SACRAMENTO - May is Bike Month and cyclists in Sacramento and the surrounding areas are gearing up and getting out on some of the best biking terrain in the entire country.
But while Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer and San Joaquin Counties host miles upon miles of undisturbed cycling paths, there is generally a need to ride on roadways and always a potential for accidents.
Avid cyclist and board member of davis bicycles! advocacy group, Russell Reagan, offers up the following 10 tips to keep you on your bike and out of danger for Bike Month and beyond:
BEFORE YOU HIT THE ROAD
Inexpensive bikes from big box stores should be avoided: If you do buy one, find a competent bike mechanic to make sure it is properly assembled. A good quality bike from a bike shop is worth the extra expense in the long run -- especially if you are going to rack up a lot of miles.
Make sure your helmet is properly adjusted: The helmet should fit snug. The article in Via Magazine (sitting on my kitchen table, sent to members of AAA in No. CA, Nevada, Utah) says that the brim of the helmet should be about two fingers width above the eyebrow, and it should fit tightly so it will move no more than one inch in any direction.
Check tire pressure: Tire pressure is specified on the outside of the tire. It should say how many pounds per square inch (PSI) should be maintained. In many tires, the pressure may drop within a few weeks or sooner and should be inflated again. If the tire feels firm to the touch, that does not necessarily mean that the tire is up to the desired pressure. It's a good idea to inflate tires at least once a month.
Make yourself noticeable on the road: Bright clothing is something I recommend. The reflective straps that go around ankles are at least as important as lights for being seen by motorists at night. I wear them and I highly recommend them.
STAYING SAFE DURING THE RIDE
Ride with the flow of traffic: Stay on the right side of roads with cars. This is especially important at intersections when you are making a turn. If you cut the corner into the wrong direction of traffic, you could have a head-on with a car coming out of a blind spot.
Never pass a turning car on the inside: Another common unsafe behavior is passing right turning cars on the right. A lot of bicyclists think nothing of riding on the right side past a car signaling to turn right. Motorists waiting to turn right in traffic often leave space for bikes to pass on the right side in their blind spot. Bad idea! Motorists should merge right before turning and not invite bicyclists to pass them on their right. The bicyclist should use extra caution in this situation. Either wait for the motorist to make the turn, or go around their left side. I have seen a friend get run off the road when she thought the motorist saw her.
Take extra caution with big trucks: Be extra cautious when a truck passes you. A death trap for a bicyclist is being on the wrong side of a turning truck, in the driver's blind spot. Rear wheels can run you off the road or worse if your are caught by a truck turning right.
Stay out of the "door zone": Maintain four or more feet of distance when passing parked cars, especially in commercial areas. When veering left to avoid parked cars, move as gradually as you can out to toward the car lane. Part of riding in a predictable manner means maintaining a relatively straight path. Follow the right edge of the path of cars, and avoid meandering back and forth between the car lane and the curb, even if a bike lane stripe might suggest doing the latter. Because you can't see inside every parked car to determine whether someone's about to open a car door, notice when cars have pull into a parking spot. They are most likely to open their door soon after they park.
Keep an eye on car tires: Watch the movement of front tires on parked or moving cars as you approach them: a key indicator of whether they are about the pull in front of you.
Invest in a rear view mirror: I highly recommend getting a rear view mirror. Doesn't work for everyone, but a lot more bicyclists could benefit from them. The small one that attaches to your helmet gives a wider field of view because it's close to your eye. It took some time for me to get it adjusted just right and train my eye to make it work for me. It makes a huge difference in being able to see what's coming behind me!
For more information on cycling safety, bike routes, and other resources visit the davis bicycles! website.