Concern for safety is one of the big reasons more people don’t bike commute. As a seasoned bike commuter, this concern never goes away – nor should it completely! But there are ways to proactively reduce the risks and incorporate bike commuting as a safe, efficient and pleasurable way to arrive to work. We’ve asked members of SVBC to share tips and ways they ensure their rides are safe and stress-free!

Here are some of their answers to questions we asked:
What were some of your concerns/fears when you first began bike commuting?
1) Cars being driven badly (i.e. inattentive drivers!)
2) Flat tires.
3) Trucks turning right and crushing me.
4) Sharing the road.
5) Safely turning left.
6) Gear, packing and planning: changing clothes, where to park my bike, being late, being sweaty at work, weather, and safe routes.
 
How did you overcome those concerns? 
1) I still have the concerns, but you learn quickly to spot the weaving drivers and those just not paying attention. It requires concentration on the part of the rider, but I can avoid most encounters just by being an aware cyclist.
2) I learned to change a flat and I use puncture resistant tires.
3) Trucks often cannot see you, but this danger is entirely fixed by *staying behind trucks* at intersections and not trying to get up to red traffic lights by passing trucks on the right (between them and the curb).
4) I installed front and rear blinking lights.
5) Left turns are still a concern. I watch out and wait to get into the left lane or I go straight and turn at the intersection. I am used to it now and it’s not a bother anymore.
6) I gain courage and motivation by minimizing the unknown and planning ahead. I drove the route I planned to bike on (I surveyed potholes, parked cars, how many other bikes used the route), I found out where to park my bike at work, planned what clothes and toiletries I needed for changing at work, and checked the weather. This really helped me mentally prepare and feel more confident commuting.

What are your ongoing safety practices?
1) ALWAYS wear a helmet (can’t stress that enough)! Get a GOOD tail light (bright LED flasher), and for riding at dusk, a good headlight. These are all cheap on the internet now. And lastly, NO headphones or ear buds! An aware cyclist needs to hear what’s going on around them.
2) Be bold. Make big, obvious turn signals. Execute your moves confidently. Take the lane when there isn’t enough room for a bike and a car.
3) Good lights are a must – being visible to cars is half the battle. I can see riders when they have flashing front white lights and flashing back red lights (bright lights!).
4) Just like cars – do not ever pass on the right. If a car is stopping to turn right, go around them on the left, never the right!
5) Wear bright clothes and use blinking lights, even in the daytime. Wear a helmet, and use rear blinking lights.
6) Minimize the risk! Stay updated on construction going on on your routes, wear high visibility clothing (you can never wear too much), and invest in good gear (helmets, lights, etc). I continue to learn safety practices by checking out other bikers and analyzing their riding and their visibility.

Any other advice to new/intimidated riders?
1) I did a little research and found a great ride (from south SJ to Sunnyvale) on 90% paved trails! Very little car interaction. Part of it is on the Guadalupe River Trail; it’s so serene to ride it in the early mornings during the summer! Stay to the right and let the speedy bikers just blast on by! And, you feel SOOOO much better after having a nice ride!
2) Riding is the greatest thing for your health, the environment and your wallet.
3) You might want to drive the route first and plan where you can make use of bike paths and the safest way to get to work. Also don’t try to turn left on the road early on – use the ‘Copenhagen left’ and cross at the lights on the same street, then again to get onto the street you wish to.
4) Enjoy the exercise!
5) Ride on a weekend to get used to the road. Know which roads have safe bike lanes.
6) Find a friend who rides, a group to join, or go on social media or YouTube and find a biker you identify with or inspires you. This really helps me stay motivated because I am part of a biking community!