Safe Riding Tips

We want to remind the beginner that this information, while it is extremely helpful, is in no way a substitute for direct and personal instruction. We always suggest that the absolute beginner consult with a qualified cycling instructor before hitting the streets. C.I.C.L.E. offers beginning bicycle commuter workshops. Even if you don’t know how to ride a bike at all, we can help get you out there on two wheels. Please inquire for more information at: bike (at)

Past Monthly Tips!

Safety Tip of the Month: Railroad Tracks

You may already be riding over tracks with style, but we’d like to review some bike-train safety tips now that Metro’s Expo Line is open!

  • If you don’t cross railroad tracks properly, a rail can grab a wheel and cause a fall. Always cross tracks with both of your wheels perpendicular to the rails.  Do not turn while going over the tracks.
  • Tracks can be slippery when wet. Use extreme caution in the rain.
  • Obey the signs and signals at train crossings.  Do not attempt to cross a crossing gate when it is activated.

Safety Tip of the Month: Dogs

They may be man’s best friend, but sometimes too friendly with bicycles.  Like many other bicyclists, you may have had a close call with a dog while riding.  Here’s a few tips to help you prevent a fall or a rabies shot.

  • Keep an eye out for loose dogs.  Bike-Dog collisions do occasionally happen, but you can reduce the risk by looking out for dogs when riding residential streets.
  • Ignore the dog– it’s just protecting its territory.  It will stop chasing you once you ride past it.
  • Some dogs bark and chase for fun with no intention of attacking.
  • Shouting can startle the dog long enough to get it to leave you alone .
  • Squirt the dog with your water bottle.
  • Get off your bike and put the bike between you and the dog.

Safety Tip of the Month: Before you roll, check your bike and don’t forget to check yourself

We should all check our bikes for mechanical safety before riding.  Pre-Ride checks should include inspection of the wheels, tires, breaks, cranks, chain, and handlebar,   Often we forget that we need to check ourselves and accessories.  What should we be looking for?

Do a check for the following:

1) Loose clothing that can get caught on your bike.  Pants can get tucked into socks or tied down with a reflective leg band.

2) Make sure your shoes are tied and your laces are not too long.  Double knot if needed.

3) Are you carrying a bag?  Make sure there are no dangling straps.  Make sure your bag is not covering your lights and reflectors.  Also make sure your bag doesn’t hang low enough to get caught in your wheel while riding.

4) Do your lights shine brightly?  If not, change your batteries before you get caught in the dark with no lights.  Rechargeable batteries help keep you green – they save money and reduce waste!


Safety Tip of the Month: Don’t Swim Upstream

Like fish swimming upstream, wrong-way ridingis dangerous and it increases your chances of getting snagged.

  • Why is it dangerous?  Yes, cars will see you bicycling directly at them, but you’re at great danger, especially at intersections.  Drivers are looking for incoming traffic to be coming from the right.  Drivers will look left, right, and left before they start to move.  By not expecting incoming traffic to be approaching from their right side, the chances of an accident are greatly increased.
  • Wrong-way bicycling is the second major cause of car-bike collisions.  They account for 17% of all car-bike collisions.
  • The good news is that the chances of getting hit from behind are low (3.8% of all car-bike collisions).  You can further reduce your risk when you are visible, not hugging the curb and riding predictably.  Remember, stay in your comfort zone and use routes with wider streets and less traffic.


Safety Tip of the Month: Left Turns

Left turns can be tricky. Here’s some tips to help you stay safe.

1) Signal your turn by extending your left arm.  Practice signaling and riding in a straight line to avoid swerving.

2) On a one-way street, turn left from the left most lane.

3) On a two-lane street (without a turn lane), turn left from the left part of the lane.  Doing this will encourage cars to pass you on the right.  This will help prevent you from turning into a car traveling behind you.

4) When turning left, do not cut the corner.  Cutting the corner puts bicyclists in danger of riding into oncoming traffic.

5) On a multi-lane road, you will need to change lanes in order to get into the left most lane or left turn lane if there is one present.  Remember to change one lane at a time.  Bicyclists should scan, signal, and wait for a clearing before executing a lane change.

6) If the difference between your speed and the speed of traffic is more than 15 MPH, it is unsafe to do a lane change.  You can stop and wait for traffic to clear or make a box turn.

7) If at any point you do not feel comfortable making a left turn, listen to your instinct!  You can get off the road and walk your bicycle on crosswalks to achieve your turn.  You can also execute a box turn.  A box turn is when you ride straight through the intersection and reposition yourself in the travel lane of the new road.
Remember, being aware, feeling comfortable and staying within your skill level help keep you safe on your bicycle.

Safety Tip of the Month: Avoid Car Doors!

Hug your friends, not parked cars and  curbs.

The next time you see fellow cyclists hugging the curb or a line of parked cars, you may want to relay the following tips:

1) Bicyclists should only ride as near to the right curb “as practicable.”  Cyclists are allowed to move as far leftward on a roadway as necessary in order to avoid roadway hazards. Often, the area closest to the curb has the most debris and hazards.

2) When hugging the curb, bicyclists remove themselves from the line of site of motorists at intersections.  Cyclists should positions themselves in the lane where motorists can see them.

3) Riding next to the curb does not leave bicyclists room to maneuver around road hazards.  By keeping some extra space between the curb and your bicycle, you’ll have space to swerve around obstacles that can cause an accident.

4) A common and serious accident occurs when bicyclists ride into an opened car door.  This is called “getting doored.”  The best way to avoid this situation is to ride 3-4 feet from parked cars.  Some bicyclists will try to weave around parked cars, but it’s always better to keep a straight path and stay predictable for other road users.

Safety Tip of the Month: Sidewalk Riding

Did you know that sidewalk riding is more dangerous than riding on the street? While sidewalks are designed to provide a safe passageway for pedestrians, they don’t hold up as well for bicyclists. Here are the reasons why:

  1. Drivers are less likely to look for bicyclists when turning at intersections. Most drivers are looking for walkers on sidewalks and in crosswalks, and not a bicycle speeding by.
  2. Motorists are looking for faster moving traffic in the road, not on the sidewalk, when pulling out of driveways and alleys.
  3. Bicyclists have a better angle of vision when riding in the street. You can better see cars approaching intersections.
  4. Pedestrians can make unexpected moves or abruptly leave buildings, causing collisions with bicycles on the sidewalk.

Generally, people who bike in the street get to their destination quicker and with less danger. Also, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk in some cities (unincorporated cities in L.A. County, Santa Monica, and many city business districts). Save yourself the hassle of a ticket!
Being safe also means being comfortable. Instead of riding on busy streets, plan routes that put you on peaceful and pleasant roads. If you need to get on the sidewalk, hop off your bike and become a momentary pedestrian.


Safety Tip of the Month: Tips on Riding in the Sun

Riding on a cool summer day can be so refreshing, liberating, and loads of fun as you zip along from one part of town to the next. But on hotter days, keep these tips in mind to stay safe, energized and harm-free from the powerful (yet wonderful) California sun!

1) Throw on some stylish shades! Staring into the bright sun a ride can be harmful and sunglasses definitely make a difference. Shades look great, help protect your eyes from glare and minimize eyestrain. When glare is reflected by road surfaces it can become especially bright. Try some polarizing shades to combat the glare! Or, an anti-reflection coating on your lenses definitely never hurts.

2) Wear a hat! Whether your wear a baseball hat, a cycling cap, or a visor, make sure it’s lightweight and breathable. Wear a cycling cap under your helmet, which should also be extremely ventilated and comfortable.

3) Don’t be hypnotized by the light! Beware of the hypnotic effect of a low sun to your side, broken by series of closely spaced trees (or other barriers) which can create pulses of bright light across your path. To avoid this tricky trance, slow down and remember to keep your gaze low.

4) Take extra care on scorching hot days! In super hot weather, do what you can to prevent sunstroke or sunburns. Shade, sunscreen and staying hydrated are key! To avoid dehydration, drink regularly; remind yourself to take sips whenever you can.  Rub on some sunscreen on your face, neck, arms, legs… whatever parts are exposed to the sun!

5) Don’t be… Blinded by the light! If you are riding in line with the direction of the sun (either ahead of you or behind you), keep in mind that drivers heading into the sun may be blinded and fail to see you. If you find yourself momentarily blinded as well, just concentrate on the road immediately ahead and slow down.

Enjoy the warm weather, the sparkling sun and open roads this summer!


Safety Tip of the Month: Saddle Up

It’s a good practice to check your saddle to see if it is properly attached to your seat post.  You don’t want it flying off while ridding!  Check to make sure the bracket that fastens the saddle rails to the seat post is secure.  Next, you’ll want to make sure that your saddle is at the proper height.  You will want a slight bend in your knee when your pedal is at the lowest point in your stroke.  If your saddle is too low, you will experience knee pain, this strain can possibly cause an injury.  If your saddle is too high, you’ll over extend your leg when making a full pedal stroke.  Over extension will lead to rocking, instability on your bike, and a possible injury.  Finally, is your bum feeling numb?  If so, you’ll need to adjust the tilt of your saddle or purchase a saddle that allows more blood-flow to your genitals.  Your saddle tilt should be fairly level.  Tilt the saddle up or down in slight increments until you find a pain-free position.


Safety Tip of the Month: Riding Responsibly

This month, we celebrate everything bicycles at New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat bicycle festival.  For those who have joined us for the festival know, it’s about spreading your passion for bicycles, making new bike friends, enjoying fabulous entertainment and tasting some of New Belgium Brewing’s amazing beers.  We want to remind everyone to stay safe and drink responsibly.  This includes not operating your bicycle if you are inebriated.  The festival is adjacent to the Chinatown Gold Line station and Union Station so there are lots of car-free transportation options!

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Make sure you are well hydrated while bicycling.

2) Know your limit for your body weight.

3) Cyclists are less likely to wear helmets when intoxicated.

4) It is against the law to ride under the influence and your driving privilege could be suspended or delayed for a year if you are cited.


Safety Tip of the Month: Cycling at Night

SEE AND BE SEEN! It’s starting to get darker earlier! When riding in the dark, it’s important be visible and use extra caution, especially since it’s harder to see and be seen by others on the road. It is much more challenging to judge the conditions of the road (like potholes or low hanging branches!). Slow down, give yourself extra time to maneuver, and ride predictably. Use gaps in traffic to move across lanes or make turns, instead of trying to communicate with drivers.

LIGHTS, ACTION! Lights and visibility aids are essential for riding at night. Lights should be securely affixed on your bike. One white light emitting lamp for the front and a rear red reflector is required by California Law.  We STRONGLY advise all night riders to use a rear red light that has a strobe setting.  A rear red light will increase your visibility to motorists.

REFLECT: To help you see ahead of yourself and around you, white lines, reflective marking, and road signs help you navigate along at night. They will indicate where the side of the road is, upcoming turns, and other boundaries. Use these to help guide you.

LOOK AWAY: The headlights from oncoming traffic can be blinding for cyclists at night. Don’t look straight at oncoming vehicles: focus your attention on the road ahead of you. If you are blinded momentarily, slow down, look just ahead of your front wheel and be prepared to stop. The brim of a cap or your helmet visor can provide a shield against oncoming headlights.

INTERSECTION JIGGLES: Finally, stay visible when you are waiting for red lights to change at intersections. When you aren’t moving, it’s more difficult for drivers to see you. Without any leg movement, you are less likely to catch a driver’s attention. Try moving your handlebars from side to side to make your presence known and warn oncoming traffic that you are there.


Safety Tip of the Month: Bicycling and the WIND

From all directions!: Wind can be sneaky and approach a cyclist from any direction. It can give riders an extra push from behind or it can resist your every pedal. Wind can also hit you from the side, or breeze past when vehicles speed by.

Headwinds: Headwinds are especially challenging: they create a struggle and increase fatigue. To battle their strength, keep your body low and streamlined to stay balanced and move forward easily. Shift to a lower gear until you can maintain your normal speed. Remember to steer straight!

Say what?: Wind makes hearing other traffic more challenging. Keep your ears open, steer straight and anticipate any oncoming traffic.

No drifters! Don’t drift too close to the road edge. Accurate steering is more difficult when it’s windy.

Final tip!: Windproof jackets are great for those extra breezy nights!


Safety Tip of the Month: Essentials to Carry with you on your Bike

Ensure a smooth ride! Bring these essential items with you whenever you roll out and be ready for anything!

1. Spare Tube: The most likely problem you may roll into is a flat tire. Keep an extra tube with you for emergencies (or friends’ emergencies!). Tubes are cheap, small and pretty lightweight.

2. Tire levers, hex wrenches, and a mini pump: Get a flat? Keep these tools with you (or in your wedgie pack!) to be fully prepared for any situation. You’ve got your spare tire, now you have the tools to change it.

3. Patch Kit: Don’t know how to change a flat? Patch kits are an easy way to get you rollin’ after a flat. Patch it up, fill it up, ride on. Patch kits also serve as extra insurance, in case your flat gets a flat!

4. Cash/ID/Medical Insurance card: Hoping for no emergencies, but just in case, these items are essential! It is also a good idea to write down any emergency contact numbers on the back of any of these documents. Cash always comes in handy… for water, purchasing an extra spare, or for a bacon-wrapped hotdog or fruit bag along your route.

5. First Aid: A first aid kit comes to the rescue for small scrapes or cuts. First things first, clean up any scrapes to prevent infection!

Keeping these items on you and being prepared makes hard, unexpected situations less stressful. Be ready, be set, ride!