by Vanessa McCracken
Discount offer from Sunnyside Bicycles at the end of this post!
Mention to people that you ride bikes and undoubtedly someone will respond with, “There’s no way I’d ride my bike in the street with all those crazy drivers!” It would be irresponsible for me to pretend like distracted drivers aren’t a cause for concern. Of course they are—whether you’re on a bike or in a car, I might add! I’m just not willing to live my life in a protective bubble paralyzed by the fear of what if. As with most things in life, riding is a calculated risk. I take very intentional precautions, and then I confidently go out and enjoy the freedom that only riding brings me. I want to share some of the safety measures I take that give me peace of mind while I’m out on the road.
First and foremost, I run front and rear lights every time I ride, day or night. Daytime running lights have been standard on cars for some time now, and have been proven to dramatically reduce the occurrence of collisions—25% reduction for cars, 33% for bicycles. Statistics aside, I started running them during the day after realizing that I saw the riders in my group with lights on substantially farther back than I noticed those without lights. Using lights all the time is a no brainer if being seen is a priority to you!
Side note: Not all lights are created equal. To be the most effective in daylight, a light must be intentionally designed for daylight use. A focused beam allows for a bright beam to be noticed on a bright day. A varying flash pattern increases noticeability and visibility from over a quarter mile away giving cars enough time to react. The lights I use have day and night modes designed specifically to optimize visibility and noticeability in the differing conditions. Any light is better than no light, so I recommend turning yours on even if it’s not daytime-specific.
Another safety measure I take is trying to be as bright as possible out there: bright orange, neon pink, highlighter yellow. The brighter and more obnoxious I can be, the easier it will be for drivers to spot me up ahead and react accordingly. Again, this lightbulb moment came to me on a ride, when I realized that I could spot the riders in my group who were wearing bright colors much, much easier than I could spot those wearing more neutral colors. Jerseys, gloves, helmets, shoes, socks, shorts, glasses…pretty much anything we put on our bodies is available in the high visibility colors. And while bright neon colors may not be your favorite color, there is simply no denying that they catch the eye and that is what we are going for!
The third major precaution I take is using the Garmin Varia rearview radar every time I ride. The Varia detects cars approaching from behind and alerts me on my handlebar-mounted computer that a car is there. It actually lights up my computer screen, beeps at me, in case I’m gabbing (which is often the case), and even tells me how many cars are coming. The light itself actually lights up and flashes to grab the driver’s attention, too. This small investment has given me tremendous peace of mind while out riding!
Other precautions I take are riding predictably, being hyper aware of my surroundings (even when I’m chatting I’m still scanning and always anticipating), signaling and communicating clearly, stopping at stop signs, waving and making eye contact to grab drivers’ attention, and otherwise doing anything and everything I can to obey the rules of the road to stay safe out there.
There is simply nothing that comes close to the joy and freedom that I feel when I’m out on my bike! I’ve never not felt safe out there, and I hope by taking a few of the precautions I take, you can ride with confidence, too!
Some great videos on smart cycling tips can be found at bikeleague.org.
Mention this article to receive 20% off any regularly priced, in-stock light set or hi-visibility jersey before October 15, 2016.
Watch for Sunnyside Bicycles column every month here at KRL! And learn more on their website.
Sunnyside Bicycles Fresno is at 6105 E. Kings Canyon Road (Kings Canyon/Fowler next to GB3 and Baked Sunnyside) and can be reached at 559-255-7433.
Sunnyside Bicycles Reedley is at 1760 11th Street (off the bike trail between G and I) and can be reached at 559-726-2153.