference of not sustaining any injury or a mild injury with minor effects, instead of one so severe that you lose all ability to have a full and productive life.
Do helmets work?
The numbers speak for themselves. Statistics show that four out of six riders did not sustain serious head injury when wearing a helmet at the time of a serious crash.
When properly designed, as most of the new ones are now, much of the energy from a blow to the head is absorbed by the helmet that would otherwise be transferred to the brain. Look for helmets that have thick plastic foam insert molded (not glued) over a hard outer plastic shell. Complete it with a chin strap and adjustable head retention system and you have a quality helmet that will do as much as it can to reduce the effects of a blow to the head.
It’s the law
In some cities, it is the law – you have to wear a helmet when riding a bike. Dallas, TX is one of those cities. The fine for a first offense is $10.00, second offense $25 and the third and subsequent offense is $50 per violation.
Did you notice how bright and colorful most of the helmets are? This helps drivers see you better especially during fog, rain or other low-light conditions. So while a helmet helps prevent brain injuries in crashes, they can also help prevent crashes in the first place by increasing your visibility to other drivers.
Vanity should not be an excuse for not wearing a helmet, yet that is the reason many do not wear one. Risking a life-changing head injury is not worth keeping your hair looking nice or worrying if your helmet coordinates with your outfit. Be smart – ride smart – wear a helmet.
A Cycling Helmet Buyers Guide
Like other types of sports, having the correct gear not only makes the sport more enjoyable but also safer. Cycling helmets are no different. Most of today’s helmets have to conform to certain safety standards. Common standards are found in the American, European and Australian cycling markets.
While the basic function of cycling helmets is to protect your head and brain in the event of a crash, certain parts of the helmet varies according to type of cycling, such as the interior and exterior design, chin strap and retention systems. How each of these parts differ are discussed under each type of helmet below.
Helmets are classed according to the type of riding. Generally there are four types:
Helmets designed for road riding are lightweight and offer good airflow because of the way the vents are designed. Look for a helmet that has its foam core designed into the shell and not just glued in; otherwise the shell will eventually start to peel away from the shell, thus losing some of its protective ability. Also with the shell molded around the shell, exposed shell edges and corners will be more protected from damage.
Chin straps are usually anchored both in front of and behind the ears. The Y connector where the straps meet should be adjustable for the most comfortable fit. The retention system inside the foam insert should also be adjustable for the size of your head either with parallel sliders or in the more expensive helmets a dial adjuster.
If you race against time, then a time trail helmet may work best for you as they are specifically designed for the least air resistance. Not only do they have fewer vents but the ones they have are placed so there is minimum aerodynamic drag. These helmets also have a longer tail in the back of the helmet to better streamline the flow of air coming over the top of the head and reduce drag between your head and shoulders.
Mountain biking helmets tend to provide more coverage of the head giving you maximum protection in the case of falls. One noticeable difference from other helmets are the smaller vents on these helmets. With smaller vents, more material can be used in the helmet construction thus giving more protection.
Commuter or Leisure
For those that ride bike to and from work, a more traditional style of helmet works best. These have a small visor built into the shell to shade the eyes along with certain helmets having integrated LED lights for low-light city-style riding. Also some helmets have a flip-out rear-view mirror for visibility to the rear. From the stylish point, these helmets look better when wearing normal clothes or even a suit when riding to and from work.
Helmets are one of the most important biking accessories; don’t skimp on cost as your life can literally depend on the helmet you are wearing in the event of a crash.
Do compare cycling helmets to find one that’s most suitable for you.
Road Cycling vs. Off Road Cycling
Comparing cycling off-road with biking on established roadways is like looking for similarities between peanut butter and zebras. There just aren’t too many. Okay, you use a bike in both instances. And any type of cycling is a great form of exercise as well as transportation. But there are plenty of differences between on-road and off-road cycling.
First off, different equipment is needed. You can ride a mountain bike down a crowded city street if you would like to. But tire size and width, coupled with a lower and wider profile, makes the experience physically harder and much more dangerous. Accordingly, attempting to traverse mountain biking trails with your skinny-wheeled, light-framed street cycle could quickly mean expensive bike repairs and a trip to the hospital.
Devoted cyclists even wear different types of clothing and shoes when heading off-road than when they are negotiating city streets. You need more protective clothing and more durable shoes for mountain biking and other types of off-road cycling adventures than if you are pedaling along down the highway.
As far as money goes, your financial outlay can be cheap or extremely expensive in either case. There are all sorts of bikes and accessories at every budget level, which makes cycling of any kind a wonderfully healthy hobby for everyone.
Another difference between piloting a road bike versus an off-road bicycle concerns skill level. It is much easier to move from mountain biking and other off-road biking activities to a road bike than the other way around. Off-road biking requires an intense and physical dedication almost constantly. Road cycling is much more of a repetitive, rhythmic process.
Your environments are totally different, too. People that love off-road cycling do it for the mother nature benefits as much as for the actual biking itself. They love the sights, smells and sounds of the great outdoors and experience it uniquely while biking along. Fans of the urban environment cycling experience are comfortable with cars, trucks, SUVs, sidewalks full of people and the incessant sounds of city life.
Your physical cycling motion is also different on the road versus off. Mountain bikes and other off-road cycles are shorter. They also employ a much smaller gear ratio than multi-gear road bikes. This means your cycling rhythm and style is going to be totally different when you are slowly climbing rock-strewn trails or flying down clear forest paths than when you are rhythmically pumping along at a constant rate of speed on a flat concrete roadway.
You can burn fat, get in shape and improve your heart health on both off and on-road bicycles. Before you get started with one discipline or another however, just understand that the above differences are a few of the many ways that these 2 enjoyable physical activities are dissimilar.
A Guide to Cycling Etiquette On the Road
Learning the “Rules of the Road” is just as important for cyclists as drivers of motor vehicles. Your safety and the welfare of others is in your hands every time you jump on your bike and hit the road. How do you make and stay friends with other cyclists as well as drivers of motorized vehicles when you are biking on roadways? You do so by practicing established cycling etiquette.
Never ride your bike against traffic – This is a safety tip to be sure, but it is also just good cycling etiquette. Some motor vehicle drivers become very anxious when they see you cycling towards them on their side of the street.
Stay far right – When you are biking on the road, stay as far to the right side of the roadway as you can. Obviously, think practically and safely. Most roads are built with extra space on the sides for a reason. Use that extra area outside the motorized traffic lane whenever possible.
When dealing with other cyclists, always be nice – Sometimes you may be cycling with a group of bikers. Even if someone else is acting irresponsibly or getting on your nerves, smile and respond positively. Road rage occurs on bicycles as well as in cars, and can cause accidents and fatalities.
Ride steady – You can put yourself and others in harm’s way if you are wobbling and shaking back and forth when you bike on a roadway. Adopt a relaxed and steady cycling rhythm.
Be seen – Yes, you are practicing good cycling etiquette when you dress in florescent, loud, bright clothing with eye-catching patterns.
Wait for a restroom – You would probably be upset if you saw a driver of a motorized vehicle pull over to the side of the road to relieve himself in a spot of bushes or trees. So when did it become acceptable for cyclists to do the same when mother nature calls? The answer is, never.
Obey stop signs and traffic lights – This is a personal safety must, as well as simple cycling etiquette. If you expect the right to coexist on a roadway with motorized traffic, you must obey traffic laws as well.
You can learn more in-depth information about roadway cycling etiquette online. Several civic and government organizations provide all types of cycling and biking tips and information at sites.
You can also type “your city” biking etiquette into Google or any other search engine to discover local resources to cycling rules of the road.