Riding a bike can be scary for several reasons - fear of falling off, fear of going down hills too fast, fear of riding with traffic. I think the first two can be easy to overcome after a few times out on a bike, but fear of riding in traffic is something I still deal with. Its one thing to be able to control your actions when you're out on a bike, but we have no control over drivers' actions in their cars. My husband gave me the best, albeit terrifying, advice: Ride like everyone out there is going to kill you. Now that may sound harsh, but it really woke up my senses and I think about it every time I ride. The point was not for him to scare me, but to make me uber-vigilant about my surroundings. And it has worked.
Sharing the Road
Cyclists, by law, must follow the same rules drivers follow: stopping at stop signs and lights, using turn signals (hand signals), and yielding to pedestrians. We all know both cyclists and drivers don't follow all the rules all the time, but it's our job to start following them for our safety and the safety of others.
Before I started riding a lot, I was annoyed with cyclists - they would come in my lane, stop at a light and not let me turn in front of them, or ride too close to my car. The list was endless. HOWEVER, once I got out on the bike, I learned to appreciate other cyclists and why they did certain things. Sometimes you have to ride close to other cars when there isn't a bike lane, but it's all about sharing the road. Sometimes you have to wait in a lane holding up traffic that is turning right because there is no where else to go. Its about sharing the road. I've learned patience now when I'm in the car and I can't turn because a bike is in front of me. So I had to wait an extra 20 seconds - big deal.
Staying Safe & Visible
Riding during the daylight is great - you're just as visible as the car driving next to you. But when the sun starts to go down it can get harder to see cyclists out on the road. There are, however, a lot of things you can do as a cyclist to be seen during these hours.
Most bike clothing comes with reflective components - a binding around ankles or a strip down bike shorts, or patches on your shirt. You can also buy reflective stickers to add to your clothing or additional arm bands and ankle bands to wear at night.
I've also come across these absolutely AWESOME bike gloves that have built in blinker lights for when you want to turn. They're made by Zackees and are washable! The gloves are brand new, shipping in May, but do come at a steep price of $75. That being said, they're still amazing! Check out this video:
Reflection For Your Bike
RydeSafe Reflective Decals makes an awesome product for you to put on your bike. They make reflective stickers that you adhere to your bike that then makes it more visible in the night. Check out this awesome video:
If we, as drivers, respect cyclists a little more, and we, as cyclists, respect drivers a little more we can all share the road together and both drive and ride more safely. Next time you see a cyclist heading down the road, give them some extra room - they'll definitely appreciate it. And next time you're out on your bike, give a driver a wave as they let you pass - they'll appreciate it too.