It should come as no surprise that Portland is ranked the best bike city in the country, with more commuters per capita than any other city. There are thousands of Portlanders that bike-commute, and Portland State students are no exception. There are over 2,000 outdoor parking racks, and 6 indoor bike garages, each bursting with bikes at any given time. However as exciting as it is that we are so bike-friendly, it’s important to note that cars are still the majority and can ruin your day (if not your life) if you don’t practice safe riding tips. If you’re a novice rider, or an experienced rider looking for a refresher course, read up!
Always wear a helmet!
Once upon a time when I was living off campus and commuted in every day, I refused to wear my helmet because “I didn’t want helmet hair.” One bike accident later in which I almost split my head open on the pavement, I changed my tune. It’s not worth it. Perfect hair means nothing when you’re putty in the road. A good friend of mine was blind-sided recently and thrown completely over the car; he would have died had he not been wearing his helmet. Fortunately he’s still here, albeit concussed and broken-footed, and it was because he wore his helmet.
Portland is grey and rainy and it’s only going to get greyer and rainier in the coming months, which makes it super important to use lights. Use a white light in the front, and a red light in the back. They tell cars that you’re there so you won’t end up underneath one.
Wear reflective clothing!
It’s not necessary to go out and buy a bright orange rain jacket, but it is necessary to wear reflective gear. If you don’t want to purchase a snazzy new raincoat, you can get reflective strips to put on your bag or the back of your (hopefully not black) jacket, or reflective arm or ankle cuffs. It doesn’t matter what you do, just be seen.
Ride with traffic!
There will be times when you won’t have a bike lane to ride in. When that happens, you’re another vehicle on the road, just like cars. Ride on the right in a predictable manner, according to the rules of the road, and you will be fine. When you ride against traffic, cars won’t necessarily see you, especially those pulling out of side streets.
Keep your bike maintained!
Make sure you check your brakes and tire pressure at least once a week. It shouldn’t take you more than 10-20 ft to stop, if it does, take your bike into the bike hub and tighten them up! Worse case, you need to replace your brake pads which is decently inexpensive. It’s better than the alternative, you uncontrollably going down a rainy hill with no way to stop.
Beware of train tracks!
There are MAX tracks everywhere in Portland, and it’s painfully easy to slip on one and crash your bike. However, a crash is easily avoided if you cross the tracks as close to a right angle as possible.
Wear a helmet!
Seriously guys, I can’t stress this one enough.
These tips are certainly not exhaustive, and I encourage you to download ODOT’s bicycle manual to get even more tips. You can also check out the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) for safe biking routes. At the end of the day, lights are cheap and helmets are cheap, you have no excuse not to ride safe. Happy riding!