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:
- 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!
- 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.
- Check your bike for road worthiness before you go out – every time. The ABC Quick Check is a good drill, and fast.
- Don’t blow stop signs, lights, etc. Traffic rules apply to you, too.
- 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.
- 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.