6 Tips to Stay Safe When You Bike in DC

With DC Bike Ride on Sunday, here are some tips on how to stay safe while getting some exercise.

DC Bike Ride returns for its second year this Sunday, when some D.C. streets shut down and bicyclists can enjoy scenic downtown views and entertainment along the 20-mile course.

This event encourages people to enjoy their day with family and friends, while also getting in some exercise.

Bicycling "is a really healthy way to get around the city because you're not just sitting in the car or sitting on the Metro," DC Bike Ride marketing director Michelle Cleveland said.

Cleveland said biking to work or participating in recreational events like DC Bike Ride are a great way to get some light exercise.

"It's one of the best recreational activities that really anyone can do because there are so many different types of bikes," Cleveland said.

Washington Area Bicyclist Association spokesperson Colin Browne agrees with Cleveland, noting that biking during your commute is a great way to "incorporate exercise into your daily life."

In anticipation of the annual DC Bike Ride and the weather getting warmer --perfect for cycling around the city -- Cleveland and Browne offered some general biking safety tips:


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1. Follow all bicycling and traffic laws. Bicyclists should know the traffic laws in the area in which they're riding, in order to stay as safe and alert as possible. Cleveland said that "know[ing] bicycling laws for D.C. or whatever jurisdiction you are riding in is important."

2. Ride outside of the "door zone." Many streets in D.C. have designated bike lanes, but often those bike lanes are next to a row of parallel-parked cars and parking spaces. This puts bicyclists in the "door zone" -- the 3 to 5 feet next to a parked car that can be obstructed by a door opening. This puts riders at risk of getting hit by an opening car door.

"Even when you are in the bike lane, ride on the left side so you are out of the door zone," Cleveland suggested.

3. Be predictable. When riding a bike, act as though you are in a car or are a pedestrian. Make signals to let others know which direction you are headed and remain as visible as possible. "Don't make any harsh moves; don't try to weave in and out of traffic," Cleveland said.

4. Be visible. Browne said each cyclist needs to have a white light on the front of his or her bike and a red light or reflector on the back when riding in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. "Occupy the space you need to in order to remain visible," he also suggested.

5. Protect yourself. While the law doesn't require adults to wear helmets, Cleveland encourages riders to do what "feels most safe and comfortable for them when they are riding on a regular basis."

6. Make sure your bike works. "It's pretty frightening to have your brakes not work or your chain fall off in the middle of the street," Browne said. Maintain your bike and be sure that all of the parts are functioning. If you are going to be predictable on the road, your bike needs to work predictably.

Browne added that as more people bike in the city, bicycling will become safer. Cars will be able to anticipate and become accustomed to cyclists on the road.

"There is safety in numbers," Browne said.

Anyone are interested in attending the DC Bike Ride can register online here.

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