If you live in a big city, a bike may be the easiest, fastest, and most economical way for you to get around. While there are a lot of benefits to riding your bike if you’re in a big city, there are bike riding precautions you should always take as well. For example, according to the Mirman, Markovitz & Landau law firm, there have already been 25 fatal bike accidents in 2019 in New York City, and the year isn’t over yet.
Since New York is the country’s biggest city and often a place where residents rely on their bikes, some other statistics about bike safety in the city include:
- The majority of New York’s deadly biking accidents have occurred in Brooklyn—16 out of 25 to be specific.
- As a result of these deaths paired with the growing popularity of biking in Brooklyn, the borough is working on what they call a green wave for cyclists. This means they are working on improving their biking infrastructure and altering traffic patterns.
- There were 453 reported bike accidents in New York in September 2019 with most of those in Manhattan followed by the Bronx and then Brooklyn
So what are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents:
- Distracted vehicle drivers can be dangerous on the road, but sometimes bicyclists are guilty of distracted driving, as well. If you take your eye off the road for any reason when you’re on a bike, it can put you at a greater risk of being in an accident.
- Bicyclists can speed, just like car drivers.
- Another common reason for bike accidents is riding too close to a lane that contains motor vehicle traffic.
So, if you live in a big city and you ride your bike or are planning to start, how can you protect yourself?
Know the Laws
A lot of people aren’t familiar with biking laws before they hope on and start riding, so give yourself a course on what the laws are in your state and city.
Some specific things to look for include whether or not you can legally ride on the sidewalks in your city, and whether or not you can pass a car on the left when you’re on a bike.
The overarching rule no matter where you’re riding is that you should follow the rules of the road like you would if you were in a car.
One of the most important ways to keep safe when you’re on a bike is to be confident. It’s tough when you’re driving in a big city, but if you aren’t at a point where you’re a confident rider yet, give yourself time to ride in places you’re comfortable first, such as a park.
If you’re timid or afraid, it’s going to make riding more challenging for you, and you can be dangerous to yourself as well as other cyclists.
Being confident doesn’t mean that you act recklessly, however. Instead, it means you take your time, are observant, and feel good about your biking skills.
Use Bike-Friendly Features on Google Maps
Google Maps isn’t just helpful when you’re in a car—it can be a great resource when you’re on a bike as well. Google Maps has bike-friendly features that you can turn on, and you can also figure out the smartest, fastest routes to get where you need to go.
In general, you want to get to know your common routes as well as you can, and then you can start to learn what areas of the road to avoid, as well.
Maintain Your Bike
Just like you would maintain a vehicle, you need to make sure you maintain your bike as well. If you want to be a safe rider, you need to make sure you’re regularly checking on things like your brakes and gears, as well as your tires and bolts. In fact, you should probably give your bike a once-over every time you ride it.
Ride Your Bike as If No One Sees You
When you’re bicycling, and especially in a big city, first and foremost, you have to be vigilantly aware of what’s going on around you, and you also have to assume no one sees you. You can’t ever assume the driver of a vehicle sees you when you’re on a bike or that they’ll make any changes in how they’re driving to accommodate you.
While operating under the assumption no one sees you, you also want to always be anticipating what could happen around you.
Choose a Single-Speed Bike
When you’re biking in the city, the best option is probably going to be a single-speed bike. They give you a lot of control over your shifting. They may be pricier than other options, but you might feel it’s a worthwhile trade-off if you’re going to be biking in heavily populated urban areas.
Sometimes people will think a mountain bike will be most useful to them when they’re riding in the city just because it feels so big and powerful, but it’s tough to navigate and maneuver with a mountain bike.
If you don’t want to spend on a single-speed, there are also commuter bikes that are pretty inexpensive and can do the job well.
The size of the bike needs to fit you perfectly for city riding. If you have a bike that’s not a good fit for your body, it’s uncomfortable, and it can be tough for you to ride, which increases the likelihood of an accident occurring.
Finally, the bike lane is a lane—it’s not an inherent safe zone. There’s no barrier that keeps motor vehicles away from the bike lane, and cars can merge or cut you off in this lane just like they can everywhere else, so don’t get lulled into a false sense of security if you ride in the bike lane.