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Avoiding Obstacles on the Road

Shawn Carney | Published on 3/6/2016

Safe Riding Series

When we first learned to ride a bike, that just meant being able to balance, pedal and steer. While these are core to the art of cycling, they are only the first few skills necessary to becoming a cyclist. Staying safe on your bike also requires you to learn how to effectively scan the road and handle your bicycle. These two skills will improve your chances of having a great ride by making it a safe cycling experience.

Scanning the road

Stay alert! Even if you know the route and you're riding with friends, make sure you are paying attention at all times. 

  • Keep your head up and look as far ahead as you can. 
  • Scan the road ahead for cars, pedestrians and other obstacles, all of which can appear when you least expect them.  
  • Look back occasionally to see what's behind you or use a rear view mirror.
  • By law, you can only wear an earbud in one ear while cycling. If that is too distracting for you, don't use earbuds at all.

Keep your eyes and ears open for things that might be happening around you.

Handling your bicycle

Be prepared to react quickly, but be predictable.

  • Try not to suddenly swerve, stop, or turn.
  • Cars can hit you if you swerve out in front of them to avoid a pothole or debris.
  • Cyclists can run into the back of you if you stop suddenly.
  • Signal if you are turning or stopping, either with your hands or verbally.
  • Point out obstacles that are directly in the line of riding for others behind you.

Need to stop fast?

  • Feather your brakes, relying more on the rear brake.
  • Shift your body weight backwards towards the rear wheel.
  • Don't swerve and brake hard at the same time. 

Putting two and two together

If you can, try to avoid the need to stop fast altogether.

  • Pay attention to what's going on around you.
  • Ride with enough space between you and the person in front of you to stop if they stop.
  • Ride single file and outside the door zone so you can avoid doors opening.
  • Look ahead for potholes, glass, and debris.
  • Don't ride while intoxicated or using meds that might make you drowsy. Bicycles require good coordination and alertness to ride in a safe, controlled manner.

Know your ability! Don't ride in a manner that is beyond your capabilities. Bike riding skills vary from person to person and can be improved with practice. When you ride safely, you make it safer and more fun for all the cyclists around you as well.