There’s nothing quite like the feeling of freedom you get when you’re cycling down a quiet road, the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. Unfortunately, you may only get this experience when there aren’t many cars around. Cycling on busy roads can be dangerous, especially if you don’t know how to stay safe. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to avoid cars while cycling so you can enjoy your time riding safely.
Stay Away From Heavy Traffic
It’s pretty obvious, but to avoid traffic you first need to avoid areas with heavy traffic. If you can, try to ride on quiet side streets or paths that don’t see a lot of cars. This way, you won’t have to worry about dodging traffic and can focus on enjoying the ride. Always take note of the time so that you can avoid cycling during rush hour.
Of course, this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re commuting to work or running errands. In these cases, you’ll need to be extra careful and take precautions to stay safe. Always try to find the safest route that has the least amount of traffic, even if it means taking a longer route.
Find Roads with Wide Shoulders
Any road that’s at least six feet wide is considered a road with wide shoulders. If you can find roads with even wider shoulders, even better! These roads are the safest for cyclists since they provide more space between you and oncoming traffic and more room to avoid debris. Still, you’ll need to be cautious when riding on these roads since cars may try to pass you too closely.
Alternatively, try finding routes with wide bike lanes. Bike lanes are dedicated paths for cyclists that are usually separated from the main road, usually by a dotted line or a physical barrier. This separation is meant to give you some extra protection from oncoming traffic.
However, be aware that not all bike lanes are created equal. Some bike lanes are just wide enough for a single cyclist, while others are much wider. Choose routes with bike lanes that make you feel comfortable and safe. It’s best not to always rely on cars to stay away from you at a safe distance. It’s imperative to be wary of your surroundings still.
Beware of Turns and Driveways
One of the most common causes of accidents is when a driver turns in front of a cyclist. This is especially dangerous if the driver doesn’t see you or tries to cut you off. To avoid this, take note of surrounding vehicles when there’s an upcoming turn. It’s a good idea to slow down and use your professional judgment to determine if it’s safe to proceed. Try to also gauge where the driver is looking; it may be obvious whether or not they see you.
This is also true for driveways. You must be on the lookout for cars pulling out of driveways since they might not see you. For your own safety, stay at a far distance from any car getting out of the driveway.
And always follow signs, lights, and right away yourself, same as a vehicle.
Find Trails Instead of Roads
A practical way to avoid cars is by finding trails instead of riding on the road if they’re available in your area. Of course, you’ll still need to be cautious of other people on the trail and yield to those who have the right of way, but you’ll be able to avoid vehicles all together (except for maybe an ATV or two).
Riding through trails can also be very scenic and enjoyable, so don’t consider trails as a second-rate option. Many are located in parks or nature reserves, too. You can explore different parts of your city or town that you never would’ve seen before. And who knows, you might even find a new favorite route to common destination points.
If you go this route, you may want to eventually consider getting a gravel bike. Gravel bikes can handle all kinds of different surfaces, whereas road bikes tend to be a bit more single-purpose and made just for pavement.
Make Yourself More Visible
As a cyclist, you’re already at a disadvantage since cars are much larger and faster than you. To offset this, you need to make sure that drivers can see you clearly. Wearing bright and reflective cycling clothing is a great way to do this. You can also buy reflective gear such as vests, armbands, and even tires. If you ride at night or in low-light conditions, consider investing in some lights for your bike. You can attach these to the front, back, and even the sides of your bike.
When riding at night, making yourself visible is an absolute must. This is where flashing lights come in handy. You can find all sorts of options in different patterns and colors. We’ve seen someone ride around with a vest flashing rainbow colors before! However, you do need to be careful about the types of lights you choose — you don’t want ones that are so bright that you’re blinding drivers or pedestrians. It could actually cause an accident.
It’s also a good idea to stick to well-lit roads. If a road doesn’t have any streetlights, it might be too dangerous to ride on, especially if you’re not using any reflective material or bike LED lights.
So, how do you get about in your city or town? Do you have to go by road or do you stick to the trails? And what kind of reflective gear are you wearing? Let us know in the comments!
Von Collins is an accomplished triathlete and cyclist, and the author of four fitness and training books: Smarter Running, Your First Triathlon Guide, Fit Foods, and 30 Rut-Busting Workouts.
Von has been cited as a triathlon, cycling, and fitness expert by Healthline, CNET, Forbes, Eat This, Not That and other major outlets.
Von has done dozens of triathlons and endurance bike races, coaches, and is an avid part of the cycling and triathlon community.