So you've noticed a bunch of bike lanes around Boston and you've been wondering if you should try using a bike to get around. Boston's a major city and there are a lot of cars on the road so we know what you're thinking, is it safe? We think it is as long as you follow these 9 rules.
1. Wear a helmet!
This one is a no brainer, if you're riding a bike, you should be wearing a helmet. Even the pros wear helments and they practically live on their bikes, why wouldn't you? Just having a few inches of protective material between your head and the ground can make the difference between a bad fall and someone collecting on your life insurance policy. Today's helmets come in all shapes and styles, so find one that matches your personality and wear it every time you ride.
2. Follow the rules of the road.
Boston is a driving city, so you're going to be sharing the road with a lot of cars. It's important that they can anticipate exactly what you're going to do, so follow the same rules they do. Don't ride through red lights, don't ride down streets the wrong direction and don't make turns without giving everyone around you a heads up you're turning. Learn the correct way to indicate you're turning left or right, and do it every time, make it a habit.
3. Be visible.
You don't need to ride around in a clown suit to attract attention to yourself, but make sure that you're wearing some bright colors that stand out from your environment so everyone can see you. Remember how small you are compared to a car and make it as easy as possible for someone checking their mirrors to know you're there. If you're going to be riding at night make sure to wear some high visibility reflective gear, you might want to consider getting a light reflector that flashes while you ride.
4. Stay alert.
Riding a bike is fun, and it's easy to get lost in your own thoughts. Just remember, a bike is a vehicle and YOU are it's driver, don't space out while you're barreling down the street at 20mph. Be sure to keep an eye on your surroundings like you would in your car. Is there a possibility that a child will run out from behind that parked car? Is there a driveway behind those shrubs? Is there an electric car behind you that you're about to turn in front of? Keep your head on a swivel and keep track of your surroundings.
5. Watch out for parked cars!
This may seem silly, but you'd be shocked how often people hit parked cars. If you're moving, it can be hard to tell if the car in front of you is moving, especially when coming from directly behind it. If it seems like you're coming up on that car in front of you awful fast, they may be moving much slower than traffic or the car may be parked. Also, when riding next to parked cars, keep an eye out or people between the cars that may walk into the road, as well as people in the cars that might open their door. The last thing you want is to ride right into an open car door. If you're thinking that they should be making sure not to open their door into you, you're right, but they're not going to be the one eating pavement so it's up to you to be responsible for your own safety.
6. Be predictable.
We've touched on this a bit in the aforementioned tips, but it's important enough to deserve it's own mention. Don't zip across 3 lanes of traffic without warning, don't jump off the sidewalk into the middle of the road, etc. No one knows you're next move unless you tell them, so try not to do anything unexpected. This is especially important when it comes to making left turns, be sure not to initiate a left turn from the right lane, no one will expect you to come across their car like that and if you do get clipped you'll be right in the middle of the road or worse an intersection. Be smart and be predictable.
7. Use bike lanes whenever possible.
This probably seems obvious but don't forget to use bike lanes whenever possible. There are a lot of bike lanes in Boston, so use them! Cars will expect you to be there and give you a wide berth whenever possible. Also, bike lanes will often route you around the most dangerous parts of traffic, make sure you're seperated from the cars on tight bridges or overpasses and even take you off the road at times. They're their to get you to to your destination as safely as possible, so use them whenever you can.
Following these 7 rules will help you stay safe when you choose to explore Boston by bike. If you're new to biking or haven't biked in a while and want to rent one to try it out, consider doing a guided bike tour instead. These will generally provide you with a well maintained bike, a helmet and a guide to make sure that you're getting around in the safest way possible.