As summer fades into fall and more summer cyclists continue to pedal onwards, I want to share some biking tips I have picked up over the years. Los Angeles used to be a much more biking friendly city, but overcrowding and poor driving habits leading to bike accidents have scared away many cyclists. I would like to share these smart safety tips with anyone continuing to bike here in Los Angeles, whether it be for pleasure or commuting.
1. Inspect your gear. The gear you ride wit h is never in the same condition that you purchased it. Prior to any ride, you should check your helmet for any cracks or structural abnormalities. Your helmet is your best chance at preventing a head or brain injury in the case of an accident. Look to see if your derailleur, gears, breaks, frame, wheels and tires are all in satisfactory condition before riding. The last thing you need in the middle of an intersection is your chain to slip or your brakes to fail. Additionally, you need special reflective gear on your frame and pedals if you choose to ride at night. I highly recommend the use of reflective clothing if bicyclists choose to ride at night. If you make your bike inspection a habit before and after riding, you can save yourself a lot of heartache on the road.
2. Make eye contact with other people on the road. I constantly remind people to make eye contact with both drivers and cyclists when coming to an intersection. Many times, drivers may fail to notice the bicyclist until it is too late. When waiting to make a left turn in front of a vehicle, confirming their intentions is the best way to keep yourself on the pavement and out of the emergency room. Likewise, it is important to make eye contact with drivers looking to make left-hand turns.
3. Keep your distance. This is for everyone on the road. Maintaining a safe distance is dependent on the conditions on that day. If the roads are slick, your reaction time may be the same but your safe braking distance may be very different. Additionally, watch for tailgating vehicles. Even if you are maintaining a safe distance from the cyclist or motor vehicle in front of you, the driver behind you may not be as cautious. Maintaining lateral distance, i.e., your distance from cars alongside your vehicle, is also critical to your safety. Most people only think about the three-foot distance between the cyclist and the flow of traffic, but stopped drivers opening doors into cyclists cause serious injuries for cyclists. Look for cars merging into the bike lane to make a right hand turn and adjust accordingly. Drivers are supposed to look for cyclists but accidents continue to happen.
4. Stay focused. We live in a fascinating world and distractions are around every corner. Do yourself a favor and focus on the road and the citizens with whom you share it. Put away the cell phone and eliminate a major distracting force. The middle of an intersection is not the place to confirm your arrival time. If you are lost and need further directions, you can use your smart phone while stopped on the sidewalk or in another safe location. Other ways to stay thinking about your safety include managing your distance between other vehicles and hydrating regularly and safely.