Safety is a big concern for anyone who chooses to bike New York. But after Hurricane Sandy, road conditions are particularly rough…and a lot of people will be forced to travel by bike with the subway system down and streets packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic. While you wait for carmageddon to pass, getting around by bike isn’t a bad idea…but it doesn’t come without its own dangers. We spoke to Bicycle Lab‘s Victor Jimenez to get some safety tips that will help you get through the traffic as well as you got through the storm:
Traffic is no doubt going to be insane for the next few days, and the temptation will be huge to weave through traffic on a bike. But Jimenez confirms that cyclists still need to be mindful of the traffic laws: “Many bike-car accidents are caused by cyclists not obeying the traffic laws; just because you’re on a bike doesn’t mean you can ride wherever you like.” Specifically, he says to always:
- Stay to the right when sharing the road with cars and trucks.
- Be predictable. This means using hand signals so that motorists and other cyclists know what you are doing.
Weaving in and out of cars is dangerous and is just going to build more animosity between drivers and riders.
Another huge concern in areas affected by the storm is the debris–including felled trees, and Jimenez says all the wet leaves and branches strewn across roads and bike paths are far from harmless: “Leaves can be super slippery, and you also have no idea what’s under them.” They could be covering huge potholes or unstable streets, so try to avoid riding over debris so thick that you can’t see the concrete.
And in some areas, streets are also covered in a slick, oily residue left behind by flooding. Here are Jimenez’s quick tips for navigating slippery roads:
- Keep tire pressure a little lower than normal: This will help the tire have more contact area with the road surface, giving better grip
- Take corners slowly: It is very easy to crash on a damp road, the biggest area of concern are corners. When you corner on a bike there is a lot of sideways pressure on the tire and even a wet painted line on the road can cause a really bad crash.
- Brake early: when wet, a bikes brakes don’t work as well. On many bikes your normal braking distance is doubled
BIKE LANE ETIQUETTE
Bike lanes are likely to overflow as New York struggles to get around without the MTA, and not everyone will be an experienced rider accustomed to the rules of the road. Although Jimenez is skeptical that “orderly” and “NYC” can be used in the same sentence, he offers the following tips on basic rider safety and courtesy so that you can do your part to control the chaos:
- Ride predictably (see above)
- Stay to the right except when passing (just like driving on the road)
- Smile at your fellow cyclists
- Don’t ride too fast
- Use a bell or your voice to nicely let others know you are passing
- Always wear a helmet
- Use a red light for the rear and a white light for the front if you are riding after dark
Bike safe, then share your stories, experiences and advice in our comments section, below!
Photo: Instagram user jspringer81