The mild spring weather (and spring-like winter weather, actually) makes walking and biking downtown even more attractive. Enjoy the fresh air, save a little gas, and fit in a few extra minutes of exercise before and after work, to run errands, or when meeting friends. But before you hit the city streets, be sure you know the rules of the road. If you decide to bike, also make sure you have a few skills mastered before you share the streets with cars. Here are just a few techniques and tips to keep yourself and others safe in the city.
• Hand signals. Cars have turn signals. Bikes have hand signals. Use them. Below are examples of a left turn, right turn and a slowing/stop signal.
• Learn how to ride with one hand. You don't have to ride for miles one-handed (it's safer if you don't), but learn how to grab your water bottle, zip/unzip your jacket or signal a turn (see above) while holding your line (aka not swerving).
• Brake smart. The rear brake is for shaving off speed and the front brake is for stopping fast. If you are coming to a slow stop, it's fine to use both brakes at the same time. If you are making an emergency stop, use the front brake and scoot back on the seat.
• Fix a flat. Be sure to carry a spare tube, tire levers, and a frame pump whenever you ride, and know how to use them. In a pinch, there are bike repair stations at Broadway and 15th Street, Franklin Square, and Emeryville Public Market with free tools and a pump. If you're still stuck, know where the bike shops are en route. Bay Area Bikes, near the Oakland YMCA, serves many commuters.
• Be predictable. Ride as far to the right as practical. Use your hand signals. Stop at red lights and stop signs. Remember that you are a vehicle and must follow similar common sense rules as motorists.
• Cross the street safely. Cross at the crosswalk--don't play Frogger with cars. Don't risk serious or fatal injury by jaywalking or crossing the street when the traffic signal is a solid orange hand.
• Eyes up. Watch the world around you, not your Twitter feed. If you're staring at your phone and not the road, you may not see that speeding car that doesn't see you.
• Be visible. If it's dawn, dusk, or dark, use a red flashing rear light and a front headlight on your bike. Wear visible clothing. You don't have to cover your body in neon; just make sure to wear something that will catch a motorist's eye.
If you really want to learn the rules of the road, Bike East Bay hosts hundreds of free education classes, including an informative Urban Cycling 101 for adults and teens. They hold classes throughout the East Bay. Click here for more info.