#StreetSmarts: 10 Tips Every Smart City Biker Should Know
Bike riding in New York City is on the rise. With good reason. Biking around the city is awesome because it’s fun, fast and free. And it lets you experience the city in a totally different way.
Biking in the city is the fastest growing mode of transportation.
— Andrew McAfee (@amcafee) April 17, 2015
With good reason! It’s cool … keeps you fit … and doesn’t fill people’s lungs with toxic car fumes.
But in the United States, about two people every day get killed in bike crashes with cars, buses or trucks. Don’t be one of those people.
With more and more bikers out there in NYC, it’s especially important for every cyclist to understand the rules of the road. Whether you’re a new bicyclist or an experienced rider, here are 10 tips you need to know to be safe and smart on the road.
1. Wear a helmet.
The secret’s out: Helmets are awesome.
— Kristina (@KristixMurray) December 30, 2014
They’re one of the most important parts of bike safety. By NYC law, everyone 13 and under has to wear a helmet. (They’re a good idea for teens and adults too.)
How anyone can ride a bike in NYC and not wear a helmet is beyond me.
— Brady Darragh (@B_Darzzz) April 3, 2015
And it’s not just the law–wearing a helmet could actually save your life.
Seriously, Im only fine cause I wear a helmet. Perpetrator felt awful, gave me her info & promised to check her mirrors from now on #bikenyc
— Ryan Hugh McWilliams (@rhmrpanic) March 31, 2015
Head injuries are by far the most serious type of injury (which can lead to permanent brain injuries and even death). As a matter of fact, brain injuries are the most common cause of death of bicyclists.
So apparently wearing a helmet while riding a bike is NOT COOL. Know what else isn't COOL, a cracked skull. I love my helmet!
— Mark Hardwick (@rmhardwick) November 2, 2012
And did you know that the number of children who go to emergency rooms each year for bicycle-related crashes is more than for any other sport?
Some more handy helmet tips:
- Find a helmet that fits and doesn’t slide over your eyes.
- Strap it on well–if it’s too loose it’s not doing you much good.
- Wear it straight, not tipped up. Or else it can’t protect your face if you fall.
2. Make sure you’re visible.
There’s no such thing as being too visible when you’re on a bike. Light, bright clothing and reflectors help a lot.
You have to have a bell and white headlight in front and a red taillight in back. Not just because it’s safe, but because it’s the law in NYC.
Super VisionHero Tip: Point your bike light down. Don’t blind your fellow riders–you want to see and be seen! If your light is aimed in their eyes, they actually can’t see you. When you point your light down, you can see the road and see bike riders coming towards you, and they can see you. Which is what you want. Perfect.
3. Avoid potholes, puddles and slick spots.
Jumping in puddles can be fun, but riding through them with a bike isn’t the best idea. What may look like an innocent puddle could actually be a pothole that can give you a flat tire–and maybe even send you flying.
A few other things to avoid: steel grates, wet leaves and those painted traffic lines–they all become extra slick when wet.
4. Follow and use those traffic signals.
Bicyclists have to follow the rules of the road and traffic signs and signals, just like drivers. Like stopping at red lights and stop signs. Because if you don’t, you could get a ticket and/or a bad driving record–just like a driver!
— Steve Vaccaro (@BicyclesOnly) November 11, 2014
Even worse, you could get hit or hit someone else. You don’t want any of these things to happen, do you? Didn’t think so.
Did you know cyclists have their own turn signals? It’s a good idea to learn the hand signals for right turns, left turns and stopping.
When you use them, cars know what you’re up to—so they can avoid hitting you. Which is what you want them to do.
The awkward moment when you think a cute guy on a bike was waving to you but actually was just doing a hand signal to turn 🙈
— Taylor Testen (@TTesten) October 9, 2014
But you have to let go of a handlebar to signal, so do it only when you feel confident and sturdy enough—the last thing you want to do is get into a crash because you were putting your hand in the air to signal.
5. Don’t weave around.
When riding a bike, don’t weave in and out of traffic. Riding in a predictable way will reduce your chances of getting into a crash with a car.
Sometimes you weave when you don’t mean to—often because you’re trying to multitask. Which can cause other problems.
6. Use the bike lanes and paths whenever you can.
Try to use those designated bike lanes—over 1,000 miles of them in NYC!—except when making turns or if it’s unsafe to do so.
— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) April 20, 2015
Fun fact: There are 3 types of spaces for bikes in NYC:
1. Bike paths: These are paths protected from driver traffic. Bike paths are on places like the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, some parks, and along some waterways.
2. Bike lanes: These are located on city streets, marked with paint (sometimes green, sometimes not) and the biker icon.
Keep in mind that not everyone respects the bike lane–you might have to zoom around cars and trucks, but make sure you’re extra careful when you do.
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) March 18, 2015
3. Shared lanes: These are streets marked with “sharrows”—those arrow things, sometimes paired with those bike icons. They tell bikers and drivers that they’re sharing the road, so they should be aware of each other.
Bicycling is allowed on all main and local streets throughout the city, even when there is no designated bike path. And until you turn 13, the city says it’s OK to ride on the sidewalk. (And the Department of Transportation approves of bikers over 13 riding on the sidewalk if it’s the safest thing to do.)
7. Ride with traffic.
— NYC DOT (@NYC_DOT) May 22, 2015
Remember to ride in the same direction as traffic, not against it.
— ARC (@RespectTO) March 13, 2015
Drivers are supposed to yield to you if you have the you have the right of way and are biking in, say, a crosswalk. It’s the law and everything. But if they don’t, you could get hurt—or worse—so always be alert.
8. Be aware of car doors.
When riding past parked cars, always ride four feet away from parked cars (even if that means taking up a whole lane of traffic). Because you never know when the driver or a passenger will open the door.
9. Watch for those trucks.
Large trucks have huge blind spots that can be especially dangerous to bicyclists, because it means the truck drivers can’t see you.
— Brooklyn Spoke (@BrooklynSpoke) August 16, 2013
The best way to stay safe is to give those trucks plenty of room. Pull up ahead of traffic at intersections and stop in a place where trucks and other vehicles can see you.
10. Lock up your bike.
Now you know how to keep yourself safe when you’re out enjoying a bike ride on the streets of NYC … but you should keep your bike safe, too!
Unfortunately, NYC is notorious for bike theft. Lots of bikes get stolen–often because they’re not locked up well.
How do people in NYC actually ride bikes? Brand new bike, brand new lock, stolen from GCT in under 4 hours.
— TheHarlemLine (@mtaHarlemLine) March 16, 2015
To cut down on the chance of your bike getting stolen, do these three things:
- Lock your frame to your wheels.
- Lock down your seat if has a quick release feature.
- Whenever you can, use a bike rack.
Take a minute to lock your bike up right.
Now that you’re armed with these 10 tips, what are you waiting for? Get out there! Biking around is one of the joys of living in NYC.
Photo: Had an amazing weekend showing my amiga and her boo around NYC. Biking around Central Park was so… http://t.co/PrSDsnOsM2
— Elle Lynn (@Lilmsjetsetter) April 5, 2015
Don’t know how to ride a bike? Need practice? No problem. Check out these action items and you’ll be ready to ride in no time:
And if you’re already an expert biker: