Commuting With Confidence
START OFF SLOW
If you’re new to riding in traffic, start off slow. You can take side streets with bike lanes and less traffic, then work your way up. Actually, to get even more basic, you can practice riding between cars parked at parking lots at malls or supermarkets. If you can ride between those, you’ll do fine on the streets.
Definitely don’t have music playing or other distractions until you’re certain that your situational awareness of other vehicles around you is tuned in. Look at where other drivers are looking if you can see them, or keep their front wheels in your peripheral vision. You’ll detect when they start to initiate a turn. Remember, they probably don’t see you, as you’re not a big object in their field of view. If you imagine you’re virtually invisible to drivers, you’ll do a lot better.
Make eye contact with drivers as much as you can, especially at stoplights. Don’t take green lights as a signal to go ahead, and make sure the cars around you can see you. When in the bike lane, scan parked cars ahead to see if you see anyone sitting in them. If there is, be ready to take action (brake or swerve) in case that person may open their door into you when getting out.
If you’re riding in a lane, try to be in the lane’s right tire track so you’re not too close to the edge and as visible as possible. You don’t want to be too far over, because some drivers will be tempted to try to squeeze by you.
Drivers look for openings in traffic by nosing their cars out of side streets and driveways that have limited visibility. If you see this happening, stand up on your pedals and try to make eye contact with the driver. Know if you have room to change to the center lane (watch traffic behind you), and be aware of how much space you have to your left.
Signal your turns with hand signals. Holding your left arm (assuming you’re in the U.S. or other countries that drive on the right side of the road) straight out signals a left turn. Left-arm, elbow out and a hand up signals that your planning to make a right turn, and elbow out, hand down signals to slow down or stop.
While we’re talking about signaling, remember to also obey all the traffic laws, including stopping at stop signs and stoplights.