Cyclists ride for many reasons--it is great exercise, can be very relaxing and is also good for the environment. Riding in traffic might seem dangerous, but if you follow some basic rules you are less at risk of crashing than if you were in a car. BicyclingLife.com notes, "the number of persons who die while bicycling in the US is very small: fewer than 900 per year. That's compared to 5,000 pedestrians, almost 40,000 in cars, 60,000 from air pollution, and hundreds of thousands from lack of exercise."
Use Proper Safety Equipment
A good quality helmet that fits properly is critical for bicycle safety. The helmet should be snug enough to fit your head, but not too tight to be painful. Wear your helmet even for short neighborhood jaunts; even a minor fall can be very dangerous if you hit your head.
Mount a mirror to your handlebars so that you can see traffic coming up behind you. Alternatively, you can purchase a small mirror that mounts to your helmet. Though you may not be accustomed to riding with a mirror, once you have one you will wonder how you ever did without it. Especially in light or intermittent traffic, it is beneficial to spot upcoming cars so that you can move over farther to the right.
Many cyclists wear reflective tape or a reflective vest when riding in the dark, but this safety feature can also be used effectively during daylight hours. A bright orange vest with reflective tape can be worn over your jersey and adds little in the way of bulk or heat, but it will attract the attention of drivers as they approach you.
Headlights and taillights are also important pieces of equipment to draw motorists' attention. Always turn these on as dusk approaches, but consider using them during daylight hours as well. Pack some spare batteries as part of your cycling kit so that if your light is extinguished, you won't have to ride home in the dark.
Follow Traffic Rules
As a cyclist, you are held to the same rules of the road as motorists. When you follow traffic laws, you reduce your risk of being hit and injured.
Ride with traffic, never against. Some cyclists mistakenly believe that riding against traffic is safer, since they can see cars coming at them. In fact, you are more likely to be hit when riding in the wrong direction. When coming up to an intersection, some motorists do not even know to look for you and may turn right, directly into your path. Motorists turning right from driveways or parking lots may also not be watching for you.
When approaching an intersection, pull into the middle of the lane. This way, you avoid being hit by motorists turning right at the light who cannot see you if you are in their blind spot. When the light changes, proceed through the intersection and off to the right into the bike lane as quickly as possible.
Obey all other traffic laws including stop signs, traffic lights, merges and yields.
Use hand signals to alert motorists before you turn, even when turning right.
Be aware of cars backing out of driveways.
Stay in the bike lane except for in intersections and when it is impossible to ride there due to parked cars, for example.
Never wear earphones or talk on your cell phone while cycling. You need to be able to hear cars approaching, or emergency vehicle sirens. Stay alert at all times.