Cycling is often one of the fastest and cheapest ways to get around a city, but it can also be one of the more dangerous ways to travel. Follow these bike safety tips to protect yourself while riding.
Drivers can’t avoid you if they can’t see you, so make yourself (and your bike) as visible as possible. I love beryl’s Pixel light, a waterproof, two-in-one light that can shine red or white and comes with a Velcro strap and multi-mount that lets you attach the light to your bike, helmet, body, or clothing. Since the Pixel can be used anywhere (and doesn’t need tools to attach), it’s perfect for using with rental bikes. The light will last for up to 10 hours, and is rechargeable.
For a larger light option, Nite Ize’s Radiant 125 Rechargeable white bike light is a super bright 125 lumen light that makes for a good headlight on roads without any light. It comes with silicone attachment bands that make it easy to take on and off your bike, and lasts for around three hours before needing to be recharged.
Communicate Your Actions
Unlike cars, you don’t have turn signals or brake lights on your bike, so you have to communicate your actions to drivers with the hand signals for biking. This chart from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a good graphic depiction of what to do.
Signals can be hard to see in the dark (and confusing for drivers who might not know what hand signals mean), which is why beryl’s Burner Brake is ingenious. This bright (200 lumens) rear light works just like a car brake light, sensing when you are slowing down and flashing to alert the people behind you. It can be used day or night, and is waterproof and rechargeable.
You can also buy turn signals for your bike, or cycling gloves with light-up turn signal indicators, if you want to make your intensions even more visible.
Let People Know You’re There
As someone who’s frequently both a pedestrian and a cyclist, I hate being startled while walking on a path by a cyclist screaming: “on your left” at full volume. And as a cyclist, I don’t want to scare someone by sneaking up behind them. The Spurcycles Bell pleases me as both a walker and a rider—a light press on the bell’s level delivers a sound that’s much more pleasant than other bells, yet still louder and longer ringing (up to three times longer than most bells) that gets people out of the way in a polite manner. The ring is loud and distinct enough that it will also catch the attention of drivers who might not see you otherwise. These bells are made in the U.S. and guaranteed for life, plus are easy to install and will work on any size handlebar.
According to Markel Insurance, an average of 188,500 bikes are reported stolen each year. For quick stops, like stopping into a café or store during a ride, the Ottolock is a great, lightweight (145 grams) lock that’s compact and easy to carry, and will prevent someone from just walking off with your bike.
For heavier security, consider using a folding lock like this one from Abus which folds down small enough to fit in your pocket, but still offers a good level of protection. This travel-sized u-lock is also a good choice, as it’s small and lightweight is still a good deterrent for thieves. It even comes with a lighted key so you can easily unlock your bike in the dark.
Stay Dry, Clean, and Comfortable
You’re more likely to bike somewhere if you know that you can arrive there clean, so make sure your bike has fenders that will protect you from mud and puddles while you ride. I previously bought some cheap bike fenders off Amazon that did absolutely nothing—I still got sprayed anytime the streets were wet. I recently upgraded to Planet Bike’s full coverage, polycarbonate Cascadia fenders, and now I can confidently ride on wet or muddy streets without worrying about clothing damage. Attached, oversized mud flaps (130 mm) set these fenders apart by extending far enough over your wheel that even the biggest puddle won’t get to you. These black polycarbonate fenders blend in with the wheel, and look much better than plastic ones.
Wear a Helmet
If you only follow one piece of advice from this list, let it be this one: Always wear a helmet while cycling. Your bike helmet should have a sticker indicating that it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards for cycling.
For my everyday commuting, I wear this stylish helmet by Thousand. I like it not only for its looks, but for the secret pop-lock that safely locks the helmet to your bike, so I don’t have to carry it around all day.
If you’re planning on renting a bike or using bike shares, a foldable helmet like this one by Overade is a good option to always keep in your bag.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 11 Performance-Wear Outfits You’ll Actually Want to Wear While Traveling
- 10 Best Workout Clothes and Tools for Travel
- World’s Most Beautiful Bike Trails
Caroline Morse Teel believes bike safety is important, especially while traveling. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for travel photos from around the world.
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