Megan, world class mountain biker and mom, has some great strategies to make riding safer. Read more!
The world is a different place than it was when I started riding on the rolling two lane roads and trails of North Carolina. We mainly worried about aggressive dogs, a scared deer crossing the road or slick road paint after a light rain. Twenty years and three children changed my perspective. Multi-tasking drivers need only glance at their screen for a moment and suddenly I could be lying unconscious on the side of road. A broken collarbone on a mountain bike ride could leave me exposed to wild animals and the elements for hours. I try to mitigate these risks by using these rules of thumb.
- Ride on bike paths and park roads whenever possible.
- Increase visibility. I love my Naked Women’s Racing kit. It has fluorescent green in it, which matches my fluorescent jacket and helmet. I use a flashing red dot even during the day on the back of my bike.
- Make eye contact with drivers. It doesn’t matter who has the right of way. In bike vs car, car always wins.
- Avoid roads with a speed limit over 30mph. If the speed limit is 35mph then it must have a WIDE, shoulder or bike lane. Speed limit 40mph? Forget it. Yes, this eliminates A LOT of popular rides in the Denver/Boulder area.
- Carry your phone. You don’t have to answer it, but at least have it for an emergency.
- Don’t ride mountain bikes alone on weekdays. The trails are very quiet between 9AM and 2PM.
Some people may find these strategies too restrictive, though I’ve managed to compete at an elite level while sticking to these guidelines. We are lucky in Denver to have miles and miles of bike paths as well as some state parks for interval training. In less cycling friendly cities, consider investing in a cyclocross or mountain bike to increase your options. Most cities have parks where you can train at a lower speed on these bikes. Bonus: you stay warmer and closer to home since you are going slower.