Get a helmet! Helmets decrease the risk of head injury in crashes by 85% when worn properly. Be sure to fasten your helmet snuggly under your chin, and wear it level on your head, not tilted back. A helmet is a protective device, not a jaunty cap. That being said, there are some very stylish helmets out there. If you’re concerned you won’t “look cool” in a helmet check out some of the newer models, or decorate your own. Helmets should be replaced after a crash that impacts the helmet. Even if you don’t see a crack the inner core of the helmet might be damaged.
Get a check up! Both you and your bike need to be ready to ride. If you have any reason to be concerned about starting a new program of physical activity you’ll want to consult your doctor before getting started. Bicycling is a great low-impact activity that can help you get your recommended daily dose of exercise without spending long boring hours at the gym.
Your bike may need a check up too. The League of American Bicyclists has an ABC quick check which outlines some basic things to inspect on your bicycle before every ride. You might also want to consider having a professional tune-up. Find a bicycle shop that you trust and feel free to ask questions. Bike shops can be great resources.
Plan your route! Getting to work or school by bike isn’t going to be the same experience as getting there by car or bus. Check out our Choosing a Bike Route section to learn more.
Follow the Rules of the Road
For the most part Maryland law treats bicycles as vehicles just like cars, motorcycles, limos etc. So, just like a driver, there are certain laws that you have a responsibility to follow. Here are the three most important for day-to-day cycling:
- Ride to the right of the road; go with the traffic not against it. Drivers are used to looking a certain way to see if anyone is coming before they turn. Riding the wrong direction (against traffic) makes you more likely to get hit. As you ride with traffic keep to the far right of the lane you need to use. Ideally, try to give yourself about three feet between you and traffic and three feet on the other side between you and the parked cars. This way you can avoid dangers from either direction.
- Obey all traffic laws. Just like a driver of an automobile you must follow traffic signals and road signs. Again, this is for your safety.
- Use turn signals. But bicycles don’t come with turn signals! So use your hands. Learn proper hand signals for bicycles. The signals will help drivers predict where you’re going next.
Remember the Unwritten Rules
A safe bicyclist follows the rules of the road and also abides by the following "unwritten" rules.
- Check behind you before changing lanes. This means looking back to check for cars or other cyclists. Even if you have a mirror you should still look back because the mirror has a limited field of vision and won't show you what's going on right next to you.
- Ride as if you were invisible. That does not mean BE invisible. This simply means do not expect that drivers see you. Give yourself enough room to get out of the way if a driver makes a sudden turn, pulls over or flings open a car door. Check and double check that you are noticed before making a turn yourself.
- Ride in a predictable fashion. That means following the rules of the road, and doing everything in your power to communicate to drivers and pedestrians what your next move (or stop) is.
- Be seen. Wear bright colors, reflective tape or vests, have reflectors and lights on your bike, get a bike bell. These are all things you can do to increase your visibility. Even if you do not think you’ll be riding at night, lights are still a good idea. If you plan to ride through the fall it will be dark by the time you leave work!
- See the road. Periodically look ahead 100 feet ahead for hazards in the road such as potholes or debris.