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If you learn to ride safely in traffic, your bicycle can replace your car for most errands while providing fun and enhancing your fitness. The secret to sharing the roads with cars comes down to four things: equipping for safety, being visible, being predictable, and being aware.

Get a bike helmet and wear it. You can’t even talk to the brain surgeon’s receptionist for the cost of a good helmet. Wear gloves. If things go bad and you start to go down, your precious hand will be the first thing you reach down with. Try to get a bike that’s properly sized for you and adjust your seat to the right height for your leg length. Your local bike shop can help adjust your bike to fit you. Keep your brakes in good working order. Find some better arrangement for carrying loads than riding with plastic bags swinging from the handlebar; they can get caught in the spokes of the front wheel with awful results.

If motorists can’t see you and your bike, they can’t avoid you. Wear bright, contrasting clothes. Consider putting on one of those high-visibility vests that highway workers wear. Mount a flag on your bike; a bright, flapping flag can catch a driver’s attention quickly. Try to avoid riding at night or in rain and fog. Your local bike shop has super bright red flashers and headlights that can do a lot to improve your visibility even on bright, clear days.

Show motorists that you ride predictably, and they can pass you safely and confidently. Ride on the right, signal turns, stop for red lights, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and the other highway users will understand what you’re doing. Break those simple rules and you become a kind of spooky road hazard, liable to do anything at any moment.

Yes, but what about the requirement to stop at stop signs? Stopping is no big deal for a car, but it can be a…

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