Road Safety Tips

I love seeing all of the new cyclists on the road since the start of the pandemic, but there are a few tips that I would like to remind new riders and experienced riders to keep you safe on the roads. Of course, we all know to wear a helmet and how to wear it properly, to fill up our tires and to do a bike safety check prior to riding, but there are a few simple things you can do to keep you safe:

  1. Use the bike lane on the correct side of the street, going with the flow of traffic. If there is no bike lane, you should ride in the same direction as all vehicle traffic because you are operating a vehicle if you ride a bike.
  2. Stay off the sidewalks. Again, a bike is a vehicle. There are too many pedestrians and businesses, and you’re not a 3 year old riding alongside your parents who are walking next to you.
  3. Use hand signals and be predictable to drivers. I actively look for cyclists when I’m driving and was surprised this morning when a cyclist passed me on the right of my vehicle as I slowed to stop at a stop sign. Don’t do that. Yes, I did see him, and no I didn’t even get close to hitting him. He also had lights.
  4. When stopping at a light or stop sign, get behind the car in front of you rather than squeezing to the right of the car in the space between the vehicle and the curb. Take the WHOLE LANE. You should be highly visible with your lights.
  5. Use highly visible lights. A bike is a vehicle and should have lights like cars do.
  6. If you are riding on a road with a small shoulder or no shoulder, TAKE THE LANE. Ride a few feet to the LEFT of the white line and stay out of the dangerous shoulder with its debris and slippery white line. Although this seems counter-intuitive, you’re actually more likely to get clipped and hit if you try to move too far to the right. Make the drivers of cars pass you safely because if a driver thinks they cannot get around you, they will drive behind you until it’s safe to pass. Oftentimes, drivers will think they can get around a cyclist who rides too far to the right and end up hitting the cyclist. Riding farther to the left has an additional benefit as you approach an intersection because if you are farther over to the left, drivers waiting at the crossroads will be able to judge your speed on the bike better than if you were really far to the right, making for safer riding.
  7. Slow down, unclip one foot, and shift to an easier gear as you approach an intersection. Most intersections are mini mounds of pavement, which makes it hard to go up and over after a slow start. A slow start up a short incline can make a cyclist wobbly and more likely to fall in front of traffic. Not a good day.
  8. As a driver of a car, put the phone down, pay attention, drive slowly through neighborhoods, downtown, and near businesses. Save the faster driving for the interstate. Actively point out runners, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycles to other passengers in the car so they will start to notice them on the roads too. Give kids a wide berth when they’re riding.

For rules about bike laws in your state, visit this website: https://bikeleague.org/StateBikeLaws

For bike advocacy, visit the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia and consider joining to get more bike lanes, trails, and other infrastructure to make the roads safer for everyone: https://bicyclecoalition.org/

For national bike advocacy, here in the US visit: https://peopleforbikes.org/

Black Girls Do Bike: https://www.blackgirlsdobike.com/home

Go by Bike Movement: https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/gobybike/

For group rides in the area: https://www.suburbancyclists.org/

Stronger

When I was little, I used to want to grow up to be strong enough to beat the crap out of any bully I encountered. No matter what their size, I wanted to be able to take them down to stop them from picking on other kids or getting their way. I wanted to be the Karate Kid who wins the tournament just because I wanted to win and to show the bad guys, once and for all, that I can kick ass. But, I’m not a big person or the strongest or the best athlete.

I never took any form of martial arts. Standardized tests told me I wasn’t smart enough for scholarships to go to my college of choice, or get a master’s degree. I’m 5’4″ and still have to climb the shelves in the dairy section to get milk for my coffee. I ride a small frame bike, and the wind can blow me over while I ride. I am facing the fact that I might get shorter as I age, but I hope I can honor the legacy of the 5’1″ force that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

There’s a step stool in my kitchen for all of the things out of reach that has more or less become a metaphor for life. RBG made some of those things easier to reach for women: she gave us a step stool to level up in the eyes of the law. I used my step stool and climbed higher, getting the much needed scholarship and degrees along with the milk for my coffee too. For that, I am grateful for RBG.

I continue to climb above the bullies, the naysayers, the doubters, so now I don’t have to worry about beating the crap out of them. Instead, I’ll lend them a hand if they’re willing to change and accomplish more than just getting ahead. Let’s keep moving forward and continue the work that so many women have done, the work that RBG continued throughout her career. It shouldn’t end with her, but continue with you and me.

Get stronger. Know you can. And then, go and do it. There is no before or after, there’s only now.

Garmin Varia Radar

The road calls–the wind in your face, the long downhill to the river, the curling country road winding through trees. My wheel traces the line to the left of the shoulder on smooth tarmac. This is why I love riding. It’s mediation in motion.

But, at the forefront of my mind is when will a driver approach me, how fast, how close? Will the driver be distracted on the phone? Are they speeding? Do they hate cyclists? I checked my lights before leaving, so I know I’m seen if a driver is looking. I got my wallet, my keys, and my phone for emergencies, a fully stocked saddlebag, and my helmet is secure. I also have incredible hearing–just ask my former students about how I knew they dropped the f-bomb on the other side of the room during group work time. Yes, I heard it. Yes, I will acknowledge it and let you know. Yes, I’m emailing your parents about your language in the classroom.

Even with all of this, it’s really hard to hear if a driver in any vehicle is approaching me from behind until that driver is right there, whizzing by me too close, the slipstream nearly pushing me off the road. Yikes. That’s happened too many times to count and almost gives me a heart attack every time. Too many of my friends have been hit by drivers who say “the cyclist came out of nowhere!” Umm… we’re on the roads. A bike is a vehicle. I have lights. I signal where I’m going. I follow all traffic laws. And yes, I ride in the lane, three feet over from the shoulder line to avoid all kinds of debris and rough pavement in the shoulder.

The newest device I’ve added for extra safety is the Garmin Varia Radar. It won’t prevent a car from passing too close, or heaven forbid, from hitting me, but it alerts me that a driver is coming fast or slow before I can even hear or see that vehicle. Seriously. If the car is moving at a normal speed, I will see an orange ball of light move closer to me (I’m the light at the top of the display) until the driver passes me, and then the light will go green. If the driver is speeding like a bat out of Hades, the ball of light flashes red, so I can move my ass over to feel better about it and pray they’re not distracted.

I decided to purchase the radar and display even though I have a compatible bike computer (Garmin Edge), so that when Phil rides with me, he will use the display, and I can use my bike computer for one radar that’s on the back on my bike. The radar only picks up Phil or another rider if they are really close behind me and riding fast. If I ride next to Phil or he’s ahead of me, my radar will alert both devices so I don’t have to call out “car” all the time because he gets an alert too.

Always ride with lights (the rechargeable ones so they are bright), helmet, a stocked saddlebag, phone and emergency information, and add the Garmin Varia Radar for even more safety. I won’t ride on the road without it. Ride on.

Here’s a link to the Garmin Varia Radar, which just so happens to be on sale. It doesn’t include the display, but if you have a compatible bike computer, you don’t need it anyway. I bought mine from Bike Closet, and got the radar and display for $200, regular price is $300 for both the display and the radar.

https://www.amazon.com/Garmin-RTL510-Cycling-Rear-Approaching-Vehicles/dp/B07C9PKSCK/ref=asc_df_B07C9PKSCK/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241970631835&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17535552648306564026&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9007245&hvtargid=pla-571923818875&th=1