13 Tips For Riding A Bike In A Big City
“ON YOUR LEFT!”
1. Don’t be timid.
You’re in a heavily congested, chaotic city where everyone has somewhere to be and they ned to be there now, now, now, goddammit. You’re gonna have to fight for your space on the road, and swerving around the bike lane in fear of traffic is only going to make things more dangerous for the cyclists behind you. Confident riding means you’ll just keep pedalin’ in harmony with the flow of traffic.
2. Pass other cyclists on the far edge of the lane.
Ahhhhh, there’s nothing like being caught off-guard by another rider zooming past you. The automobile-inclined (tend) to pass on the left, and consider the same etiquette when on two wheels. Of course, if the bike lane is to the left of car traffic, pass on the right.
3. Learn how to lock your damn bike.
Let’s make one thing clear: theft is never, ever the fault of the victim. But big cities are full of opportunists, and reselling bike parts is a quick way to turn a profit. Unless you’ve secured most components with skewers or a chain, don’t just toss a lock around the top tube. Here’s a really comprehensive guide to securing your bike while you have brunch.
4. A light, zippy road bike is your friend.
Pretty cruiser bikes are really nice for sprawling beach towns or short rides around residential cities. Unfortunately, they’re heavy and will not only slow you down, but omg don’t your legs hurt? A single-speed will help you save a bit of weight and a lot of maintenance, but you will probably miss the gears when you’re going up (or down!) hills.
5. Create a mental map of potholes on your route.
Space off for even a moment on a road frequented by heavy trucks and weather damage and you’ll find your front wheel in a concrete divot. Next thing you know, your body is suddenly on a forward trajectory up and over your handlebars. Stay woke.
6. Find routes with optimal green light timing.
Some routes will make you hit a red light every block. Because you, as a respectable cyclist, don’t run red lights (seriously: cops are looking for easy ways to hand out tickets), this is less than ideal. Find yourself running into the same red light every damn morning? It’s not a coincidence, it’s by design.
7. Get familiar with bike shops in your area.
Let’s be real: you’re not going to carry around extra inner tubes like you should. But you’re going to get pinch flats and just plain ‘ole slow leaks in your wheels, and it’s always helpful to know where you can go to get back in business. Just have a couple in mind on the routes you frequent, it’s information you’ll never regret learning.
8. Carry deodorant, face wipes, and possibly an extra t-shirt.
Throw out your hopes and dreams of casually cruising to a party and arriving looking polished and glamorous. You’ll sweat off your makeup and your colleagues will ask if you jumped in a pool before showing up anywhere. You may also notice, after 13 consecutive blocks behind the same damn bus, that you’re breathing exhaust… and getting it all up in your pores. Do yourself, and your complexion, a favor and freshen up with a face wipe.
9. Jay-walking pedestrians will put you in dangerous situations.
Like I said, we’re all just tryin’ to get around here. Pedestrians are bound to jaywalk, but they probably won’t check the bike lane before making a run for it. It is then that you’ll end up having to swerve into the full lane, where there are… cars… that can kill you… quickly. (We should probably note that you are also a big danger to pedestrians. Safety is a two-way, jay-walkable street.) Look out ahead for pedestrians walking toward the edge of the sidewalk, and leave a bit of a buffer zone between you and the curb if possible.
10. Accept that you will probably get doored.
You might be in a blind spot, or a car-inclined person may not check before they open the door into the lane where you’re currently riding. It sometimes happens too fast to allow you to swerve. It is nearly inevitable that regular cyclists will slam into a swinging car door. Door/bike collisions can cause serious injuries. My friends have been doored, their friends have been doored, and I know I tempt fate every time I hop on my bike. Similar to the precautions you should take to reduce your chances of being cut off by a pedestrian, look ahead for cars that have just pulled into spots, and if you can, ride with the approximate distance of a door between you and the parked cars.
11. Stay out of the way of bike messengers.
Couriers haul heavy-ass shit up and down hills, avenues, and across bridges for low pay at a high risk. Stay the hell out of their way, as a courtesy. They ride their bikes for up to 8 hours per shift: they are better at cycling than you.
12. As a rule, biking takes approximately 1/3 of the time it takes to walk somewhere.
That means, instead of spending fifteen minutes walking to brunch, you can derp around on the internet for ten and be in transit for five.
13. Cruise around, have fun, and know the best way to explore your city is on two wheels.
A previous version of this post included a graphic by via Bike Safe Boston, which was asked to be removed. His bike safety tips can be found here.