Freedom on Two Wheels: Riding with Cars

Riding Safely (Defensively)

Ride defensively. That is the best advice I have for riding a bike on roads with cars, motorcycles, buses and anything else driven by a human. Drivers make mistakes and get distracted, and cyclists are wearing minimal safety gear and don’t have much of a chance against cars and concrete. For these basic reasons, ride defensively.

What does ride defensively mean?

  • Know your routes. I tend to ride the same roads so I know where I need to be most aware of any potential problem spots like hidden driveways and blind corners. I have spent years riding these roads and I am still altering them to eliminate stretches of road where I feel smashed between traffic and parked cars. I have no problem adding a little mileage to avoid a road that makes me uncomfortable.
  • Pick a safe stretch of road to put in your big efforts. I spend most of my ride enjoying being on the bike and spinning my pedals at a comfortable cadence, but I do like to get the heart pumping. Pick a section of a bike path or route with minimal cross traffic to ride hard. The other way to put in a big effort while staying safe is to find a quiet hill and go up. I love climbing a steep road because if I fall or crash, I’m only going like 7 miles an hour!
  • This brings me to descending. Going downhill after a big climb is rewarding and fun, but it is also dangerous. Know your descent, and the driveways, and the tight turns, and the potholes, and use those breaks!
  • Check out the booklist Rolling Through the Urban Countryside for related library materials. Always wear a helmet and spend time on maintenance to make sure your bike is ready to help you enjoy your Freedom On Two Wheels!