Especially when turning or changing lanes, it is important to know what is happening behind you. Click here to learn how.
Riding your bike in shared space with vehicles can be stressful. Developing a set of core road riding skills can help you feel more comfortable and competent on the road. Another key skill is scanning. Scanning is the act of looking at the traffic behind you. Just as when you are driving, a rider typically scans before attempting a maneuver such as changing a lane, turning, or stopping. Scanning not only informs you of potential hazards before your maneuver, but also alerts drivers that you are about to change your behavior. Combining scanning with signaling can help you be more predictable to drivers, making everyone safer and more comfortable sharing the road.
Seems easy, right? Scanning can be one of the most challenging bike skills to master. When you turn your head and shoulders to look behind you, you tend to turn your handlebars in the same direction. This can make you swerve into traffic or into a curb.
Watch this video to learn more:
How can you avoid swerving while scanning?
1) As the League of American Bicyclists video says, before looking back, take the same hand off of the handlebars as the shoulder over which you look (i.e. if you are looking over your left shoulder, first take your left hand off of the handlebars and if you are looking over your right shoulder, first take your right hand off of the handlebars).
2) Practice! This is one of those gross motor coordination skills that sounds easy but takes practice to get right. Go to one of our many park trails (Two Rivers Park is perfect for this) and practice until you feel competent. Scan and then look back and see if you were able to maintain a straight line. It’s ideal to do this with a partner to give you feedback.