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Some of the most important tips to help you start feeling like a well condition bike commuter.
When you venture out onto the street with your bike for the first time as a commuter cyclist you will be joining many others who “ride a bike for transportation”. Like anything you do in life, your first attempt at something can be bit nerve-racking but that feeling will fade faster than you can say “on your left”. In no time you’ll feel the breeze in your hair and be smiling ear to ear like all the other cyclists you see on your commute.
As a first time bike commuter you might also see and experience a few things that seem unfamiliar. There are written and unwritten rules of bike culture that help ensure all users of the road feel safe. Here are some of the most important tips to help you start feeling like a well condition bike commuter. Most importantly get out there, stay safe, and make friends not enemies throughout your day.
When you’re on your bike you’ll find yourself passing almost every type of road user. This includes pedestrians, scooters, fellow cyclists, and drivers.
When it comes to pedestrians and cyclists you should look ahead and behind to ensure the lane is clear for you to pass on the left. Give those you are passing a clear warning by ringing your bell or saying “on your left”. Before you merge back in make sure you have given those behind you 2-3 bike lengths of room. If it’s raining and you don’t have fenders give even more room before merging so they don’t get hit by your wheel spray.
When passing drivers you should keep as far to the right as possible without putting yourself in danger of getting doored. Make sure there is plenty of space between the car and the curb. Do not pass on the right when there is a street, driveway or parking spot a car can turn into. If a car is indicating that they will be making a right hand turn or if the car is in a dedicated turning lane you can should shoulder check and pass them on left hand side.
Use hand signals to warn other road users that you will be making a turn. Do it early enough that those who might be attempting to pass you don’t attempt to do so in the intersection you plan on turning in.
Park your bicycle considerately. Bicycle parking should not interfere with pedestrian or vehicle movements. Use bike racks properly, so more bikes may park. If a bike rack is full don’t squish your bike in damaging other people’s bicycles. Look for the next available rack.
Use lights so other road users can see you. Do not ride at night without lights! A red light for the back and white light for the front.
Obey the rules of the road. You should not surprise other road users by making a left turn from the right hand lane. It’s important to meet the expectations of other people by making sure your actions are predictable.
When you’re coming to stop at a light or stop sign you should stop behind the cars and other cyclists in front of you. Don’t make your way to the front. Be patient. You can pass once everyone gets moving again.
If you need to come to an abrupt stop make sure you pull over. Stopping abruptly can cause the cyclist behind you to swerve to avoid biking right into you and put them in danger.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has installed safe infrastructure such as protected bike lanes remember these are shared by cyclists of all abilities. A bike lane is not an express route for you hit top speed in. If you want to travel much faster than others in the bike lane you may want to consider riding on the road. It is your right to do so.
We encourage you to remain unplugged during your ride so you can hear background noises and listen for potential hazards. If however you do need to talk on your phone pull over or use headphones. You should remain focused and keep both hands on your handlebars.
The majority of cyclists want to build a supportive and inclusive community. Say hello to your fellow commuters, don’t be shy. If you see a cyclist in trouble stop and see if they need a hand. Wouldn’t you hope that somebody would do the same for you? Even if you don’t know how to fix a chain that has fallen off maybe they just need a second set of hands. When your considerate of other road users the streets will become a much more enjoyable place.
In conclusion you should think of etiquette as the rules of the game to make friends. When you step into a new culture, there are cultural norms you need to know about in order to make friends and not offend those who have lived this life for generations.
Now that you are bicycle commuter you have a responsibility to not be a jerk. We are a minority on the road and we are still fighting for many rights and better conditions. Be a good example, and enjoy the newfound liberty with respect and responsibility.