What’s Your Advice on City Cycling?
With the influx of riders taking to the streets this spring (oh how I’ve dreamed of using the word influx in a post), I thought I’d feature the advice BikeDC peeps have shared about cycling in the city.
The BikeDC Speaks interview series featured eight D.C.-area cyclists– six women and two men– and their perspectives on various commuting topics. I’ve since taken the interviews and divided them into topics, like the one discussed today.
Cycling in the city has its ups and downs. It’s more up than down most days, but it’s still much different than a meander on a quiet country road.
If you read this blog, it’s quite likely you are an urban cyclist too, so please chime in with your own thoughts.
What advice do you have about cycling in the city?
1. Be cautious, but don’t be afraid. If you’re afraid to ride, you won’t, but if you pay attention, every ride is an experience.
2. Cycling is very safe, but assume no one knows you’re there.
3. Seek out other cyclists. Although cycling is something most of us learn at a young age, riding in the city comes with a fairly specific set of “rules” and best practices that aren’t readily apparent, but can be learned quickly from others with more experience.
In the long run, this will make for better and more consistent cyclist behavior, which will go a long way toward making cycling a “normal” mode of transportation from the drivers’ perspective.
Always be aware of your surroundings.
Look ahead for any unexpected happenings.
Know the rules of the road.
Be courteous to pedestrians and other bicyclists.
Stay alert. Be predictable. Make moves as much in advance as possible.
Take the lane when it is a better thing to do.
Stay in the flow of traffic as much as possible, and wave thank you when a driver does something nice or respectful.
I use a rearview mirror; I’ve had one since the early 70’s. I believe it gives me a much better– wider and further back– field of vision behind me than turning my neck quickly.
Appreciate every moment and be grateful for your ability to get where you are going on two wheels. Notice the birds, the sunshine, the feel of the wind on your skin.
And if a driver yells at you, try to resist yelling back; ironically, I’ve found it only results in making myself more aggravated. Note: I’m not always successful at this.
Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be afraid.
Start on side streets with bike lanes and slowly work your way into bigger roads.
Or if you’re like me, just dive head-first into it and enjoy the ride. It helps to reach out to the community if you are unsure, and those of us on the #bikedc hashtag on Twitter are always willing to lend a hand!
Don’t be intimidated. I’m actually an instructor, certified by the League of American Bicyclists, to teach about vehicular cycling.
One of the most discussed pieces of advice they give out is “Take the lane.”
Now, at first, it’s really intimidating to actually get out 1/3 of the way in a lane of potentially fast-moving traffic and ride there. Sometimes cars beep at you. But they beep AS THEY GO AROUND YOU, waiting until the lane to their left is clear, since they can’t get past you otherwise.
It’s annoying, but believe me, not half as frightening as being buzzed within an inch by a car who zoomed past you without slowing down, since you were in the shoulder, or worse, in the right-most portion of the travel lane.
Be patient. It can be easy to get frustrated with motorists and pedestrians every time you hop on your bike, and this frustration will wear on you to the point where you won’t be happy riding anymore. It’s happened to me plenty of times over the years, but now I do my best to enjoy my time riding and relax.
One peculiar tip that I can pass along: If you have a U-lock, when locking up to something, put the cross bar against your frame (as opposed to the thing you’re locking to).
If a thief is going to pry the lock, he/she will want leverage and using the frame to produce that leverage will likely result in a damaged or bent frame which is no good to the would-be thief (except for parts maybe). It’s not much of a deterrent, but it might help now and then.
It’s fun and safer than you might think.
What about you? What advice would you give someone who wants to start riding in the city?