Originally posted by Sustainable SFU - see the original here.
The fear of cycling on the road is often the main deterrent for potential cyclists. After all, as science dictates that momentum = mass times velocity, vehicles will surely have greater momentum than a cyclist. Despite this, the inherent assumption that cycling is dangerous is ill-informed; with proper education, cycling can be a safe, fun, and efficient means of transportation (and an excellent leisure activity)! To prepare you for Bike to Work and School Week (October 27 - 31 2014) and help you make the transition from the doldrums of rush-hour driving to the exciting realm of cycling, We’ve got some critical tips that will help you become a safe and smart cycling guru.
ONE: Obey the rules of the road
Just because you are cycling does not mean you are granted hero status; you are using the roadway and thus the rules of the road apply. Although you are not operating a motor vehicle, you are not exempt from the same laws and practices that motorists must follow. Be sure that you come to complete stops at lights and stop signs, and follow standard four-way procedures when appropriate. It is also worth mentioning that speed limits still apply; when you get a long downhill section, make sure to use your brakes (and make sure they are in working condition)!
TWO: Use those signals!
Arguably the most effective way to ensure a safe journey is to signal when turning and stopping. You may be wondering how it is possible to signal on a bike; after all, your two-wheeler lacks the fancy turn signals that cars have (which some people – irritatingly so – forget to turn off after making a gradual turn or lane change). Fortunately, as long as you can remember three simple gestures – and possess at least one working arm – you will have no problem becoming a signal whiz by the end of the day for all road users to admire. Wikipedia has an excellent and brief article on cycling hand signals. Just remember: if a car would signal for a certain action, so should you. Use those appendages!
THREE: Be seen
Just because you are on the road, do not assume that a pedestrian, driver, or another cyclist sees you. This may seem obvious but its importance shouldn’t be overlooked. When you are cycling, be aware of what is going on around you and never assume your presence is known. For example, if a vehicle in front of you is signalling to turn right while you intend to go straight through, do not assume the driver will shoulder check and take notice. After all, we are aware of how many standard driving practices die fast once a driver is comfortable with operating a vehicle (it’s a daily occurrence to see a motorist who somehow feels that signalling is unnecessary).
FOUR: Don’t forget your bucket
Although helmet laws are presently a hot topic in Vancouver due to the desire to implement a large bike-share program, the current regulation still stands. Provincial law requires helmets to be worn by all cyclists. Even if you feel they might ruin your hair, just ask yourself this: do you really value your hair over your head? If the answer is yes, rethink that and ask yourself the question again.
FIVE: Dress the part
While not required by law, wearing reflective pieces of clothing or having reflective accessories are recommended. While this tip may not be of utmost importance for your daily commute, it holds great relevance to riding in the dark. After the sun sets beyond the horizon, a cyclist is a ghostrider. Make sure your bike is equipped with lights and reflectors, and try to incorporate reflective pieces into your clothing if possible. This will ensure you are seen on the road and other motorists are aware of your presence.
SIX: Read the manual
BikeSense has an excellent cycling manual that will get you primed for taking to the streets! It takes little effort to read, and has an excellent section-by-section breakdown of topics. Of critical importance is the Cycling & Traffic Skills section, which will give you a great overview of proper road cycling techniques in various situations.
SEVEN: Get out there, and you’ll see how great it is
The most important piece of advice for prospective cyclists is to simply get out there, give it a try, and have fun! You will be amazed at how quickly you feel at home on the road. With some basic technical knowledge, any fears you might have previously had should dissipate. After all, we all took the leap at one point; while we were all nervous to begin with, we loved it immediately and haven’t looked back. Get involved with Bike to Work/School Week and take the plunge!
If you’re an SFU student, bike to the Burnaby campus on October 29th from 7-11AM and visit Sustainable SFU at Cornerstone for free pancakes and coffee.