Although you might feel uncomfortable doing so at first, always ride in the direction of traffic. Riding against traffic flow puts you where motorists don’t expect (or see) you. Use the two-second rule to help you keep a safe distance behind other vehicles—when the vehicle in front of you passes a fixed object (such as a tree or a house) begin counting. If you pass that object before you count out two seconds, then you are following too closely.
It’s always a good idea to ride defensively and to assume that drivers don’t see you. Expect the unexpected and keep both hands ready to brake. Be aware of the flow of traffic around you and pay particular attention to driveways and intersections, which is where many accidents occur. Keep an eye out for obstacles in your path, such as potholes, rocks and railroad tracks. If you have to go around an obstacle, take your time and make the move during a break in the traffic.
Be especially careful if you’re out in wet weather as riding on wet roads can make you slip and can impair your brake function. Visibility is also an issue when it’s raining, so always wear fluorescent or reflective gear to ensure that motorists can see you.
If you have to ride at night, equip your bicycle with a white headlight and a red taillight (both of which are required by law in some areas), as well as with front and rear reflectors. Wear reflective clothing or materials, especially on your ankles, wrists, back, and helmet. A reflective vest or reflective tape sewn on clothing makes you far more visible at night.
Dress to Be Seen—and Safe
Not every cyclist is making a fashion statement by wearing bright-colored jerseys and gloves. All of this cycling gear serves a purpose that even recreational riders can benefit from.
Long pants and long-sleeved shirts cut down on scraped elbows and knees. Clothes should fit snugly—use ankle clips or rubber bands to keep pant legs from catching in the gears, chain or on the bike (or wear specially-designed bike shorts). Wearing gloves will reduce hand fatigue caused by gripping the handlebars during long rides, but they also offer some protection in case of a fall. Shatter-resistant protective eyewear is also a good idea, not only to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, but also to cut down on wind or other debris that could hit you in the eye.