The Best Way to Bike in a Big City
Riding a bike in the city is a refreshing way to get around or to just decompress, so city riding usually takes the form of either recreation or utility. The type of urban biking that you do will have a big impact on what kind of bike will work best for you. Your objectives will also determine where you will be riding. This makes a big difference because biking in the city runs the spectrum from safe riding in the park, on the one hand, to sometimes harrowing street experiences on the other. Recreational riders who want to get some invigorating exercise may want to stick to protected bike paths and parks. Commuters will have to choose among options that balance distance with safety.
More Resources Than You Would Think
Every large city has an ambitious bicycle plan as well as coordinated cycling events to encourage more people to join in the fun. Cities are well aware that cycling brings tremendous benefits to the urban environment. Chief amongst these are liveability, general health and welfare, traffic reduction and cleaner air. Since bicycles have been shown to enhance city living in numerous ways, planning commissions and advocacy groups in every city have created quite a lot of ways to increase riding. You can save a lot of time by going over to your city’s website and checking out their cycling resources. You’ll find maps and other helpful information to make your ride easier and safer. City bicycle maps will give you a very clear idea of where to find bike lanes, protected bike paths, bike shops, and also alert you about areas to avoid. Bike maps will also show you where you can safely store your bike around town or even get it serviced at a shop, co-op, or municipal facility. Often, storage and service facilities are in the same location.
In an effort to facilitate mobility and increase convenience, most cities let you take your bike onto a bus or a train when needed.
What Kind of Bike Do I Need?
The right bicycle for you totally depends on the type of riding you expect to do. City bike riders will typically fall into the two categories of commuters or recreational riders. Mountain bikers or road racers will mostly get their kicks outside of city limits, so those kinds of bikes don’t apply to city riding. For commuters, some variation of the versatile hybrid category will fit needs for utility, reliability, and capability. A good all-around example of a great urban commuter is this Pave n' Trail Men's 21-speed hybrid bike. This type of hybrid excels because it addresses all of the common conditions of city riding. For instance, it’s good to have a frame that positions you for performance but also provides some comfort and relief for your back. The tires on the Pave n’ Trail 21- speed hybrid bike are a compromise between mountain and race tires in order to balance speed with traction and stability. Front shocks are great for negotiating potholes and other hazards, and an included rear rack is a necessity for toting everything you want to bring or pick up along the way like extra clothes, books, or groceries.
Recreational riders have many options depending on how they like to ride. Many city dwellers like to zip around on fixed gear bikes that have the same riding style as a ten-speed or race bike. For park riding, which is the safest and most peaceful way to ride around a city, a cruiser is usually the best bet. These also come in a large variety, but the Sixthreezero Around the Block Women’s 26" 3 Speed showcases the main benefits. The upright riding style and wide, cushy seat make cruisers the most comfortable style of bike. It’s nice to have a few gears to help with hills or headwinds. The Sixthreezero Around The Block is available in a few different gearing options, and the 3-speed internal equipment is simple to use and maintenance free.
Unfortunately, bicycles are sitting targets for thieves since they often have valuable parts that are easily removed. The first thing to remember is that it’s necessary to lock your bike up every time, even if it’s only for a fast dash into a shop. Someone may be watching the store for just this opportunity. Don’t be paranoid, but do be aware that this scenario is common enough to warrant some basic diligence.
The type of lock that you buy will depend on the area. It’s good to know that NO lock can stop a determined thief, but some locks will slow them down enough to save your bike. Cheap cable locks are nearly useless as they can be cut in seconds with a tiny pocket-sized tool. If you need real security, use a U-lock or a folding lock to secure the frame and front wheel to a bike rack or some other impervious, fixed object. Use a cable lock in conjunction with the U-lock to secure the rear wheel. Remove other valuable parts (like the seat!) and carry them with you.
Another good move is to register your bike with the police. The police actually recover a lot of stolen bikes, and they will hand yours right over to you if it’s registered. Visit your city’s police department website to register.
Riding Safely in the Metropolis
Depending on where and how you ride, urban biking can be very dangerous. However, this does not need to be the case. With the right knowledge, biking in the city can be about as safe as any other activity.
First, for your own sake, know the laws and follow them. Each city is different, but some basics apply. Always ride on the right side, moving in the same direction as traffic. Obey signs and stop lights. Don’t ride on the sidewalk.
One special circumstance deserves special attention: car doors. Being “doored” is the most common and catastrophic thing to happen to a city bike rider. Always give parked cars a wide berth outside of the range of an opening door. Many drivers either don’t look when opening doors or they look but don’t see. Either way, riding into an open car door at any speed will have terrible results.
As far as the riding itself goes, ride predictably and hold your line. This sounds like common sense, but it takes some anticipation and planning because, as a cyclist, you may need to swerve at times to avoid hazards like storm drains, loose gravel, or broken glass. The best way to manage both cars and bad pavement is to look well ahead so that you can make smooth movements rather than abrupt ones.
Wear a Helmet-- It’s a No-Brainer.
Most fatal bicycle accidents are due to head injury, and these can even happen at slow speeds or while completely stopped. Some municipalities require helmets, while others do not. However, wearing a helmet is always an easy, inexpensive way to avoid death or serious injury.
Riding at night is not recommended. If you do choose to ride after the sun goes down stock up on some serious lighting equipment for both the front and the rear. Reflectors are never adequate protection in a nighttime urban environment because motorists just won’t see you unless you have some bright, obnoxious lights. Back your lighting system up with some reflective clothing.
Jump Right In
Just thinking about riding a bike in the big city can be a little intimidating, but remember that your city has your back. Although some streets and areas may be best avoided, city planners have put a lot of thought, planning, and implementation into making riding easier and safer for everyone. It’s a work in progress. However, if you take a few moments to learn about your city’s efforts to improve the riding experience, you’ll see that there are plenty of ways to make your own life better by hopping on a bike and just getting out there.
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