5 Ways Cyclists Can Stay Safe on City Streets

We all know cycling is a great way to get in shape. It’s right up there with running and swimming as one of the most effective aerobic activities in existence.

But if you live in the city, putting those two tires to the pavement and pedaling into traffic might seem a little intimidating.

[box type=”important”]Let’s face it: Cars are really fast. Bikes aren’t. Cars are also big and heavy. If one of them hits you on your bike, you could be in big trouble.[/box]

Thankfully, you don’t have to feel so vulnerable when you’re riding your bike through town.

Bike Courier Fight in Toronto

Here are five ways to stay safer on the road:

1. Control the lane.

If you think staying as close to the right as possible is the safest place to ride your bike, think again.

When riding on city streets, you’re better off staying toward the middle of lane – not the far right. For one thing, cars approaching intersections perpendicular to the direction in which you’re traveling are more likely to see you coming and less likely to pull out in front of you.

Controlling the lane also makes you more predictable to drivers, including the ones behind you. When you’re all the way to the right, you’ll frequently have to swerve left to avoid potholes, storm drains, and road debris usually found along the edge of the street. By controlling the whole lane, you’re less likely to swerve in front of a car the next time you have to avoid an obstacle.

Sure, it’s harder for vehicles to pass you. But the stats show you’re more likely to get hit at intersections than you are from behind by cars that can see you easily.

2. Avoid parked cars.

Never ride right beside vehicles parked on the street. Ever. A door could open as you cruise by, leaving you seriously injured.

Cyclists have even been killed this way, so remember to keep away from parked cars. Controlling the lane will also help you avoid this nightmare scenario.

3. Wait your turn.

Although it’s tempting to pass all the cars waiting at a red light, doing so could be a dangerous move.

If you stop in a driver’s blind spot, she may not see you when she decides to make a right turn. You’ll either be hit from the side or run head on into the car, neither of which is a pretty picture.

This is one of the most common ways cyclists get hit, so just stay behind the cars at traffic lights and wait patiently.

4. Get some lights.

And some reflectors while you’re at it. In many places, it’s actually illegal to ride at night without lights on the front and back of your bike – and for good reason.

Although getting hit from behind is generally one of the least common ways for cyclists to have an accident, it becomes much more common when cyclists ride at night without any lights.

So put some lights on your bike and protect yourself. When you feel less vulnerable, you’re bound to go riding more often.

5. Wear a Helmet!

Wearing a bicycle helmet is such a necessity that it shouldn’t even be on this list since you absolutely should be wearing one regardless.  In many cities around the world, it’s already required by law.  Remember that bicycle helmets are not like hockey helmets.  One impact and it’s time to buy a new bicycle helmet since that’s all they’re designed for.  Sure buying a quality cycling helmet (that’s stylish and approved by the appropriate safety agencies) isn’t cheap, but trust me, your brain is worth every penny.


More tips for cycling in a busy city

Alternately, the safest way to stay safe on a bike is to simply ride an indoor trainer!




Adam Green

Adam Green is an avid cyclist, ultralight backpacker, and traveler. He writes on behalf of Full Circle.

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