How Can I Safely Commute by Bike?


Getting to work by bike can be a fantastic way to get some fresh air and exercise, slash your transport costs and reduce your impact on the environment.

There’s nothing like the feeling of exhilaration and freedom you get when you fly past the traffic jams and endless queues of people trapped in their cars. It’s fantastic.

However, making the switch can feel quite intimidating and you can easily feel quite vulnerable when it’s just you, your bike and a bunch of traffic.

But it doesn’t need to be like this.

You can confidently and safely commute by bike if you follow these 12 tips:

  • Use reflective clothing
  • Choose reflective accessories to add to your bike
  • Practice the journey beforehand
  • Alter your route
  • Use proper signals
  • Service your bike regularly
  • Use bike mirrors
  • Take it easy
  • Use powerful lights
  • Use a loud bike bell
  • Get an e-bike
  • Ride with a friend (safety in numbers)

Put these into practice and you will be seen no matter what the conditions are, avoid having an accident, and make better decisions when you’re on the road. Let’s take a closer look.

Use reflective clothing

Start by investing in some decent cycling clothing with reflectors, not just those high viz vests and jackets and wear them on every single journey you make on your bike, no matter what time of day you’re travelling.

These will help other road users to see you much more easily, no matter what the conditions are like and will vastly reduce your chances of getting injured on the road. According to a study by the Journal of Australasian College of Road Safety, this can be up to 88% more.

You can also get any items of specially designed cycle clothing that look stylish enough for the commute and feature cleverly placed reflectors to help you stay safe. These are often well worth the investment.

Wear them on every single journey you make on your bike, especially if you’re travelling in the early morning or at night.

Add reflective accessories directly to your bike

Being seen isn’t just about getting the right clothing. You also need to make sure your bike will be seen by adding reflective accessories even if you already have lights on your bike. Like the clothing, this will help you be spotted by other road users and could help prevent an accident.

In fact, it’s a legal requirement in most countries for bikes to also have reflectors at the front and back, on the rear of the pedals and on the wheel spokes. So make sure you’re are working and they’re also clean enough to work.

Practice the journey beforehand

Instead of trying to figure out the journey during the pressure of rush hour, take time beforehand to figure everything out and see if you need to make any changes.

That way you’ll feel more confident about doing it at rush hour and are more likely to do it safely.

Pick a quieter time of day, go carefully and get familiar with any difficult turns or junctions.

Alter your route

The quickest way to get to work by bike might not be the safest way, especially if it forces to battle heavy and often dangerous traffic during rush hour.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to review your route before you travel. Could you modify it to keep you safer? Are there any designated cycle lanes or pathways that would work? Could you take a detour down a quieter street instead?

Use proper signals

Drivers won’t understand where you’re going on your bike unless you tell them.

Learn the hand signals you need to know on the road (brush up on your knowledge here) and consider buying turning signal lights that you can easily attach to your bike.

Service your bike regularly

A broken bike is a dangerous bike. And I’m not just talking about those times when the brakes fail. If the gears slip when you’re on a busy road or you lose your balance because of a problem, you could sustain an easily preventable injury.

So make sure you keep your bike in good repair at all times. Fix minor problems, make sure your brake pads have plenty of tread left and check all other working parts.

If you have the skill you can easily do this yourself, or you can use YouTube to learn or use the services of your local bike shop.

Use bike mirrors

Bike mirrors are a fantastic invention that help you to see exactly what is going on around you out on the road.

By just glancing to the side, you can check whether it is safe to cross the road or if a vehicle is too close without needing to twist dangerously around.

They’re also very affordable and easy to attach to your bike handlebars or bar ends. If you’d prefer, you can also get hold of mirrors that you stick on to your helmet. Although admittedly, these can be hard to stick on and easy to knock off.

Take it easy

Travelling faster on those busy roads is going to turn up the stress levels, put you at risk of making snap decisions and potentially cause you to have an accident.

So go slow. Relax. Leave with plenty of time to spare so you can enjoy the trip and stay as safe as possible. Avoid making sudden movements or racing faster down the road just because you have to. A little care can go a long way!

Use powerful lights

It’s a legal requirement to have lights on the front and rear of your bike and it will help you see and be seen when you’re out there on the road.

Yet many people aren’t convinced about their value and so choose the cheapest option available. Then they find themselves regretting it later when their lights don’t actually help them to see in the dark or fail at the worst moment.

It’s a sensible idea to spend a bit more than you think and choose lights that costs around
$80 for the front and $20 for the rear.

Use a loud bike bell

Many of us cringe when we have to use the bell on our bikes as they seem retro and even slightly rude.

But using your bell is a crucial bit of bike kit that can help make your presence known during rush hour and keep you safe.

They’re also inexpensive, easy to fit and you can find some fun, quirky bells if you’d like to add a touch of personality.

Get an e-bike

E-bikes are faster than regular bikes which makes them safer to use in heavy traffic and a great alternative for your commute if safety is an issue for you.

They’re also much better for the environment, especially if you charge them using a green energy source such as solar power.

Because you’ll be saving your legs when you use them, you’re also likely to feel less fatigued, less sweaty and much more aware of your surroundings.

Ride with a friend (safety in numbers)

If you’re still concerned about safety, why not ask a friend to cycle with you on your commute?

You will be able to look out for each other, check that you’re both staying safe on the road and provide help if there is an emergency. Besides, the more the merrier, isn’t that what they say?

Summary

Commuting by bike can be safer if you dress correctly, take care of your bike and think through your journey carefully. However, as with any other activity, it does come with certain risks so follow the tips here, be careful and stay safe.

Related questions

  1. How dangerous is bike commuting? Many people worry about getting injured when cycling to work yet the figures are low. Around 6% of commuters were injured on a bike, compared with 4% travelling by other forms of transport.
  2. How do you commute to work by bike? Start small, wear a helmet and reflective clothing, take a change of clothes and enjoy the ride.
  3. Is bike commuting enough exercise? When done five days per week, a 15-minute commute by bike can meet current recommendations for physical activity.

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