Anyone who has ridden a bicycle in New York City knows it’s not an activity for the faint of heart. There is heavy traffic on most roads, drivers and pedestrians are in a hurry and maybe not paying full attention, roads are full of potholes and the network of bike lanes is still being expanded across the city. But there are ways to ride safer, navigate around the city better and (hopefully) prevent your precious bike from being stolen. We have compiled some tips so you can bike around the city with confidence.
After you have acquired a bike, be sure you outfit it with a bell, get some lights for riding at night if the bike doesn’t have them built in, get a bike helmet, and familiarize yourself with the rules of riding on the city’s roads and bike lanes. It’s also a good idea to find out if there are bike lanes between your starting point and destination, so you have an idea of whether you will have to ride in the street with traffic or can take protected bike lanes along the way.
You will also want to buy a heavy duty lock (or 2) to keep your bike secure if you have to leave it on the street for a period of time that’s more than a few minutes. Do some research on highly rated bike lock models that can deter thieves or slow them down, as there are many ways to remove them.
There are several ways you can make your bike rides around NYC safer for yourself and others around you.
Use hand signals
Familiarize yourself with how to signal that you are turning left or right, or changing lanes if there is an obstruction in your way.
If you’re riding in traffic or bike lanes that share the road, keep your eye out for cars changing lanes or driving erratically and look for obstructions in your lane like double-parked cars or trucks that you will have to ride around. Also watch out for cars that are parking or recently parked, to avoid getting “doored”, aka, running into the car door when the driver suddenly opens it.
Wear light clothing when riding, with bonus points if it is reflective; you can get a brightly colored safety vest that will be hard to miss. When riding at night, be sure to get good front and back lights for your bike so drivers and others can see you, and you can also get a helmet-mounted headlight that will both provide you with better lighting to see the road, and allow others to see you better.
Follow the rules
As tempting as it is to ignore stop or yield signs, turn without signaling, or even go through red lights when it looks like no cars are coming, this is how accidents happen. Respect the same rules that vehicles follow and you’ll keep yourself out of some dangerous situations.
How to get around
There are several websites where you can put in your starting point and destination and you will be shown where bike lanes are long your route. You can also use a route-planning app like Bikemap or even Google Maps to see the best way to get to your destination and in the case of Bikemap, you can see routes that other people recommend.
If you are going on longer bike rides or taking routes with lots of confusing turns, it is worthwhile to get a bike mount for your smartphone so you can use it for navigation. You can also get a GPS bike computer if you want to shell out more money.
Bike theft prevention tips
Bike theft is so common in NYC that there are locks named after the city. While almost nothing you can do, short of taking your bike inside with you everywhere you go, will prevent your bike from getting stolen, there are steps you can take to make your bike less appealing to would-be thieves.
Buy a good-quality lock
There are many kinds of locks to choose from, and unfortunately, the heavier they are, they more effective they are. You can get a heavy chain and padlock or a U-lock from a brand like Kryptonite for the best protection. You can also couple these with a lighter, more flexible cable lock.
Lock the bike to something secure
The best things to attach your bike lock to is something immoveable like a streetlamp, street sign or steel bike rack that’s secured to the ground. Just be sure that you’re not locking your bike to something loose, something where the lock can be slipped under or over the top of it, or something that can be cut like a piece of wood. Also be aware it’s not allowed to lock the bike to a tree or subway railing.
Take parts of the bike with you
You can take the bike seat with you (made easier with a quick-release seat post). Depending on where you’re going, you could also take the back wheel with you. Anytime you leave your bike for more than a few minutes, take any small accessories like bags, pumps and bike mounts with you that could be stolen.
Keep records of your bike
In case the worst happens and your bike is indeed stolen, you should have a few things in your arsenal. When you buy a bike, take a bunch of pictures of it from different angles. Also be sure to have a photo and record of the bike’s serial number (usually located on the frame’s bottom bracket). You should also try to register the bike with your local police station.