Author Topic: What is needed to cycle safely?  (Read 1557 times)

Raenia

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What is needed to cycle safely?
« on: September 26, 2017, 11:18:30 AM »
I have finally liberated my old bicycle from my dad's garage (yeah, facepunches for leaving it there so long, but there were logistical problems with retrieving it.)  Now that I have it, I want to gradually transition to doing all my errands by bike, and then see how I feel about riding to work as well.  It's been years since I rode, so I'm planning on taking it slowly and getting comfortable before trying more dangerous routes.  Not planning on doing any night riding until I'm very comfortable on the roads.  I'm here to find out what equipment/tips are necessary to bike safely on suburban roads.

What I have:
 - bicycle with rear rack

What I know I need:
 - new helmet (old one was full of spider webs, was not putting that anywhere near my hair)
 - socket wrench for adjusting seat/handlebars
 - panniers of some sort?

Tips I've heard:
 - don't ride on sidewalks
 - don't try to make left turns on busy roads - cross road twice instead

What else do I need to have/need to know before taking to the road?

(Note: I'd rather not have this devolve into a debate on the safety of biking, let's keep it to useful and productive tips, please!)

PlainsWalker

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2017, 11:48:13 AM »
    Reflectors and lights. I put the front and rear light in annoying blinking so you have to notice me mode when riding during the day. I switch the front light to on all the time when riding at night. The tail light I use has a three blinks and then steady mode that I like to use. The blinking is good for getting attention, and the steady is good for allowing humans to more easily judge distance. It turns out that people are terrible at judging distance to something that is blinking.

    I want to be treated like a valid traffic participant when I am riding so I obey traffic laws. I stop at red lights, and come to a full stop at stop signs, and use hand signals. I find this encourages motorists to treat me like a vehicle instead of a speed bump.

honeybbq

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2017, 11:49:19 AM »
You'll want bike lights. These can be had on amazon relatively inexpensively.

I have this one for my bike:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014QEWX2I/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

You'll also want eye protection, so some sort of sunglasses.
If you're going to be biking in cold weather, bike gloves are really nice because your hands get so chilled being out front.
I just use a backpack for my commuting purposes but you might consider a box/crate setup if you have a rack which might be cheaper than panniers.
Depending on the rain in your area, you may also want fenders to keep the water from splashing up on you.

Safety - use hand signals. I try to find bike friendly routes on google and use bike lanes as much as possible. It takes some getting used to biking 'in traffic'. Always assume that people DON'T see you will go through an intersection, etc. I also try to waive when I see good driver behavior to let them know I appreciate it.

TravelJunkyQC

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2017, 12:03:28 PM »
Apart from bike reflectors/blinking lights, I like the idea of a vest/bag. It's bigger than reflectors, and shows there's an actual human there. Instead of a vest, I have a bright green backpack that I use for my stuff, and I put the rain-cover on (bright yellow and reflective) when the sun starts to go down.

I also +1 to everything regarding acting like a vehicle. Don't ride on the sidewalk - cars won't expect something so fast to be coming at them from a sidewalk.

Ride on the road, stop at all signals and go when it's your turn. In terms of turning left on a busy road, I think it depends. For example, if there's a light or a stop, I will stop at the light/stop in the middle of the road (to be sure that no car can cut me off from the left), put my hand out to show that I'm turning left, and be the first to go when it's my turn. The thing not to do in that situation is stay on the right close to the sidewalk, and then expect to be able to turn left - that's dangerous. And in situations where you don't have a stop or light, you're probably right (because a car might not be expecting you to be stopped in the middle of the road).

Also, although technically not your "responsibility", always look a bit over your left shoulder if you're continuing straight when there could technically be a right turn. Cars don't look. You might get cut off. They won't care. Feel free to break hard, slap their car with your hand, and curse them out for causing you danger and being idiots (because you have the right of way), but don't forget to look nonetheless. It's your life.

JanF

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2017, 12:37:33 PM »
posting to follow.

What's your opinion of those helmets with rear mirrors? Are they useful?

plog

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2017, 02:36:31 PM »
Quote
new helmet (old one was full of spider webs...

Unmustachian means towards a mustachian end?  I mean you overcame the logistical nightmare of getting your bike, I think you can solve the spider web issue for less than $50.

As for bike riding,the best general advice is this:

Assume that every driver is actively trying to kill you.

Assume everyone is drunk, sleepy, texting and a bad driver on top of everything else.  Assume they are going to blow through red lights and stop signs.  Don't trust their turn signals or lack there of.  When you are stopped assume you are going to get rear ended or side swiped. 

When you have those assumptions you can anticipate where your threats are and be on the lookout for them actually happening.  See cars before they see and you will be fine, even when they are actively trying to kill you.

Lastly, don't be afraid to ride on sidewalks.  When its that or a 4 lane 45mph road, get on the sidewalk.  Just don't be an A-hole to pedestrians because they have the right of way there. 

jgoody

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2017, 03:07:25 PM »
I agree that buying a new helmet is hardly mustachian.  A much better reason to buy a new helmet is if you suspect your old one has been dropped while in storage.  Helmets are designed to take ONE impact.  If that happened by falling out of a storage cubby, it still counts.  Take very good care of your helmet and never store it somewhere high up where it could fall more than a foot or two.  If you do buy a new one, I recommend one with MIPS technology.  They are safer with regards to brain damage in an accident.

I think the most important key to staying safe while riding is to plan your route well and then be very alert. 

For the route: do not use the same roads you would use to drive to your destination.  These are almost certainly car-friendly roads (or you wouldn't be using them to drive to the destination) and probably not bike-friendly roads.  GoogleMaps set to "bike" is a good place to start finding bike-friendly roads.  Most of the bike routes/neighborhood greenways will probably already be mapped out.  They will be slower roads and may have nice designated bike lanes.  Better yet is to befriend some other cyclists and ask them for advice on routes.  Your neighborhood bike store might also have a map of bike routes in your area.  On the upside, the bike-friendly route is often the more enjoyable/scenic one too.

For the alertness: Assume all cars are distracted and don't see you.  Fortunately, that is not the case, but some of them are/don't.  And you don't know which ones they are until it's too late.  So just be very alert to your surroundings.  Use your eyes and ears (NO HEADPHONES EVER). 

High visibility clothing is nice, lights are nice, mirrors can sometimes be helpful (and sometimes distracting).  But all of those are secondary to being alert and being on the best possible roads (even if it means a slightly longer route to your destination).

Also, have fun!  I love cycling and my commute to and from work is often one of the highlights of my day. 
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 03:09:13 PM by jgoody »

Raenia

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2017, 06:05:13 PM »
Thank you all for the advice so far!  I'm taking it all in :)  I won't respond individually to everyone, but I'll note a few things.

I agree that buying a new helmet is hardly mustachian.  A much better reason to buy a new helmet is if you suspect your old one has been dropped while in storage.  Helmets are designed to take ONE impact.  If that happened by falling out of a storage cubby, it still counts.  Take very good care of your helmet and never store it somewhere high up where it could fall more than a foot or two.  If you do buy a new one, I recommend one with MIPS technology.  They are safer with regards to brain damage in an accident.

My old helmet is ~15 years old and I have no idea what its storage conditions were like or if it has been dropped.  While the spiders were the immediate reason not to put it in my car to bring back, I'm also certain that helmet technology has improved since the old one was made, and this way I know the helmet is in perfect condition.  I'm willing to buy new in this case, especially since a quick google search indicates I should have no problem replacing it for <$20.

Quote
I think the most important key to staying safe while riding is to plan your route well and then be very alert. 

For the route: do not use the same roads you would use to drive to your destination.  These are almost certainly car-friendly roads (or you wouldn't be using them to drive to the destination) and probably not bike-friendly roads.  GoogleMaps set to "bike" is a good place to start finding bike-friendly roads.  Most of the bike routes/neighborhood greenways will probably already be mapped out.  They will be slower roads and may have nice designated bike lanes.  Better yet is to befriend some other cyclists and ask them for advice on routes.  Your neighborhood bike store might also have a map of bike routes in your area.  On the upside, the bike-friendly route is often the more enjoyable/scenic one too.

I was planning on starting with the routes I usually walk (to the library and produce market), but thank you for the reminder that those routes may not be the best for biking despite being great for walking.  I will check out google maps for route checks.

Quote
Safety - use hand signals.

Do you find that most drivers understand hand signals?  I've always gotten the impression that drivers are more confused than anything when cyclists use signals, because no one remembers what they mean.

Laserjet3051

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2017, 06:14:37 PM »
Assume EVERY single parked car you pass will suddenly have its driver's door flung open right as you pass by knocking you clear off the bike and into traffic. If you make this assumption, then you will always be able to prevent being knocked out when a careless driver really does do it.

Eric

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2017, 07:05:35 PM »
Quote
Safety - use hand signals.

Do you find that most drivers understand hand signals?  I've always gotten the impression that drivers are more confused than anything when cyclists use signals, because no one remembers what they mean.

If you're going left, use your left arm to point left.  If you're going right, use your right arm to point right.  Everyone can understand that.


I agree with others that you probably want lights, even if you're not planning to ride at night.  Anytime that it's darker out than high noon, the lights will help.  Depending on your area, you might even just want to run them all the time.  Get a rechargeable set so you can use them liberally without worrying about batteries.  Depending on how visible you'd like to be, you can also get a reflective construction vest from Home Depot for less than $10.  I wear it on my way to/from work everyday when I'm riding around twilight. 


Panniers can be pretty expensive.  If you want to wait on those, a milk crate zip tied to your rear rack works great for carrying your groceries home or your backpack when going to/from work.  It has the added benefit of being able to carry large items like watermelons or gallons of milk, or even cases of wine that your panniers could never handle as well.  Although if you're going with heavy items like this, just make sure you're already comfortable riding, as the extra weight can cause the bike to handle differently.  I've been using the milk crate for years and it's a great set up.


Otherwise, as long as you're visible, get out there and have fun!  After many years of bike commuting and errand running, I can't really imagine any other way.  It's so much more fun than sitting in traffic and fighting for parking spots.

mountains_o_mustaches

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2017, 07:37:53 PM »
One thing that helped me build confidence and learn road safety was to ride with a local group of cyclists.  There's a biking advocacy group in my city and they do group rides 2x/month - no minimum speed - all about getting people out on the road on their bike safely.  Check and see if your city has something similar - it was a great resource.  Only drawback is that cyclists can tend to have tiny details exaggeration syndrome and will try to convince you that you need a fancier bike, fancier pedals, fancier helmet, special clothing, etc.  Ignore that and focus on learning their road wiles...

jgoody

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2017, 07:39:36 PM »

If you're going left, use your left arm to point left.  If you're going right, use your right arm to point right.  Everyone can understand that.


Yes!  I do this too.  Always thought I was the only one!

vhalros

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Re: What is needed to cycle safely?
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2017, 08:02:11 PM »
posting to follow.

What's your opinion of those helmets with rear mirrors? Are they useful?

I find the having the mirror attached to my handle bars is much less annoying than having this weird protrusion sticking out of my helmet. I have a "Mirrycle" brand one; it cost about $10 and was easy to install.