Riding a bike can be fun! Healthy and useful too. Many use for fitness, transportation, simple recreation, a combination of all of that! Cities, suburbs, more rural areas. As the weather gets warmer you will see more and more of them. Groups, solo riders. On a Divvy, a hybrid, a fixed speed, a triathlon bike, a road bike, a mountain bike… and more variations. Cycling may not be for everyone, but it definitely is something pretty much everyone can do.
Let’s get you ready to ride! A few basic tips to kick it off. A sort of the “know before you go”,
Make sure your bike fits you. If you buy from a shop, they will assist you with fitting. When using a bike for racing or more than recreational riding, even more specialized fitting may be needed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or even go back to the shop for some adjustments if you feel like something isn’t working.
Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet. Protect your brain, save your life. PLEASE! Yes, even on a Divvy. Bicycle helmets, like your shoes, may look good but actually do not last forever. They do break down. If you do fall, please make sure you have your helmet checked out to make sure the integrity of it is still strong. Even if it doesn’t look damaged, it can be.
Make sure it is ready to ride. Always inspect your bike to make sure all parts are secure and working properly.
Fill them up! Your tires can lose air sitting for a week, or even a day. Learn how, and then start checking the air every time you ride. Actually also carry with you a tire repair kit (can get this from your local bike shop) Even if you do not know how to repair a flat, someone may, and be able to help you; but they will need supplies!
Be seen! Daytime, nighttime, bad weather and everything in between; make sure you are visible, Neon, bright colors (not white/black) Wear reflectors, or a reflective vest. Flashing lights, even during the day. Just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver is able to see you.
Control + no distractions. Hands on the handlebars. Use a backpack, crossover bag, or bike bag to carry. No texting, holding phone. Ideally no earphones/earbuds so you can hear what is going on.
Avoid road hazards. Lookout for hazards such as potholes, glass, puddles, broken asphalt and concrete, leaves, and animals. If riding with others, be sure to yell out and point things out to the riders behind you.
Most bicycle-related accidents that result in injury or death are associated with the cyclist’s behavior; including not wearing a helmet, riding into a street without stopping, turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, running a stop sign, and riding the wrong way in traffic. Coming up…. The rules of the road!
I know many people that are pedestrians, drivers, and even other cyclists get upset with cyclists. I sometimes say that there are three main types of people riding bicycles (and some variations within); especially in the city. Those that know what they are doing and follow the bicyclist rules of the road (coming up!) Those that follow what they want, run red lights, take risks, cross roads like a pedestrian, don’t stop; really what benefits them. Then there are some that sort of are unsure. So they follow what others are doing. As a cyclist, one needs to remember the rules of the road as a driver, as well as a pedestrian. Do this also when driving. Always pay attention. Angry or distracted cyclists and drivers; cause accidents. Protect yourself and protect others too.
Road Rules! Bicycles in many States are considered vehicles, and cyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities to follow the rules of the road as motorists.
Go with the traffic flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles; not against traffic.
Obey ALL traffic laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you are a DRIVER. When you ride in the street, obey all lane markings, signals, and traffic signs (including stop signs when no cars are present-you may miss something!!)
Yield to when appropriate. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from a smaller roadway (driveway, a sidewalk, a bike path, etc.), you slow down and look to ensure it is clear to cross, then proceed. This also means yielding to pedestrians.
Be predictable. Try to cycle in a straight line. Of course not always easy on a road!; but also not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others (with your arm or actually point). Allow others to be able to anticipate what you are doing.
Be alert. Use your look and listen. Watch out for the numerous hazards in front of you. Listen to traffic and for other sounds. Avoid dangerous situations and do not create them.
Look prior to making a turn. Do not cross a lane to make a turn. Signal your way as you are approaching a left turn and move to turn from the left of the lane or in the turning lane to go left, and from the right side of the road to turn right. Always look behind you to to ensure a break in traffic prior to your turn. Look ahead of you to make sure there are no obstacles preventing you from successfully turning (moving or stationary) Watch for other traffic turning. They may not signal. Make sure you do signal!
Watch for parked cars. Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars. Cars pulling out, doors opening. Distracted people or you may not be visible to them in that position.
Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road.
Yes this is a thing!
Here are a couple key points. Some municipalities may have variations, and even additional rules and ordinances. Pleas be sure to check to be safe. Stay updated!
- Basically Illinois law treats cyclists like drivers. Cyclists are “granted all of the rights and…subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”
- Ride on the right
- Stop at stop signs and lights.
- Signal all turns and stops.
- Always use a front headlight and rear reflectors at night.
- Do not ride no handed, or while holding something.
- No riding with any passengers
- In most areas do not ride two or more abreast. In some suburban areas, or where indicated, two abreast may be ok. Or if capable of keeping up with traffic.
- In most areas (like Chicago) riding on the sidewalk is prohibited unless the rider is with a minor under 12, or otherwise indicated. When on the sidewalk the cyclist must yield to pedestrians.
- Whenever approaching a pedestrian or another cyclist from behind to pass (on a path, sidewalk, even a protected bike lane), call out (on your left), and pass on the left. Do not expect them to stop or move over unless they are taking up the entire area, then you may need to call out again and ask them to excuse you. They may be distracted or are unable to hear you. Bells and horns in certain environments are also helpful.
- If riding on a bicycle trail or a path in a park or preserve. Be sure to look into additional rules and tips. For example you would not want to zoom past yelling on your left at a mounted rider and spook the horse. Calmly call out as you slow and ask if you may pass. If approaching from the front, it is often suggested to pull over and dismount your bike.
If you are not a cyclist, or you have friends that are not, but they ARE DRIVERS…please share some of these resources, and the above rules of the road with them too. This will help some to understand, as there are some drivers that think bikes should be on sidewalks and other thoughts.
Let’s ALL be careful out there!
Kids on Bikes in Chicago:
Safe Cycling in Chicago: