If you are a bicyclist then you probably already know the two major rules of riding a bicycle in traffic: Wear a helmet, and obey the law. But while these rules are imperative to bicycle safety, there is still a gulf of additional advice that will help to keep you safe while you ride your bike through town. Michael Bluejay, on his website bicyclesafe.com, outlines the most frequent bicycling accidents and how you can avoid them. Complements of Bluejay, the following are some quick tips on how to maximize your bicycle safety.
Do not ride on the sidewalk
Sidewalks can be uneven, and packed with pedestrians who are liable to be harmed by your bicycle. Furthermore, coming off the sidewalk to cross the street—at a crosswalk or otherwise—has the potential to surprise motorists who might not have been aware of your presence. Motorists making a turn or pulling out of a parking lot/driveway will likely not see you. It is best for everyone if you ride your bicycle in the street. But, of course, even then you must be careful.
Do not ride against traffic
First of all, it is illegal to ride on the opposite side of the road. And while it can seem beneficial to see vehicles as they approach you, drivers making right-hand turns will likely not account for a bicycle riding against the flow of traffic. Furthermore, a head-on collision with a car will likely be more severe than one with a car moving in the same direction.
Make sure you are noticed
It is always important that traffic is aware of your presence, especially when you are riding in the evening. As it gets darker it is obviously going to be harder for drivers to see you. This can be remedied with the use of reflectors, both on your clothes and on your bike. Of course, reflectors might not suit your style; in that case, wearing bright colored clothes can attract a driver’s attention. But the best idea is to invest in a headlight for your bicycle. A taillight helps too.
Buy a mirror
If you are riding on the street among motor vehicles, it is not a bad idea to consider your bicycle as a type of motor vehicle. The installation of a headlight is a good first step toward this line of thought. Another vital investment is a mirror. Most bike shops offer mirrors which will attach to your handlebars or helmet. Knowing what is happening behind you is an important way to stay safe on the roads.
Plan your routes
You may know the fastest way to get from point A to point B, but do you know the safest way? Choose to ride your bicycle on wider streets that allow room for car traffic and bike traffic. Also know which streets have slower speed limits: if a driver is moving at a slower speed, he or she has more time to see you. Slower speed limits also mean less damage in the event of an accident. Also, know when a street is at its busiest: some streets are busier on the weekend than during the week, and vice versa. In short, always consider the conditions of your route.
According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 769 bicycle deaths in 2006, and a study run by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says 16 of those deaths occurred in Pennsylvania. It is of the utmost importance that all bicyclists wear helmets while riding, but do not let a helmet be the end of your bicycle safety. There are many ways to practice good bicycle safety.
If you found this article helpful, try reading our “5 Simple Ways to Avoid Motor Vehicle Accidents” article, located on the Carpey Law website.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.