Riding a bike in any downtown metropolitan area is a great way to get around. You can move faster than rush hour traffic and when you get to where you’re going, you will not need to search for a parking space, just a secure location to lock your bike. There are many benefits, but if you are new to biking in a city, there are some very important safety concerns to keep in mind.
1. Watch for opening car doors
You should be prepared for every car door to swing open with reckless abandon. People do simply not look when they open the doors of their parked cars. Getting “doored” can is a very common experience for cyclists in downtown areas. The only way that you can prevent this is to anticipate that every car door will open the moment you approach them. You may want to hover over the brake and maybe give as wide a berth as possible to protect yourself even further. Look inside the car to see if there is anyone inside who looks like they might be just about to hop out.
2. Stay close to the curb, but not too close
You need to give yourself some room to manoeuvre should you need to avoid a door opening or a car that moves too close to you. For this reason, you should aim to be as close to the curb as possible. Another reason to not ride in the gutter is that this where a lot of dirt, dust and other debris collect. Riding on this part of the road can damage your tires over time.
3. Keep an eye on the car’s mirrors
The driver of a car that you are passing is relying on their mirrors to tell them about the cars that are around them for this reason, you need to be able to see their mirrors in order for the driver to know you’re there.
4. Always give yourself a way out
Don’t get boxed in by a group of cars when in traffic, you always need an exit route. Getting boxed in can be frustrating and dangerous. Also, make sure that you have given yourself ample braking distance between yourself and the car in front of you. City traffic is unpredictable and you can’t always rely on the cars around you to follow the rules of the road to the letter.
5. Look at a driver’s head movement and the tires
The head movements of the driver can give you valuable information on what they are intending to do as their next maneuver. A quick swivel of the head is an indication that they are about to change lanes as they check their blind spot. Also, keep an eye on the city bike tires. They may make slight adjustments to the angle of their tires before any signalling. This can give you the fraction of a second you need to get out of the way.
6. Be careful around large vehicles
The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spot. This means that there is a greater chance that they haven’t seen you approaching the car. You should give trucks and vans the benefit of the doubt when approaching them at all times in the city.
7. No headphones
It may not be as fun to ride without them, but you should have all of your sense at your disposal as you need to be aware of any cars movements behind you. Even the click of a door being unlocked can give you a much-needed heads up.