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Safety Tips for Biking to Work

Young businessman looking over shoulder while riding bicycle

Now that bike lanes are connecting many neighborhoods in major cities, more commuters are considering getting to work by bike. Before you commit to commuting by bike, do your research and always keep safety in mind. As you start on your quest, be sure to check with your doctor to confirm that you are in good health. Over time you’ll also discover the health benefits of riding a bicycle on a regular basis.

Chart your journey.

Is there a good route that you can take from your home to work? Are the streets safe, paved, bike friendly and well-lit? The New York City Department of Transportation publishes a great map every year showing all the existing bike lanes, which can help in planning your trip. If you live outside of New York, check to see if your city offers a similar resource.

Acquaint yourself with the bike laws in your area. For example, it’s illegal in New York City to ride against traffic or on sidewalks. Motorized bicycles are not legal on New York City roads.

What type of bike will you be riding?

If you already own a bike that you’re comfortable on, whether a ten-speed or a folding bike, be sure it’s road worthy and includes reflectors, lights if you’re riding in the dark, and a bell (again, in New York City this is the law). Most local bike shops provide seasonal tune-up services and general maintenance.

What type of clothing items are a must?

Protect your brain and invest in a good, well-fitting helmet. If your commute is long and you have the option to shower or at least change at your destination, you may want to consider bike shorts or pants. There are many styles that are appropriate for everyday wear, and will not have you confused for someone competing in the Tour de France. Cycling gloves can help take the pressure off the nerves in your hands, and will protect them in a fall. Weather is unpredictable; be prepared and pack a lightweight cycling poncho (preferably brightly colored) with reflectors.

Bicycle components to consider:

Find a saddle that is comfortable. You’ll be spending time in it every day. Some saddles require a break-in period, while others are comfortable from the start. Use pedals that suit your riding style. If you are a seasoned cyclist and are comfortable riding clipless pedals, consider mountain bike or touring styles, as the matching shoes are more walkable. If pedal cages make you nervous, stick to a plain flat pedal. When it comes to gears, consider the terrain. Lots of hills and bridges will require the ability to shift down. If your commute is all flat, you may not need more than a 3-speed.

Know before you go.

Before you get ready to make bike commuting part of your routine, do a weekend test ride to get to know your best route and its hazards, and calculate your time.

Additional tips:

For some riders, the daily commute involves public transportation, lack of storage options, or only occasional need. For all those instances, CitiBike is a good option for commuters in the New York area. The current expansion of stations will be bringing the blue bikes to many additional neighborhoods.

Ride safely, obey traffic laws, and stop to check your smartphone. By NYC law you may wear only one ear bud, but no matter where you live keeping your ears free is safer.

If you need to brush up on your bike riding and bike safety skills, look for programs that may be offered by your community. Bike New York offers free classes for adults in all boroughs, and the NYC DOT offers tips on smart biking.

Can’t find a comfortable bike? Not sure what adjustments will help? Hospital for Special Surgery’s Bike Fitting Services at the Tisch Sports Performance Center offers comprehensive evaluations for riders of all abilities. For more information call 212.606.1022. To schedule a bike fit call: 646.797.8005.

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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.