I remember the feeling when I ventured out into the street with my bike for the first time. I remembered how the roads I used to go down by car or foot felt different. And the joy when I noticed a cyclist coming towards me – an ear-to-ear smile breaking out and my heart quivering with happiness, I'm like him, part of something else. And also the slightly scary feeling, because it felt like I don't fit in there yet. That feeling, when you do something in life for the first time. That wonderful feeling!
Here are some tips on how to adjust quickly to the urban cycling jungle and become a native.
1. Passing pedestrians. You'll definitely have to do that.
Do: Try to pass then on the same side that you would if you were driving a car (America, Europe - left, United Kingdome, Australia - right). Pedestrians usually have a fairly predictable trajectory and they're slower than you. Of course, it's possible that someone suddenly can change their direction. Merge with the pedestrian flow and use your bell to signify your presence or try verbally with a “On your left!” Warning.
Don't: Don't be rude, if a pedestrian does suddenly change their direction, don't yell “Get out of the way” and don't become a ping pong ball, that flies from one side of the sidewalk to the other, in attempts to weave through the pedestrians.
2. There are better and worse clothes. For riding a bike, of course.
Do: Of course, you're going to dress for comfort and performance. Those padded spandex shorts are comfortable for the derriere and form-fitting clothes means less wind resistance. And you'll wear bright clothes, so that you stay noticed - and reflectors are a cherry on top.
Don't: You're stylish. I get it. But even if you love wearing black or other dark clothes on a daily basis, riding a bike in black pants, a hoodie and a hat and you become practically invisible - it'll become difficult to notice you. And then “bam” and “ouch” become much more likely.
3. Headphones? Forget about it.
Do: Ok, maybe you can have headphones if you're listening to music very very quietly. Seriously, I'm talking totally quietly, like a whisper. Before starting your make sure to check and listen if you can hear background noises, like cars driving and people talking. But it's best not to listen to music, and to avoid the handsfree telephone. Your attention should be on the road.
Don't: Blast music or talk to friends in a different word. You won't hear anything from the surrounding environment and may not be able to react in time to avoid unpleasant situations.
4. Scan for children and animals
Do: That your attention should be on the road is clear. You have to feel the road - you have to get a feel for the pedestrian and traffic flow. Start developing the habit to notice kids and animals, and pass them with care.
Don't: There's a saying - “Children and animals can be like the bees - unpredictable”. They're more dangerous, because their actions are more difficult to predict. They're more impulsive and less predictable. So make sure not to downplay their significance.
5. Don't be apathetic
Do: Whenever it's possible, lend a hand. If it's a cyclists whose chain has fallen off or wheel has popped. Even if you can't help, stop to ask and show you care. Maybe it's something you can help with and you can be their superman. Help a brother out.
Don't: Smile or laugh while driving past someone in distress. Especially while thinking about how great it is not to be in their position. Because you never know, you might find yourself in need sometime soon, and then how will you feel?
6. LOCK IT UP
Do: Buy safe locks and always lock up your bike, even when you're only leaving it for a few minutes. Because you can never know when a thief is hiding behind the corner. A good idea is also to register your bike online, for example at www.project529.com.
Don't: Buy a bicylce from someone if the price is too cheap for the product at hand. It seems suspicious. Never buy items that you have a feeling might be stolen. Tomorrow it might be your bicycle. Before buying, check that it isn't stolen on pages online where bikes can be registered.
Must-have items to navigate the urban jungle
Bell, helmet, comfortable and bright clothes, reflective elements, a bike lock
Have a great ride!