Get started commuting
If you're just beginning, the thought of commuting through the morning gridlock can be quite overwhelming. Transitioning from casual rides on a calm bike path to commuting in city streets can definitely be a shock to the system. If you're wanting to master the transition, stick to the following tips to confidently commute.
Tip #1: Ride predictably (in a straight line)
To stay safe out on the road, it's important to "hold your line." To prevent swerving, make sure you're looking straight ahead. Looking where you want to go will help you navigate any obstacles in front of you. It will also help prevent the need to swerve unexpectedly, stop suddenly, or make illegal movements. If you're riding predictably, with good hand communication, those around you will be able to help you stay safe.
Tip #2: Use the turn lane
If you're at an intersection without bike infrastructure for left turns, you're going to want to go into the left turn car lane. This might feel odd, but is the safest way to proceed. If you're too nervous to make it to the turn lane, or there are simply too may lanes of traffic to cross, then use a box turn. To do a box turn, cross the street with the flow of traffic. Then, stop at the corner on the side of the street you intend to turn on. When the light changes, proceed forward onto the street you were going to turn on. A box turn may be more time consuming, but it is the safest and least stressful way to turn left.
Tip #3: Think & act like a car
Sometimes the safest way to navigate the streets is to pretend and act like you are a car. For example, if you're traveling down a one lane road that doesn't have a bike lane, go ahead and ride down the middle taking up as much space as a car. This will help deter drivers from passing you at an unsafe distance. It will also help prevent getting "doored" - being hit by a door being opened from a parked car on the side of the road.
Tip #4: Watch for obstacles
Always keep an eye out for stray branches, debris or gravel - even in the bike lane. If possible, avoid metal objects like manhole covers and trolley tracks. Especially in wet conditions these surfaces tend to have no traction. Trolley tracks should only be crossed at a perpendicular angle. Corners can host a gravel build up in the city, so don't take them too sharp. Try to avoid any potholes, as they are prone to lead to flats and crashes. And of course, watch out for those distracted pedestrians staring at their phones.
Tip #5: Ride Defensively
When commuting in the midst of traffic, you always need to be aware of your surroundings and assume other drivers don't see you. Be watching for drivers who turn in front of you with no warning - watch their tires not just their signal. The best way to ride defensively is to make sure you're visible. Bright colored clothing and blinking lights are particularly helpful.
Information found on bicycling.com.