In this installment of the Bicycle Roots Commuter Survival Guide, we’ll give you some helpful tips on safely navigating city traffic and avoiding common accidents. We’ll also fill you in on what you need to put together your own Roadside Repair Kit, and share our suggestions for products to make your commute safer and more dependable.
Braving the streets of New York on your bicycle is no mean feat. You’re dealing with impatient New Yorkers at their worst… not to mention that they’re driving cars, basically two-ton killing machines. The most common incidents between cyclists and cars are the left cross, right cross, and the dreaded “dooring”. We’ll give you tips on how to avoid these common accidents and navigate even the most dense traffic safely.
THE DREADED DOOR
Getting “doored” is so common, it’s practically a rite of passage for the urban cyclist. Virtually everyone on the Bicycle Roots staff has been doored at least once, and while dooring rarely causes serious injuries, it can be painful and terrifying.
Dooring generally occurs when a car or taxi stops to let out passengers. These vehicles rarely pull over to the curb in order to let their passengers out; instead they’ll let passengers out into traffic or else they will double-park, often in bike lanes or the shoulder of the road where a cyclist is likely to be. Compounding the problem, exiting passengers are unlikely to check for bikes when they open the door (even if they open their door into a bike lane). Unfortunately, until bikes become so ubiquitous that it’s unconscious for drivers to habitually look out for cyclists, dooring is likely to occur frequently.
There are a few things that you can look out for to help prevent a dooring accident. As you pass by parked cars, keep an eye out for people inside. If the passengers have not yet exited the car, give that particular vehicle a wider berth. In fact, it’s much safer to ride 2-3 feet away from the shoulder of the road, so that you can safely bike past any opening doors. Do not be afraid to take the lane! If you ride fearfully, hugging the curb, you are much more likely to get doored.
You may also want to pay attention to a car’s rear lights. Cars have braking lights in order to signal to other vehicles that their velocity has changed. If you see a car’s rear lights come on in otherwise smoothly-moving traffic, be aware that passengers may be exiting the car.
THE LEFT AND RIGHT CROSS
Many cyclists are involved in incidents when they are taking turns, especially left turns. Most of the bike lanes in New York City are on the right hand side of the road, so drivers expect cyclists to always be on their right. It catches drivers off guard when a cyclist shifts into the lane to make a turn; it
It’s very important to learn your hand signals and to use them well. Hold a signal for at least 3 seconds so that motorists recognize that you are signaling your intent to make a turn, rather than mistaking it for a careless gesture.
You may want to consider taking a lane rather than riding in the shoulder of the road, especially if you are riding in an area that does not have bike lanes. By doing so, you can ensure that you are not in the driver’s blind spot and increase the probability that they will notice your hand signals.
When making a left turn, you will want to be in the left side of the lane, close to the median if you’re on a two-way street. Signal your intent to change your lane, looking over your shoulder ass you do so. You will also want to signal when you reach your turn in order to alert drivers behind you as well as oncoming traffic. If you have to stop in order to wait for a break in the traffic, do so. Drivers may honk, but do not let that intimidate you into making a dangerous turn. When they honk, it means they see you. If they see you, you’re probably safe.
Advanced riders may want to use a turning car as a “shield” against oncoming traffic, by making the turn on the left of the turning car (if turning left) or the right of the turning car (if turning right). This move is for advanced riders ONLY; if you are unable to keep pace with traffic and accurately gauge traffic patterns do not attempt this move. Commute Orlando has an in-depth article as well as illustrations to help you master this maneuver.
THE ROADSIDE REPAIR KIT: 5 ITEMS THE COMMUTER CYCLIST SHOULD HAVE ON THEM AT ALL TIMES
Many commuter cyclists are motivated to make their way via bicycle because public transportation in their area can be unreliable: stalled trains, random delays and service outages, and large swathes of the boroughs are under-serviced by trains and buses in the first place. For many, a bicycle is a reliable and relatively quick option.
Once you’ve got your commute down, you don’t want to be stalled by a flat tire in an area far from a subway station or an open bike shop! One of the easiest and most basic repairs you can do on your bike is to change a flat. Once you’ve mastered this art, you’ll be able to fix a flat everywhere with just 5 compact and easy-to-store items.
For a mobile flat-fix kit, Bicycle Roots recommends the following items: 2 extra tubes (ask one of our mechanics which tubes you need if you’re not sure), a tire lever, a multi-tool with a full range of Allen keys, a road pump. If you have pin-head . If you’re the thrifty sort and have the patience to locate the source of the leak at the side of the road, you may want to consider adding a patch kit.
Your trusty road pump is probably the most significant investment you’ll make in building your roadside flat-fix kit. At $34.95, the Topeak Mini Morph road pump is compact, versatile, and easy to use. Compatible with Schraeder, Presta, and Dunlop valves, the Topeak Mini Morph comes with a mounting bracket that can be used to securely affix the pump to your frame. You’ll save valuable cargo real estate on your racks or in your bag. But what makes the Topeak Mini Morph extra special? Unlike most road pumps, which require you to pump in-and-out, the Topeak Mini Morph has a fold-out foot pad that will allow you to pump up-and-down. This makes it relatively easy to pump your tires, as you can employ the full weight of your body to push down on the pump. With traditional road pumps, you have to rely on the strength of your arms and shoulders, and the resistance increases with the pounds over square inch of air pressure. You’ll definitely appreciate the extra leverage the Topeak Mini-Morph offers when you’re inflating your tires that last 20 psi!