A few months ago, I wrote a piece called Rational Fears When Biking. The four major fears I encounter when cycling with traffic are being hit by a car, hitting debris in the road and slipping or falling, baggage falling off, and stolen bikes. In order to combat these fears, real solutions and prevention tactics are necessary for the commuter, or even the sometimes rider.
First, be visible. To do this you must use strong lights, use multiples. Buy reflective stickers and put them all over yourself and your kit. Obtain one of those orange, reflective triangles and put it on the back of your helmet. Wear reflective or bright clothing.
What you wear is not your only choice either. You must ride in the middle of the lane. I cannot stress it enough. Ride in the middle of the lane. You must ride defensively. If you ride at the edge, motorists will overtake you. You may be shoved into the shoulder, or a parked car, possibly causing a collision. Ride in the middle of the lane. I know it is hard. Drivers will intimidate you. But do it. Do it for your own safety. We live in the US where people mostly drive. Many motorists believe it is their road and their road only like in this article.
Second, have diligence in your environment. Pay attention to the road. Keep your eyes on the road and pavement. Cyclists have it hard because they must be very alert at all times and of all surroundings. Look for debris such as large rocks, glass, big potholes or even large puddles. You want to dodge these. Puddles may cause hydroplaning if braking. A minor mishap may cause a fall. And if you are riding in traffic you may have a collision if thrown off by a pebble or pothole.
Third, use proper carrying equipment. Panniers are wonderful, though I rarely use them. Bungee cords are great tie down equipment, but the wide bungee cords are better. Have multiples, have back ups. They break. Put a rack on your bike to strap things on. Use a basket. Or a milk crate. The possibilities are endless. But make sure to test out your tie down equipment!
Finally, use a strong lock and lock your bike appropriately. Strong locks are locks like U-locks or canvas covered steel chains, or uncovered steel chains with a padlock. People can cut through those flimsy plastic and wire one very easily. Don’t let bicycle theft happen to you.
To lock your bike appropriately, you must lock both the frame and the front wheel. And if you are very particular or paranoid, own two locks and lock the back wheel as well. The wheels are the easiest to steal from a bike and someone can sell it for around $100.
I also like to play it safe and lock my bike in a well trafficked area. I think people are less likely to steal things if they think someone is watching.
It is easy to become discouraged when biking. Barriers exist in our roadways and in our culture. Don’t let it stop you. Biking can be an empowering activity! Embrace it!