Cycling is one of the healthiest ways to commute to work. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to go for a ride without traveling alongside motorists. If you are concerned about those motorists seeing you, here are some top tips for ensuring that you stay visible on a bicycle.
Tip #1: Ride in the Center of the Lane
Boulder law states that cyclists should ride in the four feet farthest to the right in the right-hand lane when moving slower than traffic. While there are exceptions of course, try to stay as close to the center of that four-foot section as possible. It’s much safer to ride in the center of the lane for a few reasons.
When you’re in the center of the lane, you’re much more visible for traffic behind you, plus you don’t give motorists the option to try to recklessly pass you in a single lane. You’re also a safe distance from parked cars, meaning it’ll be downright challenging for someone to “door” you by exiting a car directly in front of you.
Tip #2: Plan Your Attire for the Time of Day
Visibility clothing is not created equally. You’ll want to change what you’re wearing depending on the time of day you’re going for a ride. For rides in the daylight, opt for something that’s fluorescent. Neon pink, green, and yellow are all highly visible in the daytime. Something as simple as yellow socks or even a white t-shirt can help you stand out.
When it’s nighttime, it doesn’t really matter what color your clothes are because motorists can’t see you anyway. It’s important to wear something reflective, not fluorescent at night. This helps you stand out as a car’s headlights pass over you. Consider adding reflective strips to your helmet for added safety and visibility.
Tip #3: Ditch the Old-Fashioned Cyclist Hand Signals
While raising your left hand to signal a right turn is effective when cycling in a group, most motorists will have no idea what you’re doing. It’s usually a much safer option to simply point in the direction you intend to turn. Point right with your right hand and arm, rather than using your left hand. Sudden stops and last-minute turns are pretty dangerous for cyclists, so always signal ahead of time when you’re crossing through an intersection. Boulder law states that cyclists have to make hand signals anyway!
Tip #4: Don’t Ride on Sidewalks — Or Ride Very Very Carefully on Sidewalks.
Riding on sidewalks is always a bad idea, and you should truly never do it. In the City of Boulder, cyclists in residential neighborhoods (think 19th st in North Boulder) can use sidewalks. Outside of that, there are very few districts where you can legally ride on the sidewalk in Boulder. Sidewalks are usually much more “rugged” than the road, with uneven cement or bricks. Sidewalks are also filled with pedestrians, and it can be very hard to judge when a pedestrian is going to stop still, turn suddenly, etc.
Finally, motorists aren’t looking for cyclists on the sidewalk! Turning cars may not see you at all if you’re riding on the sidewalk, making it much more likely for you to be involved in a crash. In almost every situation, sticking to the street is safer.