Cycling is a fantastic activity for staying physically and mentally fit. Here are our tips to stay safe when biking in a city:
Living in an urban environment can make it hard to squeeze in the physical activity needed to stay healthy on a daily basis. Cycling can naturally fit into your daily routine better than many other forms of exercise because it doubles up as transportation to work, school or local shops. It’s easier than finding extra time to visit the gym - and also much cheaper! Plus, commuting by bicycle to work is linked with a 45% lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to commuting by car or public transport. (source: Cycling UK)
Riding a bicycle is a very safe form of transportation and the health benefits far outweigh any risks of accidental injury. However, biking in a busy city can throw a few extra curve-balls your way if you're not properly prepared. When you do decide to saddle up and get cycling, keep in mind these tips for staying safe out on the road.
Wear a bicycle helmet (always!)
This one is a no-brainer - a good helmet protects your head in the event of an accident. Lucky for you, nowadays there are thousands of styles for helmets so there's no excuse to skip out on wearing one. Helmets are also a great place to mount a headlight, and now you can even get handy helmet-mounted mirrors!
Stand out with lights and bright clothing
Light it up! A key factor in avoiding accidents is ensuring that cars can see you clearly at all times and stay out of your way. If you're riding at night, it's the law in most countries to have front and back lights. Wearing fluorescent high visibility clothing is an easy, inexpensive way to help you stand out in a busy city environment.
Know the rules of the road
As a bicycle, you're expected to behave like a car, which can feel daunting at first if you're used to behaving like a pedestrian. Many accidents are caused by inexperienced cyclers or tourists riding for the first time in a city. When the lights are red - stop! Traffic police in major cities also take these laws seriously, so unless you want to be slapped with a fine (same as for driving!) learn the rules and follow them carefully. If you feel unsure of how to safely ride your bike in the city, consider taking a local course to sharpen your skills.
Research the safest bicycle route
Often in big cities, there's more than one way to get where you're going. In a car, the difference might be saving a few minutes on your commute by avoiding a few uncooperative traffic lights. On a bicycle, a bit of research could be the difference between stressful, dangerous commute and an easy morning cruise to work. Familiarise yourself with bike lanes, they're an urban cyclist's safe haven in a sea of traffic chaos. Google Maps now has a beta feature on their app to help cyclists choose the best route. As you get used to biking to your favorite spots, try out a few different ways and pick the safest one!
Prepare for the weather
Unless you're lucky enough to live in sunny LA, you're likely going to encounter rain (or even snow!) on a regular basis. When you do, you'll thank yourself for packing that rain jacket. Take care on the roads when they're wet and give yourself plenty of time to slow down.
Hot tip: if you park your bike outside, bring a plastic bag and wrap it around your seat so it's nice and dry when you hop back on!
Keep your bicycle tuned up
Check your bike regularly for regular wear and tear. Test your brakes, make sure screws are tight and that everything is attached and firmly in place. The last place you want something to fall out is in the middle of an intersection with traffic all around you. Take preventative measures to keep your bike in the best possible shape. If you're not comfortable tuning a bike yourself, take it down to your friendly local bike shop and they'll be happy to help you out.
Pack an emergency bicycle repair kit
Hopefully, keeping your bike tuned up will avoid serious breakdowns, but cities are full of surprises and an emergency repair kit lets you take care of small situations yourself. Pack a puncture kit to quickly repair a flat tire and a multi-tool to twist up tight anything that might come loose accidentally.
Stay focused and alert
Have your morning coffee before you hit the road on your morning bicycle commute! It pays to be awake and alert in rush hour traffic when the roads are at their busiest. And this goes without saying - but stay sober! 1 in 3 bicycle deaths are linked to alcohol, so think twice about those after-work beers if you need to cycle home. Treat it the same as drinking and driving. Always be aware of what other cars and bicycles are doing around you - keep an eye out for turn signals and stay out of blind spots.
Bonus: Stay fresh after the ride
Give yourself adequate time to get to your destination so you can go at a reasonable pace and not sweat more than you absolutely have to. If you're cycling to work, it's a good idea to bring a separate pair of clothes and socks to change into when you arrive. Keep a pack of baby wipes and deodorant in your kit to quickly freshen up and you should be good to go!
Conclusion: Always wear your helmet and familiarise yourself with best practices for staying safe when cycling in a big city. You'll be glad that you did!
Did you know? Our Boblbee hardshell backpacks are great for protecting your spine and your gear when cycling in a city.
Think of it as a helmet for your spine - you won't regret the extra impact protection in the event of an accident in traffic.
In fact, they're the highest rated spine protection available - with up to 93% impact reduction in the event of an accident. You can kit them out with a reflective cover so you stay visible in traffic. On top of that, laptops, tablets, cameras, and other valuables are safe and secure inside!