Biking Safety on Shared Roadways

Biking is a sport that’s greatly enhanced by the many bike trails that keep bicycles and cars safely separated.  But at some point in almost every trail, there will at least a few places where the trail merges with a roadway.  At best, the trail simply runs alongside the roadway for a while with no barrier between them but a white line.  At worst, bikers must actually ride on the edge of the road for a brief spurt. And you’ll eventually have to cross a road on even some of the most exclusive trails.

Almost every biking enthusiast will have to deal with a shared roadway situation.  In fact, some face that each time they go out for a ride.  Whether you ride alongside four lanes of traffic during rush hour, or you have to share a roadway for a tiny part of a meandering trail ride, there are some safety concerns you should keep in mind.

First of all, forget the entire concept of right of way, right now.  When you’re biking, drivers always have the right of way, because they’re in large, fast-moving, metal machines that weigh a ton or two each, and you’re not. Even if you know you have the right the right of way to cross that road, assume that every vehicle around you doesn’t think you do. Stop, keep your eyes open, and be safe.

Keep the same attitude about hand signals. Yes, signal your turns when biking, but don’t assume that the car behind you saw it and understood what it meant, and so it must be safe for you to whip into that turn without having a glance to make sure you’re not going to have a problem.

Watch for sewer grates or other openings in the road. This is mostly a concern in cities, but a serious one. The opening in the grates typically run parallel to the curb, which means you can’t just roll over them.  Instead, your front tire will fit nicely in the hole, bringing your biking enjoyment to a screeching halt.  Unfortunately, you may not stop at the same time.

Which brings us to the next point.  Wear a helmet. There’s just no good reason not to and every reason to do so. Accidents happen, even to those with years of biking experience, and accidents that you don’t cause are, after all, out of your control to prevent. If you’re going to go down, that inch of protection around your skull can save you from a concussion, or worse.

Wear bright clothing. This makes it easier for drivers to see you and be aware of you.  Almost all drivers slow and some even move over a bit when they see people biking on the edge of the road.  But the key is, they have to see you.

And before you go, make sure your bike and especially your brakes are in good working order. That way if you do need to stop suddenly or make a quick swerve to avoid an accident, you’ll be able to.