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10 Critical Bike Safety Tips: How to Be Safe on the Road

Riding a bicycle is fun and rewarding, but it can also be dangerous when biking on the streets, side-by-side with cars and trucks. Here are 10 critical bike safety tips to make your bike ride safer.

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Riding a bicycle can be an extremely rewarding experience -- doing so offers great mental and physical health benefits, cuts down on pollution, and provides cost savings. But riding a bike, especially in areas in which there are few dedicated bicycle lanes, can also be a dangerous activity when bikers do not use common sense when biking side-by-side with vehicular traffic.

While bicyclists cannot account for poor drivers who pass by too closely, honk their horns, throw things from their cars, or otherwise take risks with your life -- in fact, some car and truck drivers believe that bicyclists do not even belong on the road -- you can follow these 10 critical bike safety tips to do all you can to make certain you are following the rules of the road while doing the most to protect yourself as you enjoy a bike ride.

1. Ride your bike WITH traffic. There is never an excuse to ride against traffic -- and that includes not riding the wrong way down a one-way street. State laws require bicyclists to "drive" like other vehicles on the road.

2. Obey all traffic signs and signals. Because bikes have the same rights as other vehicles on the road, they also have the same obligations -- such as stopping at stop signs and for red lights.

3. Employ hand signals to alert other drivers of your actions. Use your left arm to signal a left turn and your right arm for a right turn -- but do not make turns blindly; always check for cars behind you and in front of you before you make any turns.

4. Use front and back lights for visibility. Turn on your lights in bad weather and when you ride your bike in the evening. Your headlight is more for seeing the road than being seen, but your back light is essential so that motorists coming up behind you can see you. (While I don't recommend night-time bike riding, you can also consider wearing reflective clothing for better visibility.)

5. Keep your eyes on the road. As you ride your bike, keep alert to road and traffic conditions so that you can be prepared to make adjustments to avoid an accident (just like what you should be doing when driving your car). Especially keep your eyes on other vehicles, both in front and behind you. (Some bikers use a rear mirror to keep a constant eye on what's behind them.)

6. Avoid distractions when biking. Do not use headphones to listen to music while biking, nor bike while using your cell phone. Biking on the roadways requires full attention -- including being able to hear road noise.

7. Wear a quality bike helmet. Spend the extra money and get a well-manufactured bike helmet -- and then wear it when you bike. While it does not guarantee your safety, helmets do offer protection to your head and brain when you are knocked off your bike.

8. Keep both hands on your handlebars, lightly touching the brake levers. Whether it's a road hazard, an animal running onto the road, or some other problem, you should always be in a position to quickly maneuver and stop your bike. When you do have to take a hand off the handlebars -- for a turn signal or other biking adjustment -- do so carefully and then quickly return both hands to the handlebar position.

9. Make left turns with care. Bicyclists have two options for making left turns at major intersections. First, you can signal and then carefully move into position (or turning lane) in preparation of your left turn -- just like any other vehicle. Second, you can continue straight through the intersection, stopping at the far corner, waiting for the light to change, and then walking your bike along the crosswalk.

10. Ride in proper lanes. When biking on a road with multiple lanes, bicyclists who are continuing through should always stay in the "through" lanes rather than biking in right-turn only lanes. Never turn left or go straight from a right-turn only lane.

Final Thoughts on Safe Biking

While trail riding is much safer for bicyclists, there are simply not enough trails -- and certainly not any trails that end at our workplace or grocery store when we are using our bikes for errands and not simply riding for pleasure. These critical bike-riding safety tips should help you have a safer and better ride when biking on the streets.

New to biking? Consider reading my bicycle-riding primer: The Basics of Bicycling for Health, Fun, and Environment.

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Avid wellness guru Dr. Randall S. Hansen Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., is an avid bicyclist, adventurist, environmentalist, and student of wellness and photography, with a mission of empowering others to lead great lives. He is Founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites. Dr. Hansen is also the founder and caretaker of this site, EmpoweringRetreat.com, as well as founder of EmpoweringAdvice.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com or reach him by email at CEO(at)empoweringsites.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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