Swift Safety: Tips for Getting Around the City by Bike

Posted by - March 2, 2015 | Category: Contributing Author

Large cities are notorious for offering variety.  Whether eating out, seeking recreation, or a shopping destination, natives and visitors enjoy the benefit of added options.  Transportation is no exception and a growing number of bicyclists populate roadways of major cities.

One never forgets how to ride a bike but modern society is still learning how to juggle the rights and determine who has the right of way when cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers share roadways.

Race your eyes across the following before riding through the city more safely.

Secure the Cycle

Bike Park

Tourists and natives avoid traffic while using bicycles to get to work, restaurants, etc.  However, opportunistic thieves prey on the city’s abundance of cycles; bike theft is a major problem in metropolitan areas.  Police and security experts urge cyclists take extra precaution with their property.  Most suggest using a skewer or chain to secure several bike components to a stationary object.  Otherwise, a clever thief will disassemble parts or threaten the integrity of a weak or previously compromised lock.

Brains Over Beauty

Retro bicycles and modern beach cruisers are attractive to the eye but often clunky and hard to manage on major city roadways.  If you’re not taking the cruiser on a short ride, rely on a lightweight and durable road bike to navigate urban streets.  Choose a practical cycle versus one that looks pretty but manages poorly.

Watch the Potholes

As if watching out for angry motorists, beginner cyclists, and pedestrians staring at smart phones rather than the road isn’t enough, seasoned cyclists need steer clear of potholes, avoiding flat tires, damage, or potential injury.  Get to know particular routes and the placement of impediments and dangerous road conditions.

Find Smoother Routes

Minneapolis bike trails

Large cities host intricate traffic light systems that work on timers and cycles.  It’s safer and more enjoyable to find smoother lanes of traffic, so take note of traffic patterns and rows of red or green lights.  Moreover, don’t be overly confident in the ability to avoid traffic or traffic laws.  Yes, you can weave between traffic but you cannot run a red light or neglect a pedestrian’s right of way.  Patrolling officers are more than willing to hand out violations.

Know Local Shops and Owners

Before becoming a cyclist, you may have passed by a local bike shop numerous times without a thought, but making friends with those who can provide extensive advice on trails in the area, sales on bikes, and gatherings of other cyclists is a newfound advantage.  Get to know the places and personalities who share an interest in cycling and can provide the proper equipment and further suggestion.  Indianapolis natives know to head to Circle City Bicycles, so where is your chosen shop?

Be Ready for Society

Being a cyclist and riding through the city is unlike exercising within the privacy of a gym.  Being out in the city warrants adherence to social norms, like being free of stench and sweat when entering a store or engaging others.  Bring along deodorant, an extra shirt, wipes, and other hygiene essentials, especially if you’ll see others or prone to heavy perspiration. 

Accept the Middle Child Position

DSC00903

Humorously, cyclists are sometimes referred to as the middle child of the roadways, having a faster means of transportation or advantage over walkers yet just as (or more) prone to injury from automobiles, the eldest and strongest sibling.  Unfortunately, cyclists sometimes have to accept the disobedience of pedestrians while remaining under the thumb of motorists.  Pedestrians may jaywalk or walk in bike lanes, which cause cyclists to make quick modifications that put them at risk.  Be aware of the dynamic between motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, and choose maturity over ‘having the right of way,’ or placing yourself and others in danger.

Swinging Doors Are Real

Children age and learn the boogeyman is not real, however, in the world of cycling, swinging doors are very real and seriously scary being a threat to one’s health.  As observed, pedestrians may assume the right of way (even if they don’t have it), and motorists and riders likewise may assume it’s safe to open doors whenever they please.  While it seems like a scene out of a vaudeville show, running into swinging doors is serious subject matter.  Watch out for them, because it’s likely that motorists who are opening doors are not looking for you.

While riding a cycle is great for exercise and saves the environment from harmful emissions, riders must understand the level of danger that goes along with choosing such transportation in major and populated cities.  With a dash of precaution and premeditation, you’ll be riding swifter and more safely.

Ed Pope had been an active touring cyclist since the 1980s and co-owner of Circle City Bicycles since 2000. He is also a long time member of the Central Indiana Bicycling Association. He enjoys sharing his ideas and experiences online.

Subscribe to the Man On The Lam Newsletter

Get a monthly round-up of travel & lifestyle articles, plus unique content & hush-hush extras only for members.