Today we continue a series of 10 posts about cycling with car traffic. These are things we have learned from years of riding in downtown Toronto. Some of these tips you may have seen before in other places, and some will be new.
This is not meant to be a complete list… there are more secrets out there… but here are 10 that you’ll find very useful.
NOTE: These are geared towards downtown cycling, since that’s what I’m most familiar with. These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets are useful, stopping at red lights is advised, etc.) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.
Past tips are found at the bottom of this post.
8. Ride With Others
I don’t get a chance to do this often but the biggest factor when riding with cars is having a presence. It’s easiest to do this if there is more than just you biking.
Cars are more likely to see 2 bikes than one, 4 bikes than 2, 10 bikes than 4, and so on. The more bikes, the more chances that one of the people riding them will do something unpredictable, so drivers give groups of bikes (even those riding single-file) much more space than single riders.
You don’t have to know everyone you’re riding with either… when the weather is warm, there are lots of bikes out on the street, and often you’ll find yourself riding with other people out there on the road. Notice that you’ll hardly ever have a close call with a car passing you too closely if there’s atleast 2 of you riding along. Not to say it never happens… it just seems to happen less.
The main thing to do is get out on your bike as much as you can… the more people see you out there having a good time, going faster than traffic in a fun, cheap, and pollution-free way, the more likely they are to try it too. The numbers of cyclists on the road has the potential to grow exponentially this way…. the more cyclists people see out there, the more people are curious to try it. Imagine if you saw groups of cyclists riding by you all day every day… you’d want to know what all the fuss was about!
This is also the concept behind Critical Mass. It’s easy for a driver in a car to bully one cyclist off the road, but stick a few (or more) cyclists on the road, and they take on the presence of a car… perhaps more than one car. There is strength in numbers.
Check out the full “10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic” series:
- Drivers Don’t Want to Kill You
- Ride in a Straight Line
- Play by the Rules
- Avoid the “Stoplight Squeeze”
- Signal Sensibly
- Take That Lane
- Make Them THINK You’re Unpredictable
- Ride With Others
- Avoid the Right Hook
- Practice Your Route
- Title and Group Photo from 416CycleStyle on Flickr