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Person riding an Indego bike in Philadelphia

With springtime weather here and the number of Indego rides surging (thanks, coronavirus), there are bound to be some new cyclists on the road.

If you’re curious about taking the plunge but have some questions, check out our guide for getting started.

You can also learn from these community-sourced responses to our Instagram Stories question: “What’s your #1 tip for new bike commuters?”

    • Find a safe, comfortable standby route, but try to change it up to see new things!(@travsouth) and “plan your route in advance!(@jwstoff) We recommend using our Bike Maps page to identify low-stress streets, as well as practicing your route beforehand. Do a test-ride on quiet weekend morning when there is less traffic to get comfortable. Finding a more experienced buddy to guide you through your first ride is also a pro move.
    • Don’t be shy, communicate with drivers. Use hand signals, point, use your bell.(@christospapachristos) Using hand signals helps other people on the road — drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists — know what you’re doing when you do it. Just like cars use signals, cyclists’ turns and stops should be predictable.
    • When in doubt, make eye contact with drivers, pedestrians, and other bikes before making a move.(@bikecatalog) If you don’t get eye contact back, it may be worth it to wait to make your next move, even if you have the right of way.
    • Acknowledge other bike commuters.(@denisedgiorgio) When passing on the trail or on the street, it’s good practice to give a verbal cue. For example, if you’re passing someone riding in a left-hand bike lane, clearly shout, “passing on your right!” before you execute your pass. On trails, it’s convention to pass on the left. Do not pass riders who are also executing a pass; wait until it’s safe to try and pass yourself!
    • Blinking lights & a helmet!(@phillychristian) and “Get lights for night riding!(@jrockit0922) Bicycles are required to have a front white light and a back red reflector. And a back red light is highly, highly encouraged. A helmet is not legally required but is always a good idea. Safety first!
    • Ride defensively.(@lsteph85) Be attentive and look out for safety hazards. When approaching an intersection, always be aware of turning cars. If you are in a car’s blind spot, or if the driver isn’t paying proper attention, they may make a turn directly into you. This is called a Right Hook and can be avoided by staying out of blind spots and being on the lookout at intersections.
    • Don’t ride the wrong way down a street/bike lane(@skumsaves) The safest way to ride in the street is with motor vehicle traffic. Make sure you’re always riding in the direction of traffic when on a bicycle. Also, no sidewalk riding if you’re over the age of 13.
    • Don’t block pedestrian crossings. And wait behind bikers who are already stopped.(@br0ther_keith) According to Pennsylvania State Law, all the rules people in cars are supposed to follow, cyclists are supposed to follow, beginning with the most basic law: stopping at red lights. Stopping behind the crosswalk is courteous to pedestrians crossing.
    • Be predictable.(@youngjackfruitt) You want drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists to be able to anticipate your turns and stops.
    • Don’t be afraid to ride in the center!(@getmealemon) Bicycles are considered legal vehicles in PA and have the same right to ride in the middle of the street even if it slows traffic. This guarantees that you won’t be in the door zone and that cars won’t pass too closely. It can be stressful having cars behind you so feel free to let traffic pass you when you get to an intersection.
    • Stay away from the trolley tracks.(@lryssa) Be very careful around trolley tracks. The metal tracks are slippery when wet and bike tires can get stuck in the center groove. Avoid riding parallel to tracks and always cross perpendicularly. Plot your route out in advance to avoid them when possible.
    • Get a basket!(@mrsboonkraft) A basket or a rack and panniers can help you haul groceries, etc. and keep weight (and sweat) off your back. Fenders are great for keeping you clean on your commute, especially on a rainy day.
    • Carry snacks.(@frijol_ito) This one’s always a good idea, especially if you have a longer commute. Bike commuting is active transportation, so you’ll need calories to fuel you.
    • If you ever get uncomfortable, get off your bike and walk.(@willbikeforeats) A bicyclist can always become a pedestrian. Blocked bike lane? Crazy construction or potholes on the street? Jammed traffic? Instead of riding through a potentially dangerous situation, you can always hop off your bike and walk around any obstruction.

Looking for more helpful tips to empower you as a bicyclist and make your ride better? Join the Bicycle Coalition! Become a member before March 31st to get a thank-you gift.

Ashley Vogel

Author

After graduating from Swarthmore College, Ashley moved to Philadelphia to work in nonprofit development and communications as a Philly Fellow. She was introduced to the Bicycle Coalition’s work in her first week of the fellowship through an Urban Riding Basics class. She did not take up bicycling in the city until getting involved with the Women Bike PHL community, which catalyzed her to shed her fear of riding in traffic and get on a bike. Ashley’s bike has served as a powerful tool, and she is excited to share the healing and empowering nature of bicycling with others. You can find Ashley riding her blue Breezer to the Headhouse farmer’s market, or her Fuji Sportif when she’s road racing as an alum of the Women Bike PHL Racing Development program.

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