Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

Bicycling on the Rise: Need to Knows

Multiple sources — from bike shops to news sources to anecdotal observation — suggests that bicycling is way up in response to heinous gasoline prices. I suspect this means that people who don’t normally ride much are coming out.

If I could give them a few tips, here are the things I would put into place as need-to-knows:

  1. Learn to change a tire. This is a simple and necessary skill if you’re going to be riding regularly, and it’s pretty dire to blow a tire and not have the equipment or the skill to fix it. Then you’re stuck roadside hoping that a nice person comes by who has all of the above, or looking for a phone-a-friend. When commuting, this can be especially rough.

    The equipment needed? A spare tube that fits your tires, a set of tire irons/levers, and a pump that fits your tubes. Many compact frame pumps exist, some better than others. You might also carry along some handi-wipes for post-change clean up; I generally appropriate mine at gas stations and/or Famous Dave’s.

    There are many good online resources to find out how to fix a bicycle flat, else many bike shops are happy to show you how. If you have a bike geek friend, buy them a refreshing beverage in exchange for a lesson. And practice!

  2. Get a light set. Whether it’s a flat tire or something unexpected, you never know when twilight is going to overlap your ride. Light sets can be had far more cheaply than medical care because someone couldn’t see you.

    For bonus points, go to a boat/car place and find reflective decal tape. (I find boat places have the best stuff.) Cut strips of this and attach it to your pedal arm (the bit that attaches your pedal to the cogs) and to your wheel rims. This gives you awesome side-on reflectivity – lights really help most with front and back visibility, and side-on is also a good thing.

  3. Check your bike for road worthiness before you go out – every time. The ABC Quick Check is a good drill, and fast.
  4. Don’t blow stop signs, lights, etc. Traffic rules apply to you, too.
  5. Learn to ride on the road, and ride properly. Go with the flow of traffic, and always position yourself to the right side of the right-most lane that leads to your destination. The LAB has a fine page on road rules that is worth a read.
  6. Wear a helmet. Sure, some will argue that a helmet won’t protect from all injury. Neither will a seatbelt or an airbag, but they’re good ideas in an automobile. Brain injury can be a really awful thing. Sure, you might be in a wheelchair after an accident, but will your brain work, or will you have a tube in your nose and constant supervision because you scrambled your eggs?

I’m sure there’s more I could say, but these are really the basics. Urging road confidence and lane positioning is scary enough for some, after all. But bikes really do fare best when they behave as vehicles and share the road according to traffic rules, applicable laws, and common sense behaviors. By following common traffic rules, cars can predict your behavior and know where you will be, and then can follow rules of the road that apply to them in regards to you, such as leaving a 3-foot zone between you and them when they pass you.

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Author: julie

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005. She is a past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association. She has 2 children and 4 bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations.


  1. Bring a cell phone, money, and/or a bus pass

    Even if you are riding a few miles from home its a pain to walk back in case you can’t fix your flat or something else happens that is unfixable on the road.

  2. Oh, agreed. I think at some times of day, it’s hard to use the phone-a-friend option, unless they keep odd schedules or are VERY good friends.

    The number of people I know who can’t fix a flat, which is really the most basic of maintenance items, is nuts. Lots of shops make good bank on people carrying in a flat and having the shop do the fix.

  3. I’ve worn a helmet since 1976, and of course my children must too.

    Alas, a modest but interesting research study says drivers give less room to riders with helmets than without helmets. So they hit the drivers with helmets more often.

    So if you’re on a bike trail, you should absolutely wear a helmet. On a commuting street, however, the benefits are lessened by driver behavior.

    I wear a helmet anyway of course. My children would never forgive me if I were killed without one on.

  4. I’ve seen some refutation of that study’s methodologies – basically, sometimes if you go looking for certain data, you will find it.

    Some of the factors tracked in the study you cite are sources of data skew.

    It was also a European study on European roads, and even in the more hostile European countries (British study, as I recall), the climate for cycling is quite different.

  5. I crashed on my 43rd birthday in 2004. Helmets save lives (or at least very extreme injury).