Once you’ve been bike commuting for a while, it’s easy to forget how overwhelming it felt to hop on a bicycle and head off into the busy and crowded city streets for the first time. While safe cycling practices and comfort in the saddle come to feel like second-nature after a while, a person who hasn’t been on a bicycle in years may have a lot more questions than answers when it comes to cycling in the city. Getting out on that first ride in the city, with all the traffic and people, can be uncomfortable, confusing, and even outright dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. But cycling isn’t dangerous, there are just a few things to keep in mind to make your experience as safe, comfortable, and convenient as possible. Here are a few tips and pointers to make cycling in the city a breeze!
Ride in a group when possible
Riding in a group has a major benefit of riding in numbers. This means that with more people on bicycles on the road at once, the likelihood of the occurrence of an unsightly incident is significantly reduced. If you can’t ride in a group, try riding with at least one other person.
Stay alert at all times. Beware of speeding vehicles, opening doors, and overtaking. Often, city traffic equates to chaos and crowded riding conditions. With everyone in a hurry to get from one place to another, especially in rush hours, the chances of motorists looking out for a cyclist or heeding to cyclists on the road, are next to none. So to stay safe, be vigilant of your surroundings.
Follow Traffic Rules
As a cyclist in the city, you are part of the ‘traffic’. Yes, you can be smug about not contributing to pollution, but you are still considered traffic! And it is important to obey the traffic rules in place, for your own safety primarily, and also for the safety of others on the road.
Use Hand Signals
Signalling is not exclusively for motorists, they are essential for cyclists too, especially when riding alone or in groups in a city. Signalling when you are turning can help a person behind you gaude their moves as well and prevent you from being cut off or injured.
Keep an eye out for Pickpockets
Unfortunately, cyclists are easy prey (after those on foot) for pickpockets and snatchers. So, while you are out in the city on your bicycle, keep an eye out for pickpockets, who may make an attempt to snatch your phone or even your bag. When riding in the city, especially in traffic, avoid keeping your phone on display i.e. an armband or mounted onto your handlebar. If you must have it visible to you, perhaps a top tube mount would be the safest.
Stick to a Lane
More often than not, it is recommended that cyclists stick to the left lane. However, the extreme left may prove difficult, especially if you are going to be making a turn that goes against the traffic. So, it is important to be smart when it comes to lanes, if there isn’t a designated bike lane/ path in your city - as is the case in most Indian cities.
Make yourself Visible
Use bicycle lights when riding at night to be more visible to other road users. It also helps to wear a reflective vest or some sort of reflective wear to be seen from a distance, in case your backlight isn’t sufficient! Remember, motorists can’t look out for you if they can’t see you!
A few other tips to keep in mind when riding in the city is to be confident in your bicycle handling skills and riding skills. Additionally, give your bicycle a once over everyday before taking it out in a city and always be prepared with simple spares- you do not want to be stuck with a mechanical issue in the middle of traffic, and have to push your bicycle or hitch a ride to the closest mechanic. That said, cycling in the city can be fun while being a great way to get in shape and really explore your city!