Every day that you ride out on your bicycle, you’re showing other people (on bikes, in cars, on foot) how it can be done. You rarely get the opportunity to explain why you ‘take the lane’, ride with traffic or wear a helmet – but in South Florida’s urban areas, your habits get noticed. This is important for improving bicycling in your neighborhood AND for increasing bicycling.
Ever talk to a newbie?
People who are considering getting back on the bike or trying bicycle commuting definitely have their eyes on you. Do them a favor by riding right. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can’t change the person’s habits who are riding against traffic. They saw you – and are seeing more and more like you – and will eventually turn around.
If someone in your office or maybe a friend from your club is considering bicycle commuting, why not offer to ride with them on their first commute? This morning, I did just that. A friend had already started commuting to her office in Downtown Miami but was riding on sidewalks, which (1) increased her chances of hitting someone (she seemed to intuit this) and (2) slowed her down (who doesn’t want to get to work faster?) I helped her choose a new route, both to and from the office, and then rode with her from her home to work. It was a fun way to spend time with a friend and she asked lots of questions like…
Where exactly in the lane do you ride when you are by yourself? As for the left as necessary for people in cars to understand they must change lanes to pass. Usually this is right in the center of the lane, sometimes a bit right of center but still 3 feet from any on-street parking.
When stopping at red lights, why do you move to the left of the right lane? Wherever it is legal for motorists to make a right on red, I feel it is common courtesy to move out of the way so that they can do it. When I see the light will be turning green, I am certain to re-establish myself in the center of the right lane so someone doesn’t speed up to pass me on my right.
Bridge!? The higher the bridge, the more likely someone will speed up over it and not see you on the other side. Since we have almost no hills here, I encourage cyclists to ride over on the sidewalks until they are accustomed to changing gears both on the incline and decline and feel confident handling their bicycle. Once you are used to hills and bike handling, go ahead and keep your lane position over the bridge.
I was also sure to point out some basic tips:
- Cross railroad tracks at a perpendicular angle.
- Practice dismounting and mounting quickly so you are more comfortable stopping. (You pick up speed on the road that you can’t on a sidewalk. Be prepared.)
- Don’t forget to scan the road frequently, both in front of and behind you. Be aware.
- Ride two abreast with friends but on a two-lane road, it’s just common courtesy to drop into single-file so faster moving traffic can safely pass.
Of course, not everyone can bicycle to work – and no one starts bicycling to work who doesn’t first try bicycling to the store, the park or a friend’s house. You can do a lot to increase bicycling by just inviting people out for a leisure ride. People new to bicycling can rent bicycles from Bike and Roll Miami, M.Cruz Rentals Ft. Lauderdale. Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop or another local bike shop. I promise you that there are few joys in life like sharing someone’s first adult bike ride. Enjoy it, have fun, remember the rules of the road and ride on.
This Fall, we are organizing some bike safety classes and instructor classes. Where in South Florida would you like for us to host one?