Get Street Smart
No matter where you ride, there’s a double-sided nature to road biking. Carving through a turn at speed and cutting it tight enough to touch the lamppost on the street corner is an amazing feeling. However, if you get too close, you get to find out what it’s like to be hit in the head with a lamppost. Road biking is a fun but inherently dangerous sport. Getting on a bike means you’re taking a calculated risk. These tips will help you manage that risk.
1. Wear a helmet.
Helmets save lives. It’s as simple as that. The argument that wearing a helmet encourages road cyclists to be careless is as ridiculous as saying that going to the doctor encourages people to get sick. Helmets prevent trauma by breaking on impact so that your head doesn’t have to. So don’t throw your helmet around. Once it’s cracked, it’s useless, so get a new one. Also, short trips aren’t an excuse to go uncovered. Most of us, including myself, are guilty of the occasional unprotected short grocery run. It’s imperative you break the habit. You don’t get to choose when accidents happen.
2. Plan ahead.
Where are you going and how far is it? Is the weather going to change during your ride? Do you have enough food and water? Do you have a tire changing kit? You should be asking yourself these questions before you leave, especially for longer rides. Proper planning helps reduce the chance of something going wrong.
3. Bring a phone and ID.
You forget something important, you run out of daylight, or you’re just too tired to keep going. If these things happen to you, call for help. There’s no shame in it. Also, keep an driver’s license on you for emergency’s should you be incapacitated by an accident and need to be identified. It’s not jinxing it. It’s just smart.
4. Act like you’re driving.
Except for the road rage, acting like you’re driving a car makes you safer in traffic. Drivers are used to reacting to other drivers because they can predict what’s going to happen. As soon as you ignore the traffic rules, maneuvering safely around you becomes much more difficult for drivers. Generally road cyclists should keep to the right when you’re around traffic, but when you’re moving at traffic speeds or you’re at an intersection, take the lane. This lets drivers know you’re there and keeps them from trying to squeeze by you when there’s not enough room.
5. Your pride is not worth your life.
Don’t take on risks you can’t manage. No podium finish in a race, personal record or other matters of dignity are worth life or limb if the risk is too great. This is especially important when it comes to road usage. It’s yours to share; not to own. No matter how justified you may be, cars are heavier than you. You will lose. Have fun and play in traffic. This is the essence of road biking. Just make sure you do it safely.
Written by Julian Paul, Terrapin Adventures Guide and UMBC Cycling Road Squad Manager