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How to Ride Safely in Traffic

Photo from Denver Vision Zero Ride & Walk of Silence 2019

We've shared many tips over the weeks about how to ride safely on the roads and how to avoid collisions with drivers. This guide gives you most of these tips and considerations in one place, and will help you consider certain steps that you can take to increase your skills riding in traffic. Whether you're a beginner or regular commuter, there is always room for practice and improvement! Take the time to review some important safety riding habits!

These tips are paraphrased from Bicycling Magazines article, "Your Definitive Guide to Riding Your Bike in Traffic."

12 Key Skills:

1. Practice: If riding among cars is new to you, start on less busy streets to get used to being around them. You can also practice riding in parking lots to get used to it.

2. Look where you want to go: While you may be worried about the cars behind you, remember to keep a lookout ahead so you're able to see if a car is about to cross your path.

3. Make eye contact: Don't make assumptions about a driver's behavior. Even if you have the right away be sure to make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you.

4. Hold your line: Riding in traffic means you have to look behind you occasionally to check for cars, but make sure you don't swerve your bike when you do so. Try practicing keeping a straight line, while turning your head over your shoulder enough to clearly see behind you. Don't trust your peripherals.

5. Get noticed: Cyclists are often told to get out of the way or stay as far right as possible so cars can pass them. If you ride regularly, you know just how unsafe that concept is. Drivers are not looking out for cyclists so take the space you need to be seen. Take the lane if there isn't one made for bikes, you have the right to do so.

6. Light Up: Both your bike and your clothing should be visible, especially when riding at night. Lights, reflectors, and an eye-catching helmet are all good ways to be seen.

7. Follow the flow: Similar to tip #5, your position on the road is important to keep you safe. Stay on the right but not too much that you risk being hit by a car door opening. While this puts you closer to moving traffic, drivers will not be able to try and squeeze past you. Especially if you are moving downhill or riding at the same speed as traffic, it's safe to simply act like a car.

8. Stay in your lane: While you may be able to dodge cars when space on the side opens up, this puts you at danger when you have to merge back with traffic. Hold your position as you would with a car so drivers are able to predict your movement. For example, don't move to the front of the line at a right turn intersection without turning right. If a car turns and you ride forward, you risk getting hit. Just as you would in a car, wait your turn and stay in the lane.

9. Take up your position: Signal your intentions by riding on the side of the lane you intend to merge or turn. Left side of the lane if turning left, right if turning right. Stay in the center to send a signal to drivers that you intend to continue straight. Combine this with hand signals to best communicate to those around you.

10. Eye oncoming traffic: Keep an eye out and try to predict what drivers are doing, who might cross your path, and who might try to pass you. Be prepared that they might not see you and you may have to hit the brakes.

11. Avoid getting squeezed: Often times drivers will attempt to pass you to get away from you as quickly as possible. Don't give them the chance to do so unsafely, so avoid hugging the side of the road.

12. Watch for blind spots: Drivers often nose their cars out of side streets and driveways to see better, but they won't always be able to see you. Stand up if you need to be seen and make eye contact with the driver. This is another reason to take up space so you can be seen, but also have an escape route in mind just in case.

Another tip from the same article explains the SIPDE method to help you remember what to do:

SEARCH the street (and sidewalk) ahead

IDENTIFY potential hazards

PREDICT their movements

DECIDE on a course of action

EXECUTE the maneuver that takes you safely along your chosen line

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