Activate Allen County would like to remind the community that May 19 is National Bike to Work Day & May 15 through May 19 is National Bike to Work Week. Many local business professionals and school faculty, staff and students already commute by bike — and more can join them. Bike commuting is a great way to fit some physical fitness into a daily routine while saving money and decreasing your carbon footprint.
For those individuals who aren’t acclimated to riding their bike to and from work, we’d like to offer some tips to remaining safe on your ride. Cycling requires careful preparation, whether riding on busy streets, in neighborhoods or country roads, as each presents different dangers. Let’s take a look at three of the most hazardous situations that cyclists may encounter and how to potentially avoid them.
1) Intersections – Many busy intersections are designed with cars in mind, leaving cyclists with the problem of crossing the street ways amidst drivers that might not be keeping an eye out for bicycles. One of the most common crashes that occurs here is the right turn collision — when a car or truck driver fails to notice a cyclist and turns either into or in front of the bicycle. Similar situations can occur when a car on the opposite side of the street makes a wide left turn and fails to notice a cyclist crossing the street.
One of the best ways to avoid these problems is to slow your speed when approaching intersections. Riding slower is always a great rule of thumb for any potentially dangerous situation, particularly high-traffic areas like intersections. Another important thing to be wary of is passing or stalling on the right of vehicles. Whether you’re in a driver’s “blind spot” or not, it is always best to play it safe and stay behind than try to get ahead on the right.
2) Cars & Car Doors – There are countless ways for cars to appear out of nowhere while cycling. Maybe you’re traveling down the street when a car suddenly appears from a side street and turns without seeing you. Maybe you’re traveling along a seemingly empty street when a driver in a parked car swings their door open directly in front of you. These unknowns can be especially frightening, because it seems there’s almost no way to prevent them from happening.
However, a common theme with most sudden crashes is that these dangers appear from the right — parked cars, hidden driveways, side streets, parking lots, etc. While most cyclists feel the need to stay securely to the far right of the street in the bike lane, the best way to avoid these situations is to ride a bit further to the left. Even if you are further into the center of the car lane, riding to the left gives both you and other drivers more time to react. Wearing bright colors during the day and reflective colors at night are also helpful to keep you as visible as possible. Especially for night riders, it is also vital to invest in a headlight and rear light, if you don’t have them already.
3) Potholes and Obstacles – One of the biggest culprits for cycling crashes and ruined bikes is the pothole. Even small holes can cause injury for experienced cyclists. Obstacles like fallen branches or general debris can also cause trouble, especially if dodging them means veering into traffic.
The best way to avoid these problems is by familiarizing yourself with the bike routes that you take. Be sure to do so on a clear, normal day to ensure that you can see any potential hazards or changes in the landscape. If encountering an unexpected pothole or other hazard during your ride, try to avoid the problem in a smart way by either gently swerving to a safe space or walking your bicycle around the hazard.
Lastly, Activate Allen County reminds riders to practice safe riding skills and to wear a helmet every time that you ride. Those who are interested in joining the Allen County Bike & Pedestrian Task Force, are curious about bike commuting, or have questions regarding various aspects about bike commuting should contact Josh Unterbrink at Activate Allen County, at 419-221-5035.