10 Ways to Read the Road Like a Book & Feel Safer Biking in Your City

Abby Brockman
4 min readNov 1, 2019
The author in her bike commuting outfit and an unexplainable pose.

I don’t think people are scared of biking in the city because it feels dangerous.

After eight years of commuting year-round in Boston and Seattle, and just as many years of people expressing surprise that I bike in even blizzardy and rainy conditions, I’ve come to believe something deeper is doing on. Because people do dangerous things all the time — including driving in a car.

Instead, I think what holds people back from biking isn’t just that they perceive it to be dangerous. Rather, beneath the sentiment that it’s dangerous is the assumption that you don’t have control when you’re biking.

Think about it: in a car, people feel like they are in control. Surrounded by steel cage, people feel like they are physically and metaphorically “in the driver’s seat.” But on a bike, people feel like they are at the mercy of the forces around them. Biking feels like an act of faith: you put on your helmet, get in the bike lane, and just hope no one hits you.

If this rings true for you, I’d like to invite you to think of the road like a book written in a foreign language. You know there is information in the book, but until you learn the language and can read it, you cannot access and use the information.

So, too with a road.

There is a lot of information you can pick up and use to make active, wise decisions on your bike but first you have to learn to “read the road.”

Here is a list of 10 specific tips that aim to show you how to read the road and bike safer in your city. Because while it is true that there is a lot you cannot control, you do not have to ride blindly and faithfully — you can empower yourself to be a smart rider.

1. Scan parked cars for turned wheels, exhaust, and heads. Don’t just hope no one opens their door or pulls out of their parking space. Be active. Look for turned wheels, exhaust fumes, and heads visible behind the seat rest as signs that a car might pull out or adjust its position.

2. Bike slowly when cars are stopped, especially at crosswalks. When there is a line of cars waiting at a red light, don’t speed thinking you are safe because the cars aren’t moving. Pedestrians will often cross…

Abby Brockman

Hospital chaplain, community organizer, writer. Shamelessly laughs at the same jokes over and over and believes there are gateways to holiness everywhere.