Riding a bike can be a healthy and fun activity, though studies show that many people say they would ride more often if they felt safer on busy roads. While Sacramento’s 32-mile American River bike trail is one of the best bike paths in the nation and many roads now include devoted bike lanes, safety remains a concern.
Here are some tips to make you feel more comfortable and safer on the roads.
▪ Use a rear flashing light, even during the day. One of the biggest trends in cycling is to use lights day and night, especially a rechargeable one attached to the back of the bike, often on the seat post. The best ones cost $50 to $70 and are visible for hundreds of yards in the daylight. It’s a good investment.
▪ Assert yourself on city streets. If there are no bike lanes, you have the legal right to ride on the street. Don’t be shy about claiming your space prominently in the road. The law says to keep as far to the right as possible, but if you’re safe and assertive, motorists will give you your space.
▪ Watch out for parked cars on streets. As you approach, check to see if there is anybody in the car and watch for doors opening. When you pass a parked car, make sure you’re at least the distance of a fully opened door from the car. Striking an open door can cause serious injury.
▪ Make eye contact with motorists. As you approach an intersection where you have the right of way, don’t assume motorists see you. If you haven’t made eye contact, slow down and be extra cautious.
▪ Be predictable. No sudden movements unless it’s an emergency. Motorists and fellow cyclists should be able to tell what you are about to do. That includes not riding on sidewalks.
▪ Follow the traffic laws. That means stopping at stop signs and red lights. Not only is it safe, it sends a positive message to motorists, some of whom resent cyclists who blow through intersections.
▪ Keep your cool. Don’t get angry at motorists. It’s not a battle you can win, and your response to an aggressive motorist could escalate the situation.
▪ Use a bell. It’s friendly and helpful. When you are going to overtake a slower cyclist, ring the bell and announce yourself. Saying “On your left” is good etiquette. One of the best new bells on the market is the ORP Smart Horn, a $65 electronic chime and headlight combination that’s rechargeable. For what it’s worth, the loudest setting on the horn often makes the wild turkeys along the American River bike trail answer back with a “gobble-gobble.” #nowyouknow