Friday, November 9, 2012

Bicycle Safety 101: How to be a (Better) Bicycle Commuter

Riding a bicycle is really simple. With practice and time, anyone can feel comfortable about getting on two wheels. Using a bicycle instead of a car is a great way to stay in shape, do a little bit for the environment and to escape from the headaches of parking. And, it's faster than the bus. There are a few things to make going by bike, or bicycle commuting, easier for you and for those around you.

1.  Ge a bike tune-up. Nothing is worse than riding with tires low in air pressure, brakes that don't work well or a chain that's rusty. Bringing the ole bicycle in for a tune up to the local bike shop is a solid investment. Depending on the type of tune up needed, tune ups can run anywhere from $50 to $250. Think of it like paying to fill up your car - once.

2.  Know the rules of the road. If you are going to be riding around, brush up on the rules. If the last time you thought about riding a bicycle was during your school's bike rodeo, consider becoming familiar with local and state laws. The local bicycle club or state cycling advocacy group are good places to start. Folks driving cars will also take you - and the cycling community - more seriously if you obey the traffic laws. You'll earn more respect and be safer.

3.  Think about safety. Invest in a helmet and brightly colored, reflective clothing. Helmets are cheap - cheaper than hospital stays, doctor visits and medical bills that can pile up. Helmets may not be necessary for a recreational ride on a path at low speeds, but they are important for commuting cyclists who typically interact with traffic. Also consider wearing brightly colored clothing like a jacket. Throwing something brightly colored over your bike outfit increases your visibility and helps you stand out in the landscape. If some of your commuting will be at night or during dawn and dusk, think about being visible.

4.  Plan ahead. What would you do if you got a flat tire? How would you get home in the event of a storm? What would you do if you were involved with or witnessed a crash? These are all important questions to consider before you ride. In driver's ed, they teach you to think about handling emergency scenarios when driving a car, and riding a bike is no different. An ounce of prevention is a worth a pound of cure. Think about carrying a spare tube or a tube repairing kit on your bicycle. Figure out an alternative way of getting home by bus, having a phone number of a reliable friend or family member or seeing if the place you work for supports emergency ride-home programs. Consider carrying ID with you in case of an accident.

5.  Learn to let go and have fun! One of the best things about riding a bike is the freedom it provides. Want to stop at that park? Pause to take a picture of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the road? Run into an old friend? Riding your bicycle allows you to literally stop on a dime and seize the moment! All the comments about planning and safety aside, having fun is biggest reason people get back on their bikes.

Taking these 5 tips into consideration will help make your commute more enjoyable.

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