Cyclists surely don’t have it easy. Asphalt roads with loads of traffic aren’t the safest option, but often bike enthusiasts don’t have a choice and must take on the risks and challenges of high-traffic roads. How can you defend yourself to prevent danger and accidents?
The road is for everyone
This is a sentence you probably have heard one too many times, so much so that it may seem like a cliché. Nevertheless, it is a very important truth. Roads are populated by cars, heavy vehicles, motorcycles, bikes as well as pedestrians. So, the first rule is to respect everyone and, of course, to pay close attention at all times.
Road safety for cyclists has always been a debated topic since it isn’t easy for different vehicles and people to coexist, especially when they’re in a hurry. This is why it is necessary to adopt the right precautions and always be extremely alert when you’re at the helm. Of any vehicle.
Be prepared for anything
The aim is clear: to protect yourself, but also others. That means that you cannot just think about our own safety, but you have to do everything in your power to avoid harming others who have the same right as you to transit on any road. So, how can you prepare yourself to tackle the busiest roads? Here are a few useful tips which everyone can, or rather must, follow in order to take on traffic-heavy city roads.
- Check that your bike is in top condition. It might seem obvious, but it isn’t at all. Before setting off on any type of ride with your racing bike, especially if you will be traveling on busy roads, you must be certain that your bike is in perfect condition. Would you ever drive a car with broken brakes? Or during the night with malfunctioning lights? Clearly you wouldn’t. So, why neglect the health of your bike? It’s very risky to get on the road with a vehicle you can’t depend on, especially during an emergency.
- Don’t use headphones. No music and no phone calls. When you’re riding your racing bike, the cardinal rule is safety. Headphones definitely won’t help your safety on the road, in fact, they will hinder it. Especially when pedaling on busy roads, you must be highly alert and be able to hear all sounds and voices, so you can respond to unexpected circumstances in the best way possible.
- Helmet and high-visibility clothing. These are among the most common suggestions, but in spite of this it is easy to run into cyclists without a helmet and with completely black clothing. Wearing a helmet in Italy is not required, since the law doesn’t prescribe it to cyclists, but it is undoubtedly wise to wear one at all times for your own safety. Even colorful, noticeable clothing can be very helpful in order to be easily seen by others, especially car, motorcycle and truck drivers, particularly when roads are not well-lit.
Follow the rules and use common sense
After seeing the most useful precautions to take to cycle safely on roads with your bike, let’s discover the rules to follow, both pertaining to the law and to common sense.
- Traffic regulations. In general, it is always good to remind everyone that a bike on the road is considered just like any other vehicle and therefore a cyclist must follow all traffic regulations. So, in order to protect your safety and to avoid tickets, always follow traffic regulations.
- Not on sidewalks. Pedestrian areas, especially sidewalks, are strictly prohibited for bikes. So, in order to avoid causing accidents with pedestrians, do not transit on these areas riding your bike. You can, however, walk your bike along these segments.
- Never hands-free. Cycling without holding the handlebar is very risky for you and for others. It is very easy to lose balance this way, all that’s needed is a moment of distraction. If your bike is not secured with your hands, a fraction of a second could mean losing control of the vehicle.
- Don’t answer your phone. It is certainly useful to have your phone with you when you’re biking, but you should keep it in your shirt’s back pocket, in the frame bag, or you can use a dedicated accessory for racing bikes to hold your smartphone. In case you receive calls, notifications or messages, do not answer, check or read while you’re moving. If you absolutely need to check who has contacted you immediately, stop your bike, find a safe area along the road, and take your time to answer calls and messages.
- Front and taillights. Article 182 comma 9-bis of the Italian traffic regulation says that “the bicycle rider who circulates outside inhabited areas from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before dawn, and the bicycle rider who circulates in galleries, must wear a high-visibility reflective jacket or suspenders.” In addition, article 68 of Italian traffic regulation dictates that bicycles must have white or yellow lights at the front, red taillights and red retro-reflectors at the back, and yellow retro-reflectors on the pedals, with similar devices which must be applied on the sides. If you pedal on roads that aren’t well-lit and at times when there is little natural light, you should follow these regulations.
- Red light. Stopping at the traffic light when it’s red is not a choice which depends on various factors, it is required for all vehicles, including road bikes. It is important to follow this rule, since not following it can often result in serious accidents that could have been easily avoided.
- Do not invade the lane. Paying attention and having common sense are the two ingredients that can keep you safe when you’re riding your racing bike. So, make sure that you always keep right on the lane, never invade the lane, and when you’re traveling in pairs or in groups, never ride side by side but always in single file.
- Don’t cut the curves. Always remember that you’re training, not racing. Roads aren’t closed to traffic so it’s very dangerous to behave the way you would during a race, for instance by cutting curves. Always follow this tip on any type of road you happen to be on, whether it is a city or a farm road, whether wide or narrow. Safety on the road has no boundaries, it must be practiced always and everywhere.
There can never be too many precautions to ensure the safety of cyclists on the road. It must always be your priority to keep yourself and everyone else safe when traveling on roads, no matter how busy they are. Focus on the important things and forget the rest (such as your cell phone.) Enjoy the ride, but always cycle with care.