The Commuter’s Guide to Cycling in Heavy Traffic
Cycling to work not only cuts down your commuting time, it’s also more affordable and a great way to get your daily exercise in. Being able to weave through heavy traffic instead of sitting in it is one of the things we love most about bike commuting. However, it’s not always without its challenges.
Here are some of our top tips to stay safe while cycling in heavy traffic.
Use the Bike Lane
You should always try to ride in a designated bicycle lane if it’s available. This gives you a safe distance from cars, buses and other motor vehicles and means you don’t have to share the road with potentially impatient rush-hour drivers.
Remember to Use Hand Signals
Cyclists are always going to be more vulnerable on the roads than most other commuters. Because of this, it’s super important to be as clear as possible about your intentions. Give drivers as much information as you can about when or where you’re planning on turning.
If you’re cycling in the dark, a great gadget to consider is the Zackees Turn Signal Gloves 2.0, which lights up the back of your hand with a flashing light.
Follow the Rules of the Road
Rush hour can be a stressful time, and it can be easy to get caught up in your own thoughts or stresses if you’re cycling against the clock. In order to protect yourself and others though, remember to follow the rules of the road. Red lights, stop signs and pedestrian crossings apply to us cyclists, too!
Keep an Eye out for Hazards
Staying alert is definitely required whenever you’re on the roads, regardless of how you’re commuting. When you’re navigating heavy traffic on a bike, though, there are certain aspects you really need to watch out for. Car doors are a particular hazard, so remember to keep a distance of at least a door’s width between your bike and any parked cars to avoid any nasty collisions.
Pedestrians can also cause issues, so watch out for people who have a phone to their ear, are texting or chatting with a friend while crossing the road. They’re not always looking where they’re going, and you may have to react. If you can stay aware of any hazards, it puts you in a better position should you have to avoid them.
It’s also good practice to look ahead for any rough surfaces, drain covers, road humps, potholes and puddles which could cause you to swerve, brake suddenly or make a sudden movement other road users don’t anticipate.
Never Undertake a Truck
Most seasoned cyclists already know this, but it’s always worth reminding bike commuters about the risks of undertaking large vehicles. Many trucks have blind-spots on their passenger side, which means that cycling on their right can be extremely dangerous. The driver may not have seen you in their mirrors, and make a maneuver that could be fatal.
When in the proximity of a lorry, or approaching one from the rear, always assess the situation carefully. Just because you haven’t seen anything to suggest that a lorry is about to turn right, it doesn’t mean that it won’t! Approach with caution and stay alert.
Keep your Hands Over the Brakes
If you can’t get your hands to your brake levers quickly, you might not be able to stop in time if you need to. Keep it safe by riding with your hands covering your brake levers. Remember - squeezing your brakes too hard, too fast is a recipe for hitting the ground or losing traction. Try to use both brakes at the same time and apply pressure evenly.
Take extra care if it's wet, icy or there are damp leaves on the ground, too.
Try not to Rush!
We all know by now that rushing to get through something can often compromise the quality of the experience itself, or even the end result. The same logic applies to commuting.
Allow a certain window for travel time, and add more minutes on to be safe. The roads - and its users! - can be unpredictable, and the last thing you want is to find yourself cycling dangerously just to get to your 9am meeting. Leave with plenty of time to avoid stress-riding, and if you do find yourself running late, just remember: protecting your safety will always trump any disgruntled colleagues.
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