Biking on the mean streets of Boston can, understandably, be a terrifying experience as a new cyclist. It’s frightening enough as a driver or pedestrian; subtract some armor and add some speed, and you’ve got what feels like a recipe for smashed limbs and utter disaster. I’ve felt your feelings! But I’ve been biking in Boston for about 8 years now, and it’s hard for me to imagine life without a two-wheeled companion to get me around town.
Here are a few simple suggestions for survival!
Start when the streets are empty
The road can be daunting when it’s filled with cars, so don’t bike down Mass Ave (or your city’s equivalent busy stretch) for the first time at rush hour. Instead, figure out a time when you can play around on empty streets. For me, that was after midnight on weeknights. After a year or two of nice night biking with a friend, I was much more comfortable with my bike itself and the way the city was laid out, so navigating during the day felt much easier.
Bike like you’re invisible
I forget where I read this advice, but it totally changed the way I rode my bike. No, this doesn’t mean “bike like you’re both invisible and invincible.” It means “bike like literally no one else can see you.” Obviously this doesn’t eliminate any chance of something going wrong, but it does help foster a more cautious approach.
Get your uniform on-point
With the right attire, it’s pretty easy to bike all year long! My biking habit has definitely pushed my style in an even more health-goth direction than it was already taking. There are lots of practical pieces that you don’t have to change out of when you get to your destination. A few essentials I’m a fan of:
Find one you like so you’ll wear it. I used to be vehemently opposed to wearing a helmet, because I was annoyed that it was overemphasized as the only thing that mattered for bike safety. But helmets have saved many of my friends’ heads, and now, I’m just glad to protect my brain in case something goes awry.
This one is surprisingly flexible. The only shoes I’ve had trouble biking in are those with platforms on the toes — as long as the ball of your foot can connect nicely with your pedals, you should be fine.
One of the most annoying things to bike with is a bag that you have to keep readjusting. For most rides, I use the Black Kite commuter pack, which has a handy back pocket for easy phone and key access. When I have a smaller load, I opt for a fanny pack strapped across my chest — since the strap is adjustable, I can make sure it doesn’t wiggle and throw off my balance.
I basically never remove my Zella “Live In” leggings – they’re great year-round and super comfy to bike in. I’ve also come to love Rag & Bone’s “Jean Leggings” – not to be confused with “jeggings”! – which I found on eBay for way less than the list price. Super flexible and totally count as pants.
Ditch the headphones
I love music! But there’s plenty of other time to listen to it when you shouldn’t be listening to sound cues that might mean you’re about to get hit by a car.
Follow traffic rules
As tempting as it can be to dart up a one-way street in the wrong direction, it’s not only bad for you — it also reflects poorly on cyclists in general and creates chaos for everyone around you. I will admit there are some scenarios where I allow myself to run a red light or bike on the sidewalk, but I try to keep it to familiar areas at non-peak times when I know won’t be getting in anyone else’s way.