With a rapidly growing population, Austin faces the issue of catering to larger numbers–especially when it comes to transportation. Consequently, we are seeing a continual rise in Austin’s notorious traffic problem. Nonprofit groups like Please Be Kind to Cyclists and Bike Austin are putting forth the effort to offer resources and encourage residents to become more avid riders. Choosing a bike over a car for your commute can help improve the traffic situation, benefit health, and reduce our carbon footprint. In a recent study conducted by the City of Austin, though, 40 percent of Austinites said they’d ride their bike to work if we had safer infrastructure. Better biking and walking facilities are currently in the works, but personal safety begins with an education and awareness of how to ride on the road.
Mission: Motivate global social change in the behavior of motorists and cyclists so both use the roads safely and with mutual respect, resulting in healthier, more harmonious communities.
Don't be risky with your life! Be intentional with your actions. At Please Be Kind to Cyclists (PBK), we encourage riders to follow a system we call VIP:
BE VISIBLE Light up your bike like a Christmas tree! Headlights, tail lights, reflectors, reflective tape, LED lights, helmet lights–making sure you are seen is the number one thing you can do to protect yourself. This means avoiding dark clothes when riding at night, too.
BE IN THE MOMENT Keep your eyes on your environment, surroundings, road, people around you, and avoid distractions. Don’t wear earbuds, or stare down at your phone or other devices while in motion.
BE PREDICTABLE Signal to other folks on the road when you intend to change lanes, turn, etc. If they don’t see you, use your voice!
It is fully within your right as a cyclist to take the full lane. This rule is also taught in Motorcycle Safety Courses because often we find folks on two wheels assuming cars are more entitled to be on the road than us–this isn’t true, and hugging the right side of a traffic lane can be a fatal mistake. In this scenario, when motorists inevitably try to pass, they often pass too closely. Taking the full lane will force a motorist to do what they do when passing another vehicle – change lanes altogether–and pass at a safe distance. By the way, the law in Austin requires small vehicles to give vulnerable road users a minimum of three feet – and larger trucks and commercials are required to give six feet when passing.
If a cyclist is on a two-way road, with one lane in each direction, we can and should still take the full lane as needed, and decide when it is safe for us to briefly move to the right, allowing a motorist to pass.
First and foremost, if you aren’t an experienced rider, aren’t extremely familiar with your bike and its components (like brakes), and/or aren’t comfortable riding in heavy traffic, DON’T DO IT. Wait until you’ve ridden with more experienced riders, learned the ins and outs of your bike, and/or taken a safety class from a local bike shop, before venturing into the concrete jungle.
It’s true that cyclists are bound to abide by the same laws as motorists–we must ride as traffic. But in reality, this can be difficult because–even for experienced riders–bikes are human powered machines and we’re way more vulnerable to the laws of gravity (falling) and physics (accelerating on a hill, longer stopping distances). If you’re an experienced rider, following the VIP system while riding is the safest course you can take. On particularly dangerous routes or limited site stretches of road–like that curve and bend on south lamar near Uchi–it’s just best to take an alternate route and get out of heavy traffic altogether.
Cyclists are just as entitled as motorists to use the full lane.
Be patient and show respect for that person’s life. Failing to control your temper, speed, communicate intentions, or passing at a safe distance can mean death to the person on the bike next to you. Just like you, that person on a bike has friends and family–they could be your neighbor, coworker, friend—treat them like it.
Being safe on the roads is a shared responsibility between all the different people using those roads. In driver’s education we are taught that right of way is something that should always be given–never assumed and asserted–and this is particularly important if you’re a cyclist or pedestrian who isn’t surrounded by a hunk of metal and airbags. When mutual respect is shown on the road, it involves a high degree of courtesy, patience, and genuine concern. We all need to work on developing empathy for each person’s desire to get home safely and without incident.
Mission: Bike Austin improves quality of life for all of Austin and Central Texas by growing bicycling as a form of transportation, exercise, and recreation.
Bike Austin is a fantastic resource for individuals who are interested in cycling regularly. Whether you’re new to riding, need some training for group rides, or looking for some extra confidence in traffic, there’s a class for that:
These sessions are designed for the workplace. Bike Austin has worked with big names like Facebook and Google to provide the tools needed to get back on the saddle. Many employers offer incentives for staying physically active, and usually, biking to work qualifies.
So maybe you weren’t the Bike Rodeo winner back in elementary school or you haven’t ridden in decades. The old saying, “It’s just like riding a bike” often holds true, but Bike Austin will be there to catch you just in case you fall.
Group riding skills are a must for recreational riders. This is the opportunity to hone in on your abilities, like practicing stability, so that group rides don’t feel uncomfortable or cluttered.
Even if you’re already an expert, there’s a class for you (to teach). Post your ride(s) on the Bike Austin ride schedule and get a group grinding around town.
Riding in traffic is smooth when you’re prepared with the knowledge and skills to avoid potential conflicts.