There’s a lot to love about cycling. It’s a great way to get in shape, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s relatively inexpensive. But like anything else, there are risks associated with cycling, and it’s important to take precautions to stay safe while you cycle in Illinois. Here are six tips to help you do just that.
Always Wear a Helmet
This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating: always wear a helmet when you cycle, no matter how short the distance. A helmet can protect your head in the event of a fall or collision, and it could save your life. With the number of cyclists hurt in Chicago each year, it’s simply not worth the risk to ride without one. Legal representatives advise if you are hurt in a cycling incident, always speak with an experienced bicycle accident attorney to ensure your legal rights are fully protected.
Helmets also need to fit properly to be effective, so make sure you buy one that’s the right size for your head and that you fasten it correctly. There are many designs and colors of helmets available, so you can find one that suits your taste as well as your safety needs.
Obey the Rules of the Road
Cyclists are considered vehicles under Illinois law, which means you have to follow the same rules of the road as cars and trucks. Cyclists are subject to the same rules as motorists, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with them before you hit the road. That means obeying traffic signals and stop signs, riding in the same direction as traffic, and using hand signals to indicate when you’re turning.
However, there are a few exceptions to the rules. For example, in Illinois, cyclists are allowed to ride on the shoulder of the road, and they can also “ride two abreast” as long as they don’t impede traffic. On the other hand, riding on the sidewalk is generally not allowed, and neither is riding while under the influence of alcohol.
You should also be aware of “dooring,” which is when a motorist opens his or her door into the path of an oncoming cyclist. This is actually against the law in Illinois, so if you’re doored, you may be able to file a claim against the motorist. Of course, it’s best to avoid the situation altogether by riding a few feet away from parked cars.
Make sure you’re visible to motorists, especially at night and in low-light conditions. Wear bright clothing, and if possible, attach reflective materials to your bike and helmet. You may also want to invest in a headlight and taillight for your bike, which is required by law in some states. Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid riding in the blind spots of trucks and other large vehicles. This is especially important when you’re passing, as it can be difficult for the driver to see you.
Other visibility tips include using hand signals to indicate when you’re turning and making eye contact with drivers before you proceed.
On the other hand, you should also be aware of the danger posed by other cyclists who don’t follow the rules. For example, “salmoning,” or riding against traffic, is extremely dangerous, as it puts you in the path of oncoming vehicles.
Plan Your Route
Before you head out, take a few minutes to plan your route. Map out a safe route that avoids busy roads and areas with a lot of traffic. If possible, stick to bike trails and quiet side streets. You should also avoid riding in bad weather conditions, as it can be more difficult to see and be seen in rain or snow.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to let someone know your route in case of an emergency. That way, if something happens, they’ll be able to easily find you. You can also use a cycling app like Strava to track your route and share it with others. And in the era of digital maps, there’s no excuse for getting lost.
Keep Your Bike in Good Condition
To ride safely, you need to make sure your bike is in good condition. That means regularly checking the tires, brakes, chain, and gears, and making repairs or adjustments as needed. If you’re not comfortable making repairs yourself, you can take your bike to a local bike shop.
Additionally, it’s important to keep your bike clean. A clean bike is a happy bike, and it’s also less likely to break down. Plus, it just looks nicer. You don’t need to go overboard, but a quick wipe-down with a rag should do the trick.
On the other hand, if you’re planning a long ride, you may want to invest in a tune-up from a professional. This is especially important if you haven’t ridden in a while, as your bike may need some extra love after being inactive.
Be Mindful of Road Hazards
Even if you’re an experienced cyclist, it’s important to be aware of potential road hazards. This includes potholes, grates, gravel, and debris. To avoid these dangers, it’s best to ride in the center of the lane, where you’re less likely to encounter them. If you do come across a hazard, slow down and proceed with caution.
And of course, it’s important to be aware of the dangers posed by motor vehicles. Always yield to cars and trucks, even if you have the right of way. After all, they’re much larger than you and can cause serious damage if they hit you.
Pay attention to the rules of the road, and always ride defensively. If you are involved in an accident with a car, don’t try to handle the situation on your own. Immediately call the police and let them deal with it.
Cycling is a great way to get in shape and improve your health, but it’s important to do so safely. The seven tips we’ve provided should help you stay safe while cycling. Remember to always wear bright clothing, avoid busy roads, and plan your route before you head out. Additionally, make sure your bike is in good condition, and be mindful of potential road hazards.
By following these tips, you can enjoy all the benefits of cycling without putting your safety at risk.