Biking Safely around UNC

Gaby Behailu, a Healthy Heels communication intern, shows off Tar Heel Bikes in SASB Plaza.
Gaby Behailu, a Healthy Heels communication intern, shows off Tar Heel Bikes in SASB Plaza.

Bike riding is a fun and healthy way to travel during the pandemic. With capacity restrictions on busses and more students using off-campus housing, bike riding will help you move around the community. Safer bike commuting is possible!


If you haven’t biked in a while, start in your driveway, on a greenway or a calm side street. Practice skills – signaling (riding one handed), checking over your shoulder, stopping quickly and standing up to pedal.

Check your bike.

Clean the chain, put air in the tires, make sure the breaks are working properly – or take it for a tune up at a local bike shop. Find a more experienced bike rider and join them on a trip around town. Let them lead the way so you can focus on comfort.

Plan ahead.

Seek local maps of bike lanes or paths. Plan a route with as much time in bike lanes or traffic calmed roads.

Stay aware.

Stay aware of other cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles around you. Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, shoulder check before turning, and mind the turn signals of cars in front of you as you approach intersections. Remember, vehicles have blind spots.

Use alerts.

When you pass on the left, use a bell or “passing on the left” to alert other cyclists and pedestrians that you are about to pass them. Bike in a predictable manner and use signals to let folks know what you’re going to do. A bent left elbow, fingers raised skywards, means turning right, while pointing your arm straight out to the left indicates a lefthand turn. Pointing your fingers down with a bent left elbow signals that you plan to stop.

Follow the rules of the road.

Bike in the direction of traffic and obey traffic lights. Avoid biking on sidewalks unless you are moving at the speed of pedestrians (as in biking up a big hill or biking very slowly).

Make yourself visible.

Use bike lights and reflectors. Consider wearing bright colors.

Wear a helmet.

The riding conditions of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham mean you will often be near traffic as you come to and from campus and other errands. Protect your brain!

Use your resources.

Local organizations can help make your biking easier.

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: The Five Most Important Biking Accessories (On and Off-Campus)

This blog post is written by Emily Wheeler and is published as part of our exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.


1. Helmet

Not everyone wears a helmet on campus, but we all really should, especially if you bike alongside road traffic. Having a helmet that fits properly and snugly to your head can be the difference between a crash that leaves you with a few scuffs and bruises and a crash that leaves you in the hospital for weeks. Sure, helmets aren’t the most fashionable accessories to wear around, but they aren’t made to be a fashion statement, they’re meant to protect your very valuable head. Most helmets consist of a hard plastic shell covering a stiff foam that is made to absorb the crunch of impact instead of letting your skull take the blow. You can learn more about how to properly fit a helmet and the different types of biking helmets available here. I assure you that concussions and other head injuries will cost you a lot more than a good helmet.

it's just like riding a bike

Image by Bill Selak of Flickr Creative Commons

2. Closed-Toed Shoes

Let me tell you a story: one day, my mom and I were at home and my sister was at a friend’s house down the road. We get a call from the friend’s mom saying that Jenny (my sister) had a bicycle accident and that we needed to come right away because she needed to go to the hospital. I was expecting a concussion or a broken arm, but as it turns out, she and her friend were biking around the neighborhood wearing flip-flops, and as they were speeding downhill, her foot slipped off of the pedal and it spun up behind her foot, ripping a big gash into the back of her heel. A few hours and at least ten stitches later, we were all just thankful that her Achilles tendon wasn’t damaged. The moral of the story is to wear shoes that are appropriate for an athletic activity, such as biking, which usually implies shoes that will stay snugly on your feet and cover both your heel and toes. Several long-needled numbing shots into an open wound were enough to convince all of us (but especially Jenny) that flip-flops should never be worn while biking.

3. Pants Leg Clips

Have you ever noticed that many bikers commute with one pants leg rolled up? Many people use biking as a form of transportation more than purely for exercise, which means that they often ride their bikes wearing clothes that they will be wearing for the rest of the day at school or work. Pants legs can be loose and floppy at the bottom, which puts them in danger of getting caught in the chain (causing you to crash, rip your pants, or both) or simply getting a nice black grease stain on them as you ride. Rolling up the pants leg on the chain side can help prevent this problem, but can leave you with freezing cold ankles during the winter or one oddly wrinkly pants leg for the rest of the day at work. Instead, many regular bikers choose to wear pants leg clips to quickly keep their pants held closer to their ankles and safely out of the way of the chain. You can find flexible metal clips or these reflective bands for extra safety at night!

4. Hand signal knowledge and lights!

As a biker on the road, you need to realize that you are considered a vehicle and must follow all of the same traffic rules as the cars, trucks and SUVs on the road with you. Make sure to have lights on your bike when riding anytime near or after sunset: typically a flashing red light at the back of the bike and a white light in the front. It’s also important for your own safety to make sure that other drivers know when you are turning and stopping to prevent devastating crashes. Make sure you know the three main bicycle hand signals, and remember that you typically do all of them with your left hand:

  • Left turn: Left arm extended fully to the side, parallel to the ground.
  • Right turn: Left arm bent at the elbow in a 90º angle with fingertips up toward the sky
  • Slowing or stopping; Left arm bent at the elbow in a 90º angle with fingertips toward the ground

5. Bike Lock

The sad truth about the fact that bikes are nice and often have expensive parts is that they are often a target of theft, especially in a campus-like setting where there are bikes galore all day, every day. Protect your bike by buying a sturdy chain lock or U-lock that is long enough to go through at least one wheel (preferably both), as well as the frame of the bike and the rack to which you are locking the bike. Bike thieves know that most people lock up the frame of their bike, but the wheels and tires are also valuable and can usually be quickly removed from the frame. Prevent this problem with an appropriate lock that can also lock up the wheels as well as the frame, and if you can’t carry your helmet around with you, you can always lock your helmet to your bike as well.

As an added measure of safety, if you ride your bike on campus you should consider registering it with UNC DPS to get a free bike permit, a coupon for 50% off a bike lock, and the serial number of the bike engraved into the frame.

Bonus: Mini bike pump and extra tire tube

You can buy surprisingly tiny bike pumps that will easily fit into your backpack in case you ever have an unexpectedly flat tire! If you’re really dedicated and you rely heavily on your bike to get you from place to place, you should also consider carrying a spare tire tube and patch kit in case of a completely blown tire in a rushed or emergency situation! Learn the simple process of changing a bike tire here.

With these key biking accessories, you’ll be prepared to use your bike to commute quickly and safely without fear of greasy pants legs or flat tires ruining your otherwise lovely day. And if you’re not an outdoor biker in need of various important biking accessories, you can walk on over to the SRC or Ram’s to bike indoors with Campus Recreation to kick-start your fantastic Labor Day weekend! Happy Friday!

Workout Wednesday: Anything but Run

Plenty of blog posts have been solely for that group of people we call “runners.”  You’ll find a post on Map My Run, including 5k and five mile routes on campus.  Also, there aretips for beginning runners and the top rated fall 2012 running shoes.

But what if you aren’t a part of this group?  Just because you don’t run doesn’t mean you can’t be fit, healthy and in shape.  There are plenty of options at UNC Campus Rec gyms that don’t involve the treadmill.

The Bike/Indoor Cycling Class: If you still want to get in some cardio but go easy on the knees and joints, get on a bike!  There are plenty of stationary bikes in the downstairs and upstairs of the SRC, as well as Rams Head Rec Center.  You can go at your own pace on these or take it up a notch and sign up for an indoor cycling class.  Here, you’ll get your fair share of speed work and hills.  You can read my review on a class here.  On the bike you can do interval training and hills, just like running, but it’s more ideal for those who hate to run or are unable to do so due to injuries.

girl on bike 5

Weight Machines: There are plenty of weight machines in both gyms.  These are grouped together so you can switch quickly between (just remember to wipe down the equipment!).  My favorite way to do these machines is to alternate between a lower body exercise (like the hamstring curl) with an upper body exercise (like the overhead press).  Then, I go through most of the machines (confession – there are a few I avoid) two or three times.  Sure, running is great exercise, but strength training is extremely important.  It will build lean muscle, tone you up and rev up your metabolism.

Dumbbells: At the gym, you’ll find everything from just a few pounds to 100-pound dumbbells.  Using a variety of dumbbells for different moves creates an extremely effective workout.  You can perform so many moves – a lunge, a bicep curl, a squat – with just a couple of weights in each hand.  Without putting your feet in front of one another, you’ll work muscles from head to toe.  Again, lifting weights is not something you should skip!  You may be sore for a week or two, but after a couple weeks of weight training, your body with thank you.

bicep curl_AA2

These are just a few options from running.  There is also the elliptical, any group fitness classes – click for schedules, the Stairmaster (which I have a love-hate relationship with), the rowing machine and even swimming.

Another great way to exercise is to do something you love.  If you’re playing an intramural sport or racquetball in Fetzer or playing tennis at the South Campus Recreation Center – you’ll be running, but you won’t even realize it.

So overall, I definitely do give a lot of love to runners.  As a runner myself, I am always reading up on how to improve, different routes to take and the latest styles – but it’s okay if you’re not a runner!  Fitness is not about being able to run a mile; it’s about creating a healthy lifestyle.  Do what you enjoy!

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we’ll be swapping blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on

Bike It!

When I got to Chapel Hill, here’s what I knew about commuting:  if you wanted to get somewhere, you went outside, got in your own car by yourself, and drove to where you needed to be.  At one job, we could walk to lunch places in the Strip District in Pittsburgh but it was pretty impossible to walk 10 miles to work, uphill both ways, in a town that only sees the sun 3 months of the year.  I had not taken a public bus since middle school when we would take the 55M from school to the mall.  Thankfully, my friend Dave taught me how to ride the bus during our first week of work last summer.  Although I learned how to ride a bike when I was younger, I could count the number of times on one hand that I had been on one in the past 10 years and had most certainly never used a bike for transportation instead of recreation. Continue reading