Safe bicycle riding begins with YOU

Make sure your vehicle is roadworthy.

Do the 5BBC 2-minute bike check.
Make sure your CPSC or Snell-approved helmet is on top of your head with straps fastened and tight (1 finger-breadth maximum) beneath your chin.
Straddle your front wheel and attempt to twist the handlebar. It should not move relative to the wheel.
Check front tire pressure by squeezing it with your hand. For a road bike, there should be no give. For a hybrid or mountain bike, you might be able to indent the tire 1/8 inch.
Check front wheel quick release, it should be in the locked position.
Pick the front wheel up slightly and give it a forward spin. It should spin freely without rubbing against the brake shoes.
Apply the front brake. The brake shoes should contact the rim, not the tire. Attempt to push the bike forward with the brake applied. The front wheel should lock and the rear wheel should come off the ground.
Spin the pedals. They should spin freely.
Attempt to pull the crank arms side to side. There should be no movement.
Attempt to jiggle the seat. It should not move, unless it’s a suspension seat. The seat post should not move relative to the frame.
Check rear tire pressure by squeezing it with your hand. For a road bike, there should be no give. For a hybrid or mountain bike, you might be able to indent the tire 1/8 inch.
Check rear wheel quick release, it should be in the locked position.
Pick the rear wheel up slightly and give it a forward spin. It should spin freely without rubbing against the brake shoes. Articles on a rear rack should not dangle into the wheel or spokes.
Apply the rear brake. The brake shoes should contact the rim, not the tire. Attempt to push the bike backward with the brake applied. The rear wheel should lock and the front wheel should come off the ground.
Pick your bike up off the ground 6 inches and drop it, to simulate a pothole. Objects should not fall off your bike with this maneuver.
Give the door “4”.

Ride at least 4 ft. from car doors. “Dooring” is the most common cause of serious cyclist injury in NYC.
You’re a vehicle. Ride like one.

Ride in the direction of traffic, not against it.
If there is a marked bike lane, use it – except as limited by doors of parked cars (see above) or other hazards.
Your next choice would be the right road shoulder. However, shoulders are often too narrow or have broken pavement, potholes, debris, parked cars, and opening car doors.
If there is no bike lane, and the road shoulder is unsafe, then you belong in a travel lane. Use the rightmost travel lane of a multilane road. Stay on the right side of the lane except on multilane roads when the lane is too narrow for you to be safely passed by a motor vehicle. In that case, “take the lane” by riding near the center of it. Also see applicable NYS traffic law.
At an intersection, avoid the right-turn-only lane unless you are making a right turn.
Be visible.

A motorist who sees you is less likely to hit you, although he is probably less concerned with your life than with his car’s paint job. Riding in a lane (see above) makes you more visible than riding on the road shoulder. At night, wear bright or reflective clothing and please use lights front and rear. And if you are on a recumbent, be sure to hoist a flag.
Ride straight.

You present less of a hazard when your actions are predictable. Ride in as straight a line as possible, consistent with road conditions. When riding single file in a group, stay directly behind the bike in front of you.
Use bicycle hand signals.

The most important hand signals are left turn, right turn, and stopping. Click here for other examples and for illustrations. Note that flipping a bird is not a recommended hand signal.
Be aware of traffic regulations.

Observe stop signs and red lights, don’t ride on the left side of a 2-way street, and ride single-file when there’s only 1 travel lane going in your direction. Single-file riding is required in NJ.
Wear your helmet.

On your head, dummy!

Additional reading:

NYC DOT Do’s and Don’ts of Safe Bicycling In New York City
New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law
Bicycling Street Smarts
Things to have with you if you do get into an accident

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