You have many great reasons to commute by bike, including health benefits, saving gas money and reducing your carbon footprint. Not to mention that cycling is just plain fun. Unfortunately, the roads can be a little dangerous for Florida cyclists. A collision with a car can cause serious, and even fatal, injuries. Here are some safety tips from seasoned Florida bicycling commuters to help you improve your ride and stay safe:
- Take the side streets. You may have to do a little research to figure out the back roads, but this is a simple way to reduce your chances of a crash. You will see fewer cars and they travel slower on side roads.
- Lights and helmet. Too many bicycle commuters think they don’t need them, but they do. If you travel after dark, or even dusk, you need to have working headlights and rear lights. And a helmet is absolutely essential. If a car does hit you, your helmet could save your life.
- Know the rules of the road. Bicycles are subject to the same rules, and rights, as cars in Florida. Ride appropriately. This means you take as much of a lane as you safely need, signal your turns, and do not ride against traffic. You may think riding against traffic makes you more visible, but you are inviting a head-on collision. Cars do not expect you and have less time to react.
- Lose the earbuds. Listening to music or your favorite podcast on your commute may seem harmless, but you need to hear what is happening around you while you ride. Similarly, do not try to talk on your phone or text while riding. No matter how good your bike handling skills, you need to be aware of everything happening around you.
- Ride like nobody‘s watching. In other words, pretend you are invisible. Always assume the cars just don’t see you. Of course, drivers of cars should be looking for you and accommodating you on the road, but that doesn’t mean they will. If you drive defensively and do not rely on the drivers to see you, you will reduce your chances of a car hitting you. If you do need to make a turn or use a lane of traffic, try to make eye contact with drivers or wave so you know they see you.
- Other defensive driving tips. Along with pretending you are invisible, be on the lookout for drivers moving into your lane, making right-hand turns into you and opening doors in front of you. Keep a steady path, rather than swerving in and out of parked cars. If you see debris ahead, make sure no cars are approaching from behind before going around it.
You should enjoy your bicycle commute in the beautiful Florida sunshine. Make the tips above part of your safe riding habits, and you can be confident you have done your part to ensure a safe commute.