Congested city streets and jam-packed parks often fill cyclists with dread. Don’t let a throng of weekend warriors, commuters or tourists keep you off the road. Here are five tips for safely navigating a crowd on your bike.
1. Follow the Flow of Traffic
In a sea of cars, trucks and city bikes, it’s tempting to ride against traffic. At a minimum, it provides a solid idea of your surroundings. In some cases, it can help you spot potential obstacles as well.
The problem is, riding into a crowd can also throw pedestrians, motorists and even other cyclists for a loop because you’re “backwards.” In a right-of-way situation, for example, your unexpected positioning can cause a collision. If you go with the flow, on the other hand, it makes it easier for everyone to observe, recognize and employ the basic laws of traffic.
2. Be Extra Cautious
The greater the population, the higher the degree of difficulty on your bike. Adhere to the rules of the road, and you can decrease your chance of an accident when your route is swarmed:
- Stop at all signs and lights.
- Don’t pass on the right.
- Use a bell or a yell when you do pass.
- Yield to pedestrians and vehicles.
- Use hand signals to communicate turns and stops with drivers and other cyclists.
- Maintain a safe distance from others, as well as from curbs.
As a general rule, anticipate others’ moves, and make it easy for the crowd to predict yours, too.
3. Stick to Designated Paths
You probably wouldn’t swerve out onto the shoulder and fly past stopped cars during a highway traffic jam. Don’t go rogue on your bike either.
Much like riding against traffic, pedaling on pedestrian paths or otherwise charting your own off-road course can cause confusion and lead to accidents. Stick to the street or marked bike paths. If the situation calls for it, don’t hesitate to get off your bike and walk it until conditions improve.
4. Don’t Multitask
Whether you’re navigating a congested city street or taking a beachfront ride with friends on the best cruiser bikes around, it’s imperative to exercise common sense. Don’t use your phone. Don’t drink and drive — and that includes a handlebar in one hand and an iced coffee in the other. If you’re multitasking, you’re not devoting your full attention to the road or those around you — and you’re upping your accident odds.
5. Wear a Helmet
Outfitting yourself in the proper safety gear goes hand-in-hand with employing common sense. At a minimum, you should wear a helmet, and you should be sure that it fits your head well. A poor fit can severely compromise the level of safety provided.
Unsure about your helmet’s fit? Try opening your mouth wide. If your helmet puts pressure on the top of your head, you’re ready to ride. If it doesn’t, tighten your chin strap and try again. If your helmet’s been involved in a crash, or if it’s more than eight years old, replace it.
Don’t let street congestion keep you off your bike. Take the anxiety out of your next ride through a crowd by keeping a cool head and remembering these strategies for a safe trip.