From close passes by cars, to loose gravel and other road hazards, road cycling can be dangerous. Car drivers sometimes don't realize that by not giving you enough space when passing, they are endangering your life. So stay safe, and pay close attention to these 6 road cycling tips that'll save your life!
Always Leave Room To Bail
The typical bike lane is around 4-5 feet wide. Because there is often lots of debris on bike lanes, you'll sometimes have to do some maneuvering. By riding too close to the side of the road, you don't have time to maneuver around these road hazards. This can potentially result in a crash. So leave at least 2-3 feet between you and the side of the road in case you have to bail.
Of course, some roads don't even have bike lanes. In this case, try and ride at least 2-3 feet from the edge of the pavement.
A common reason why you might not give yourself room to bail is due to stress. Many times you will feel compelled to stick to the edge of the road to not enrage the car drivers behind you. The key to staying safe in this scenario is to leave yourself room to bail. Two to three feet between you and the roadside should be enough to avoid upcoming traffic.
Many cyclists have died from being car collisions, so invest in a handlebar mirror. A mirror can alert you of cars approaching from behind giving you time to react.
Make Sure Car Drivers Can See You
It amazes me the amount of drivers who don't look both ways before making turns or going through intersections. Many drivers are detached from the reality that their actions have consequences. This endangers the lives of cyclists and other road users.
Cars are huge pieces of metal traveling at incredible speeds, and people drive them like they can't hurt a fly. Well, getting hit by a car is bad news, so stay alert, and make sure car drivers can see you. Due to the unpredictable and careless nature of the typical car driver, always assume they cant see you and react accordingly.
A good tip is to stare at car drivers at intersections and cross-ways. Eye contact lets them know that you see them, and you know they see you. If the driver of a car doesn't look at you or in your direction, assume they don't see you. Slow down and prepare to stop to avoid a collision.
Eye Contact Is Crucial!
Of course, going slow into intersections is a good general rule. However, when your hauling ass down a street with side roads, prepare to give cars the stare of death. Give them a stare that says "you better not pull out in front of me". Many cyclists have died because of cars pulling out in front of them, so this tactic is crucial.
Most car drivers underestimate the speed that cyclists travel at, especially these days with modern cycling tech. So make sure car drivers can see you by making eye contact. Also, keep your eyes peeled for any possibility!
Obey Traffic Laws, At Your Discretion
There are many scenarios where obeying traffic laws can be considered dangerous for a cyclist. Instead of waiting at a stop sign for example, and dealing with the upcoming car traffic and their erratic behavior, it's sometimes better to just ride through. As long as your certain its clear, you should avoid time at intersections to increase your safety. It's these decisions that experienced cyclists learn to master in order to stay safe during day to day cycling.
Cyclists disregarding traffic laws may annoy car drivers. However, they don't realize that its a jungle out there for cyclists in traffic. Many drivers don't look where they are going and there is debris on the road we have to swerve around. We also have angry drivers passing inches from, upset they had to wait an extra 5 minutes behind a cyclist.
Before I will consider anything a car driver might say about cycling laws, I demand they ride a bike in heavy traffic. Then we can see if their annoyance towards our unconventional traffic habits still stands.
Cars are unpredictable, and one of the most common ways to get hit by them is to wait at an intersection. As you ride forward in your bike lane, a car could turn into you, not expecting a cyclist next to them. So stay alert, and as a general rule, the more you can avoid cars in the first place, the safer you'll be. Run stop signs, disobey traffic lights: its not breaking the law in some states, and it can save your life. Its better to be alive with a traffic ticket, than paralyzed or dead from a collision with a car.
Disobey traffic laws at your own discretion!
If you are in a heavy urban area with lots of traffic, obeying the traffic lights might be the best advice. Places like The Netherlands have such a good cycling infrastructure, that obeying traffic laws is in your best interest. In places like the United States however, car drivers seem to have a lot less respect for traffic laws. So keep your head on a swivel while road cycling!
Use Daytime Running Lights
As visible as your fluorescent socks and cycling jersey might be, the sad fact is that many cyclists die vehicle collisions. Car drivers, not paying attention to the road, need to be alerted of your presence when on the bike. Because car drivers in many countries don't expect to see cyclists on the road, you need to be absolutely sure that your highly visible. This is where daytime running lights come in handy.
By using a light on the front and back of your bike during the night and day, you are more easily seen by car drivers. Any bike light will do, but if your serious about your safety, get one that is at least 100 lumens. A high lumen rating will ensure the light being emitted is strong enough to alert otherwise distracted car drivers that there is a cyclist ahead.
Another thing you should consider when choosing your daytime running bike lights is side visibility. One of the most dangerous situations for a cyclist is passing a busy intersection. A light with good side visibility will ensure that you are seen both from the front and side.
I've been using the Cateye front and rear light. They have great side visibility, last forever, and are as bright as the sun!
Never Make A Turn Without Using A Hand Signal
As a fleshy target for fast moving heavy metal vehicles, a cyclist needs to be 200% sure every car around him/her knows when they're about to make a turn. By making a turn without a hand signal, you don't give the chance for traffic to see you and react.
So when your about to make a turn, stick your arm way out there in the direction your about to go. Don't bother with the traditional left hand only signals, as this can confuse some noob drivers. I have found that simply pointing in the direction I'm turning is the best and easiest method of signaling a turn.
Like with everything in life, KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Always Look Up!
While Chris Froome has the ultimate cycling performance and skill, you should not emulate most of his techniques. Froome has the tendency to look down while riding, as if he is catching up on some reading taped to his top-tube. For any cyclist, looking down while riding can spell disaster.
Looking down for even one second can have you riding into a pothole, or the back of a car. You need to be constantly vigilant while riding a bike on the road. There is no telling what road hazard might be laying ahead, behind or beside you. So stay safe, and always keep head on a swivel!
The faster you travel, the farther up the road you should be looking. Looking ahead at your desired path makes you faster, and gives your more time to react to upcoming road hazards.