Here are some expert tips just in time for Bike Everywhere Day, Friday, May 19.
If the hell of driving a vehicle in Seattle traffic has not yet convinced you to pull out your bike, oil up the chain and pump up the tires, then perhaps you are among the 60 percent of U.S. residents who are interested in riding their bikes but scared of sharing the streets with cars.
Studies show that less confident riders respond well to exclusive bike lanes, but since those generally don’t run door to door, sooner or later you will likely have to ride on a real road alongside drivers who seem almost determined to not see you.
How to conquer your fear and just do it? Here are some expert tips just in time for Bike Everywhere Day, Friday, May 19.
- Build up your confidence with baby steps. Spend your first couple of weeks riding in empty parking lots, on bike trails and on roads near your home during off hours. It will give you a chance to become used to your bike without having to watch out for cars, potholes, joggers and other bikers.
- Once you’re familiar with riding, learn to map your route using Mapmyride.com or take the Cascade Bicycle Club’s class called “Urban Cycling Techniques” that includes information on how to navigate city streets, how to use your emergency braking and how to choose the safest route. If all else fails, use Google Maps to find a route with a wide shoulder.
- Learn to “take the lane,” the whole lane. That’s right. While you may start off trying to appear invisible and non-disruptive, there will come a time, bike experts say, that you will have to learn to claim and use a whole lane. This is an important skill that will prevent you from being forced to the extreme right side of the lane where you could be hurt by someone opening a vehicle door unexpectedly, according to Brent Tongco, the senior director of marketing and communications for the Cascade Bicycle Club.
- Prepare to confront what Cosmopolitan wrote about as the five most fear-inducing contingencies: riding near buses, avoiding left turning vehicles, going through busy intersections, speeding down a hill and switching lanes. Bottom line: use common sense, go slow, ride in the center of the lane, yield, stay in your lane, follow the rules of the road, catch the drivers’ eyes, be cautious.
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Once you are ready to ride on the road, whether you’re a newbie or an old-timer, here are a handful of tips from the Cascade Bicycle Club on safe riding:
- S. “Stay” alert and watch for vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and other hazards. Don’t use ear buds or a phone while riding.
- M. “Maintain” space and leave enough room to avoid other riders, vehicles or hazards. If riding on the right side of the road, maintain space outside of the door zone because someone might unexpectedly open a vehicle door. If you plan to stop, move out of the roadway.
- A. “Act” safely and predictably; wear a properly-fitted helmet; make sure you can see and be seen and ride courteously and in a straight line.
- R. “Respect” the rules of the road. Obey all traffic laws, stop for all red lights and stop signs, pass on the left, use turn signals, ride single file or at most two abreast and yield when appropriate.
- T. “Think” ahead and talk if you are riding with others. Always communicate hazards or actions with hand signals or by speaking loudly. Yell, “On your left,” with hand signals, speaking loudly. Look down the road. And see what else is down here.
If you’re looking for a family and beginner-friendly biking event to inspire you, consider signing up for the Emerald Bike Ride on Sunday, May 28, which is still open for registration. The ride, which starts at Safeco Field, features both an 11-mile and a full 25-mile route and ventures over part of State Route 520, Interstate 5 and Interstate-90, which will all be partially closed to vehicles for portions of the ride.