The 5BBC Guide to Safe Biking
Whether on a club ride, or traveling around town on your own, the 5BBC seeks to be a proponent of safe cycling. The City of New York has embarked on an ambitious plan to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist injuries and death. This quest is called Vision Zero. Here is what we can due to make this goal a reality.
I. Your Bike
Motor vehicles have to have their vehicles inspected once a year. Cyclists should inspect our bicycles every time we hit the road.
There are certain items that have to be on your bicycle BY LAW. You need to have a bell so as to be able to warn pedestrians. You also need to have a light in front and a light in the rear, if you are riding more than 30 minutes after sunset. Other items such as helmet lights, wheel lights, additional reflectors serve to make you more visible.
At the start of every 5BBC ride, we perform the “Two Minute Bike Check.” This brief inspection should be done before every ride that you do. In short, we check out the tires, braking systems, seat and cranks to make sure that the bike is in proper mechanical order. For the full “Two Minute Bike Check”, visit our web site.
Regular Maintenance is also important. Some maintenance can be performed by you without any mechanical skills. Every couple of rides, clean and lube your chain. Take a brush and remove the built up grit from the derailleurs. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated [see the inflation guide which is on the side of every bike tire.] Once a year, take your bike into your local bike shop for a more rigorous tune up.
Are you ready to ride?
Are you in good physical shape for the ride? If you are on a group ride, this means knowing the mileage and the pace, and making sure that you are comfortable with both.
Many riders have medical conditions that need to be addressed before going out on the road. Is there any medication that you need to take along[inhalers, epi pens, prescriptions and the like]? If you do have a medical condition, many riders have a wristband that provides others with information about your medical conditions and/or allergies.
Are you wearing the right clothing? Your clothing has to fit the weather conditions, so dress appropriately. Weather often changes throughout the ride, so layering is often a good idea. Although not a rule, many riders prefer to dress in bright colors so as to be better seen on the road. And of course, make sure that you are wearing a properly adjusted helmet.
If you are intoxicated, if you are bonking, or if you feel in any other way physically compromised – DO NOT BIKE.
III. On the Road
So, your bike is in good shape. You are in good shape. You are now ready to ride. Here are some tips for doing so safely.
First, take along items that you may need. Items that should be brought along include spare tubes, tire levers and a pump. More skilled mechanics often take a multi-tool with them. Other useful items include: bungie cords, sun screen, maps of the area, charged cell phone, snacks, and a lock. Remember that water is important, so have at least one water bottle or filled hydration pack.
Follow the rules of the road. Like any other vehicle, cyclists must stop at red lights. Cyclists must also signal all turns and stops. When you do stop, make sure that you are not blocking the cross-walk. Do not ride the wrong way against traffic [salmon].
In some places [like various towns that we ride through in New Jersey] riding in single file is the law. In New York, it is not the law, but unless the road is free of traffic, it is usually a safer practice. When in a group, riding across the entire roadway is unacceptable behavior. Remember to always stay away from the door zone when riding along parked vehicles – Give the Door Four.
Be alert. It is illegal in New York to ride with headphones in both ears. Constantly scan the road ahead for pedestrians, cars and road hazards. If you are in a group and see a hazard – call it out so the other cyclists are aware of the issue. “GLASS” “HOLE” “DOOR UP” “CAR BACK.” Know where the motor vehicles are, especially when you are turning.
Be predictable. Let the cars and other cyclists know what you are doing, making sure to signal your turns and when you are stopping. Even when you signal – make eye contact with the driver if you can. Avoid swerving or sudden stops or starts. Maintain a proper speed for the traffic and pedestrian conditions.
Accidents can happen to even the most careful cyclists. Know what to do in case of an accident. If you have a cell phone, take a photo of the vehicle license plate or the road hazard that caused the condition. If the accident involved a motor vehicle, get the driver's information. Do not get back on the bike if either the bike or your physical ability has been compromised.
We are not alone on the road. There are pedestrians, motor vehicles, and other cyclists all vying for the same patch of asphalt. Following the above guidelines will not only keep you safer, but it will also serve to further the cause of better cycling in New York. Ride Smart. Ride Safe. Have Fun.