Riding a bike is a healthy, fun and safe activity. It is also necessary if you are training for your next race. Unfortunately riding on the road does pose some risk. We have a few things we would like to point out to help make your riding on the road more safe and more enjoyable.
Utah has set forth bicycle safety laws that are codified at Utah Code Section (41-6a-10). First and foremost, cyclists need to understand that their bicycles are considered “vehicles” under the law and cyclists are subject to the same laws as an operator of any other vehicle. Here are a few to take careful note of.
Ride in the same direction as traffic. (41-6a-1105)
Ride as far to the right as practicable (41-6a-1105) except when
passing another bike or vehicle
Preparing to turn left
Going straight through an intersection past a right-turn-only lane.
Avoiding unsafe conditions or the right-hand edge of the roadway
Traveling in a lane too narrow to safely ride side-by-side with another vehicle
Ride no more than two abreast only if it does not impede traffic.(41-6a-1105)
Signal your intention to turn right or left, change lanes, or stop at least two seconds before doing so. (41-6a-804)
(a) Left turn: hand and arm extended horizontally; (b) Right turn: hand and arm extended upward; and (c) Stop or decrease speed: hand and arm extended downward.
Be visible. You are required to have a white headlight, red taillight or reflector, and side reflectors, all visible for at least 500 feet any time you ride earlier than a half hour before sunrise, later than a half hour after sunset, or whenever it is otherwise difficult to make out vehicles 1000 feet away (41-6a-1114)
Make sure your bike is in good repair
You must have brakes capable of stopping you within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement. (41-6a-1113)
And one of the most important safety laws:
Motorists may not pass within 3-feet of a moving bicycle. Motorists may not attempt to distract a bicyclists (41-6a-706.5).
Wearing a helmet is the most important thing any cyclist can do to prevent serious injuries. Whether or not you consider yourself a “serious” rider, you should have a helmet on no matter where or how far you ride.
Try on several different models and brands to find the best fit.
Wear the helmet level so that it covers your forehead.
Adjust the rear fit dial, side buckles, and chin strap for optimal safety and comfort. You shouldn't be able to fit more than two fingers between your chin and strap.
Don't store your helmet in direct sunlight. Also avoid leaving your helmet in your car. Extreme heat will degrade the materials.
Replace your helmet after a crash or after five years of use. You heard that right. A single impact can affect your helmet safety rating.
Treat your helmet with respect, don't throw it around or pile it under heavy items.
#3 watch out for hazards
This goes without saying but do keep your eyes on the road and watch out for hazards. Avoiding these may take some additional technical skill which may take some practice. Here are a few common hazards.
Gravelly or Chip-Sealed Roads
If you happen to ride into gravel, it is better to pedal through than to coast. Propulsion provides stability. However there is such a thing as too much speed, so if your speed is fast back off the power (without breaking) wile staying in the saddle to keep your bike planted.
The first minutes of riding in rainfall are the most dangerous. “Before the oil residue from cars is washed away, it creates a slick film.” If you must make a turn, exaggerate the normal cornering technique of driving weight into the lowered, outside pedal. This helps your tires grip the road as much as possible.
Paint strips on a wet road are about as slick as ice. To stay safe, cross road lines as close to a right angle as you can. If you get forced onto a slick road line, avoid an abrupt reaction. Clear the line gradually.
Swerving around potholes makes sense—unless there’s traffic or you’re surprised by one while riding in the middle of a group. Don't panic, if you stay alert you can zap them with barely any effort at all. You only need to miss the edge by a few centimeters and it's surprisingly easy to steer bikes accurately around small objects. If you do ride into a normal pothole, relax the bars and lift yourself a little out of the saddle to unweight the bike and allow it to bump over the other side. Stay loose on the bike and absorb the impact through your arms and legs.
Don’t even think about riding into a nasty pothole. If it’s too late to swerve around it, and your feet are clipped in to the pedals, you can bunnyhop it by simultaneously pulling up on the bars and the pedals. Jerk the both at the same time and the bike will become airborne for just enough time to fly over the hole. Practice bunnyhopping on a straight piece of road or ground — it’s a simple and effective trick.
Also practice making little swerves on the bike. You will be surprised how late you can flick a bike around a pothole.
If your wheel gets caught in a crack running the length of the street, chances are you’ll shred either rubber or skin. To cross a parallel crack without getting a flat tire, lean your bike slightly toward the damaged pavement, then pop your front wheel sideways so it clears the crack. If your wheels get caught in the crack, pull directly up on the front wheel, and it will automatically pop out and to the side.
Rail Road Crossings
The simplest, most effective way to stay safe while you cross railroad tracks on a bike is to cross them slowly. This gives you time to approach them at a 90 degree angle and avoid gaps. If you are still not comfortable crossing railroad tracks, even at a 90 degree angle, it’s okay to stop and get off your bike and cross them on foot. It’s always better than crashing.
As with rail road tracks be sure to cross cattle guards in a perpendicular (right angle) direction. It is best to stop pedaling and rise out of the saddle as you cross. Look for a clear line and avoid gaps that eat skinny tires for breakfast. Don't ride across a grate if you see that the gaps are parallel to your direction of travel. When in doubt, dismount and walk.
#4 Good Habits for Busy Streets
To make every cycling experience positive (and safe), follow safe biking practices. Most of these habits are geared (pun intended) towards keeping the cyclist visible to drivers and pedestrians in order to prevent accidents.
Put down the phone. We shouldn’t even need to say this, but talking on the phone, texting, or checking Instagram while biking are major no-nos. Also refrain from listening to headphones because they can make it more difficult to hear approaching cars and pedestrians.
Ride in a straight line. This one’s self-explanatory, but riding in a predictable fashion makes it easier for cars to go around (and not into) you.
Stay on the right side of the lane, in a single-file line with other cyclists (not two or three abreast). If the street is too narrow for cars to pass, cyclists are allowed to ride in the middle of the lane to increase visibility. Keep an eye out for parked cars (or rather, doors from parked cars opening into the street). Avoid the dreaded door-into-cyclist snafu by staying a little bit closer to the center of the street if there are parked cars. Also, move towards the left side of the lane when turning left. (see above - Bike Laws)
Stay out of drivers’ blind spots, especially at traffic lights or stop signs.
Always keep at least one hand on the handlebars. Save the “look, Ma, no hands!” tricks for the driveway at home.
Signal well and make eye contact with drivers before making a turn or slowing down. All biking signals are done with the left arm, so keep the right hand on the handlebars for stability. If you’re not confident about your signaling skills, spend some time practicing turns in a quiet area where there is little traffic before hitting the busier roads. (See above - Bike Laws)
Don’t drink and bike (duh).
Stay visible. Wear bright colors for daytime riding and reflective materials for night.
Consider sporting a mirror to keep track of cars behind you.
Travel with a mini tool kit. If your trek is more than 10 minutes or down a lonely stretch of road, you’ll thank us. Take the time to learn how to do a few quick repairs in advance of any big rides so you don’t get stranded!
We posted Utah State laws, but laws vary state to state. If you plan to bike in another part of the country, know what the local laws are before heading out.
If you have more safety tips, we would like to hear them, comment below.