You know that feeling – you’ve just brought your new bicycle home from the shop and are just itching to take it out for its first city cruise – finally, you’ll be able to cruise around like part of the local urban cycling tribe. The excitement, and nerves, of trying out and getting it right abound.
To get you into the city biking groove, here are some do’s and don’t’s of navigating the urban concrete jungle successfully, like a local.
Support fellow cyclists
Do: Avoid apathy, always make sure to be a friend to fellow cyclists and help them out when they’re in need. Even if it’s something as seemingly small as a popped tire or malfunctioning chain, your effort may turn you into their superhero for the day. If it looks like something you won’t be able to help with, stop by anyway to lend your moral support. Compassion goes a long way.
Don’t: Jeer at a biker’s misfortune and/or pass them by while enjoying the smooth ride of your perfectly functioning two-wheeler. Karma is a b*tch and you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the same stick. Just play nice.
Leave your headphones at home
Do: With very few exceptions, like listening to music very quietly so that you can hear all of the cityscape’s surrounding noises, riding with headphones is just downright dangerous. Your attention should be on the road, for everyone’s sake.
Don’t: Use the telephone or crank the speakers. It’ll tune out the environment and decrease your reaction time.
Take measures to discourage bicycle theft
Do: Buy a lock that will keep your bike safe, even if it seems like you won’t be leaving it unattended for very long. There are plenty of opportunists out there. Be sure to register your ride online to prove ownership and discourage theft. A good example is www.project529.com.
Don’t: Buy bicycles that are being sold significantly under their market price. They’re probably stolen. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Before buying used, check out it the bike hasn’t been stolen in one of the online bicycle registration sites.
Keep eyes wide open for children and animals
Do: We know your eyes are on the road, but you should develop a habit of specifically scanning for children and animals. Their movements tend to be more unpredictable, which means you should be especially attentive.
Don’t: Downplay their significance. Since their actions are more difficult to predict, they pose an increased threat to the predictability of traffic. There’s a saying – “Children and animals are like the bees – unpredictable”.
How to deal with passing pedestrians
Do: Back to predictability – make sure that the pedestrians you’re sharing the sidewalk with are aware of your presence. That can mean a quick “On your left!” just before passing, or always passing on the same side as you would if you were driving a car (whichever side that may be in your country).
Don’t: Don’t forget your manners. Lashing out at unpredictable pedestrians won’t help anyone. Also avoid “ping ponging” from one side of the sidewalk to the other, thereby annoying everyone sharing the space.
Make yourself visible on the road
Do: Dress for comfort, performance and visibility. Not only are those padded spandex shorts a blessing for your derriere, but their form-fittingness makes you less wind-resistant. Indulge your playful side and try out bright colors, and bonus points for reflectors!
Don’t: If you’re one of those people who are known for always wearing black, this might be the time to diversify the colors in your closet. Your lumpy black hoodie may be comfy, but it does nothing for your peripheral vision or ability to be noticed on the road.
Recap of your city cycling must-haves
For a safe and enjoyable ride through a city, think about collecting these items: a hefty bike lock, bell, helmet, comfortable and bright clothes, and reflective elements.
Enjoy your ride!
About the Author: Julia Gifford is a Canadian currently living in Latvia, a small country of Europe, making the most of its tech scene, conveniently small and bikeable cities, and the culture. She spends her free time reading, writing, and making cool t-shirts.