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Ticket to a worry-free ride: 10 tips for cycling safely

May is Bicycle Safety Month and a great time to dust off that bike in your garage and get out and ride. Before you set out on the road, it is important to know the South Carolina cycling laws and a few safety rules. If you are not a rider yourself, read on. We will also give automobile drivers a few tips for sharing the road safely with cyclists. We consulted Dave Coggins, a board member at cycling club Freewheelers of Spartanburg to give you 10 tips for increased safety on the road. 

1.   Before heading out for a ride, check the condition of your equipment. Make sure your tires are in good condition and are inflated to the correct pressure. Check your brakes. Carry a pump, spare tire tube and a basic tool kit. Learn to change a tube by online tutorials or classes at local bike shops. Bring enough water and check the weather to see if you need additional clothing. Wear a helmet and make sure it is in good condition. 

2.   Take action to increase your visibility on the road. Invest in quality rear daytime running taillights. The best taillights for daytime visibility are red, blinking lights 150 lumens or greater. White headlights are also recommended. Wear high visibility clothing. 

3.   Carry Identification. Road ID makes a bracelets with emergency information. Do not rely on your phone as identification. 

4.   Ride in a group for safety. “When in a group, we encourage riders to ride two-by-two,” Coggins said. “There are two reasons for this. First, if a rider is riding single file, cars will try to squeeze between the cyclist and an approaching car, running the rider off the road. Riding two-by-two forces cars to treat you like any other slow moving vehicle, a tractor for instance. Second, if you have eight riders together, cars will have a shorter line to pass.” Riding in a group also gives you support in the event of an emergency and increases visibility. 

5.   Before your first group ride, familiarize yourself with group-riding etiquette. On the ride, warn other riders of cars in front of or behind you and point to and announce any obstacles in the road such as potholes or debris. Follow the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs and lights. Know and use hand signals for turns.

6.   Whether alone or with a group, Coggins said that you should avoid riding right on the white line. South Carolina law requires bikes to ride as near to the right as practicable, which means allowing yourself enough space to avoid obstacles. 

7.   Plan your route carefully. Freewheelers advises choosing routes without dense traffic and lower speed limits. Also avoid roads with limited sight to distance. Pay attention to the direction of the sun. Riding directly into the sun decreases visibility significantly. 

8.   Watch out for dogs on your route. If you see a dog, warn fellow cyclists. Coggins recommends screaming in a loud, stern voice. He said that some cyclists find it effective to squirt the dog with water, but if you are going to try that approach, you have to be very comfortable removing your hands from the handlebars.

9.   Never engage angry motorists

10.Consider using a GoPro type camera on your ride. “If you are attacked by a dog or encounter an angry motorist, a camera will give you the documentation you need,” Coggins said. 

Freewheelers also has advice for motorists. “Maintain a safe distance between the car and the bicycle,” Coggins said. “Pass with caution and provide as much distance as you can in case a cyclist has to swerve to avoid something. Pass cyclists as though they were a loved one.”