Commuting to work by bicycle is a great way to get to work. You can get a nice workout in on the way, and it will normally have you feeling good when you get there. It is also usually fairly safe, even in big cities where there is a lot of traffic. Still, there are dangers, and you can minimize your risk by taking some common sense precautions as you develop enough road savvy to be safe out there.
Perhaps the most important thing is to wear a helmet. This seems like common sense but there are still a lot of people who don’t like wearing them. Eventually you will probably have an accident, and even at a slow speed, you can get a serious injury by hitting your head on the concrete. Studies show helmets prevent serious injury.
A second thing to do is get a light for your bicycle. You can get a cheap one and some batteries for a few dollars, or get a rechargeable one for a little more. Rear lights can also be a good idea. While you are getting lights, get some reflective type material for when you ride at night.
The most important thing is to be seen. You can take all the precautions possible, but you still have to be seen by people driving cars that are much faster and much bigger than you,
A key to commuting then is to make yourself visible, and to develop some “street smarts” as far as riding in traffic. There are bike lanes in some cities, and when available they should be used.
It might seem to make sense to ride against traffic, but this is almost never a good idea. While riding against traffic, you and the driver of cars or trucks, have less time to react to each other. Another danger is other drivers will not expect to see you coming toward them and they may overreact or even just not notice you.
While riding in traffic, watch out for doors opening. if you have to be driving along beside some parked cars especially, there is always the danger of a door opening in front of you. Ride defensively. Go slower in this situation and watch what is going on in cars in front of you. Look for things like brake lights on cars, or people moving around inside vehicles. These could be signs that a door is about to open.
It is a good idea to be a little paranoid, or pessimistic. Always expect the worst and prepare for that. If the worst does not happen you will get a sense of relief at least. But watch out for cars and make sure they see you. Don’t assume they see you, even if it is obvious they should.
Going slower than you really have to is also a good idea, especially around intersections. Watch out for things in the road obviously, but also watch for limbs hanging over into your path, as well as what all the cars around you are doing.
When approaching an intersection, do whatever you can to make sure you are noticed. Wave your arms. Stand up on your bike, anything to make sure you are seen.
Don’t assume drivers are paying attention to you, or that they will do what they are supposed to do. Cars turning are especially dangerous. A car turning in front of you from any direction can cause an accident. You may have the right of way, but that isn’t going to matter if you get seriously hurt. It is better to go slow, and give up the right of way, and avoid an accident.
Cycling experts also say eye contact is very important. Make eye contact with motorists whenever possible. This will help them see you. Any communication you can have in this way will make the road safer for both of you. Use your arm signals, but also look around you a lot to let people know what you are going to do as you ride.
Another thing to do is to keep your bicycle in good running condition. Regular maintenance will keep you from having problems while you are riding on the streets.