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Bicycling through the city can present special safety concerns not found in more rural areas. If you keep these few tips in mind you can enjoy the exercise and exhilaration of biking in even the busiest city.
First and foremost, buy a good helmet. I cannot stress how important this is for the biker. Many serious injuries can be prevented with a helmet, and you can find one for $30 or less. Look for ANSI or Snell approval when selecting a helmet, these ensure that they meet industry quality and safety standards. Make sure it fits comfortably and securely to ensure maximum protection. Also, remember that for a helmet to properly protect the rider it must be worn flat on the head, not tilted back.
Next, be sure you are comfortable riding with traffic. Biking on a crowded sidewalk can be more dangerous than biking on the road in an urban environment. Knowing how your bike handles and understanding its limits are of the utmost importance.
When riding, anticipate the moves of traffic and pedestrians around you and be ready to react to any situation that might come your way. Many cars don't realize that a bike is often traveling nearly as fast (or in some cases faster) than other cars, and thus cars will often pull out in front of you without warning. Watch for situations where this might happen, and be prepared to react quickly if it does.
Knowing what is happening in front of you is important, but you also need to know what is happening behind you. Turning to look behind you while riding, even for a second, can be very dangerous for two reasons. First, it diverts your attention from what is happening in front of you, causing a potentially dangerous situation. Second, by looking over your shoulder you have to pull the handlebars towards the shoulder you are looking over. This will cause the bike to swerve, or even lose control. To alleviate this you should buy a mirror. There are many varieties of mirrors, the most common of which are attached to your handlebars and can be found for about five dollars. For a bit more you can also find mirrors that attach directly to your helmet and function exactly as a rear-view mirror in a car would.
Keeping your bike secure is a bigger concern in a city than in other areas. There are two main types of locks: U-locks and chain (or cable) locks. None of these will protect your bike completely from theft, but the U-lock is more secure than the chain and cable locks. The best protection, however, is to use both. Locking the bike frame to a stationary object with a U-lock and then locking both tires with a chain or cable lock will ensure that no part of your bike is stolen. Furthermore, make sure that the frame is anchored to a truly secure object, not a road sign or a wooden fence. There have been instances where fences were sawed through and road signs removed to get to a bike.
With these few tips in mind, along with a little common sense, any bicyclist can enjoy a safe and fun ride around town.