As a cyclist, you will eventually find yourself riding downtown in traffic. I try to avoid these areas, but when you’re putting in some serious miles, or if you live in the city and have to ride out to the country roads, it’s hard to avoid them all the time.

Here are some tips to stay safe when you encounter these areas:

1. Pretend drivers don’t see you.

Pretend drivers don’t see you, because they probably don’t! You really should expect people to hit you or force you off the road, simply because they are oblivious to your presence. They might have their mind on something, not expect to see any cyclists on a certain road, or of course they could be on their cell phones.

To increase your safety, try to maintain a “cushion” around you. Typically this would involve time and space factors, allowing you to escape danger if necessary (like if a disrespectful motorist encroaches on your personal space.)

A similar tip: some people say to look drivers in the eye to make your presence known… well, if they’re not looking at you in the first place, what good does that do? (If they are looking at you, then hopefully they’re not planning on running you over!)

2. Watch parked cars.

Be careful around parked cars, too, because they can still be hazardous!

Don’t ride too close or you might get doored. (That’s when a car door opens right in front of you and you hit it.) If you have to ride somewhat close, watch for people’s heads. If someone is in the car, there’s a good chance of getting doored.

And certainly watch for lights on and wheels turned towards the road – the car might pull out in front of you.

3. Be visible.

The more visible you are, the easier it is for drivers to see you.

Reflective tape, reflective clothing. Don’t wear a black outfit at night.

4. Don’t run red lights.

It seems obvious (since it is illegal,) but running a red light usually puts you right in front of fast moving cars. That’s not smart.

And drivers hate it. It happens all the time in big cities where traffic sucks, so it’s somewhat expected there, but still…

5. Expect the worst, crazy stuff.

Pedestrians and drivers do some crazy stuff. Just when you think a person will walk normally, they’ll start dancing around and knock you down.

Drivers will pass too close or not pass at all, or wave you through an intersection that you can cross perfectly well, legally, according to the traffic signal.

In the future, follow these tips and you’ll ride safely through traffic and can enjoy the rest of your ride!

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