Bicycle safety is a matter of utmost concern to all cyclists on the road. As bikers, we are not protected by the steel frames and airbags of motor vehicles. We all know that wearing bright colors can help you be seen, and that you should always wear a helmet to protect your head in the event of a crash. But are you familiar with all the ways you can avoid crashes?
Bicycle Safety Tips You May Not Know
- Remain alert and vigilant at all times. As cyclists, sometimes we want to zone out and just enjoy the ride, tuning out from the rest of the world, maybe taking in some music or losing ourselves in our thoughts. But in order to remain safe, our attention and concentration must remain on the road and our surroundings. Many bicycle crashes are avoidable. Take off the earphones, stay aware of other vehicles, and focus on the road in front of and around you. In addition, remain properly hydrated as dehydration can zap your focus and cause you to feel sleepy and disoriented.
- Use a rear-view mirror or look behind you often to avoid impact from the rear. Many bikers travel on the wrong side of the road or on sidewalks because they are afraid of being struck from behind. Instead, invest a few bucks in a quality rear-view mirror that will allow you to keep a close eye on oncoming traffic. If a vehicle is closing in on you, you may choose to allow them to pass, but remember to leave at least 18 inches between you and the curb. If, after a few minutes, the driver has still not passed, you may choose to pull over and allow them to proceed if you are uncomfortable having them behind you.
- Look both ways before exiting a driveway or parking lot. This may seem like common sense, but the number one cause of accidents involving fatalities is being struck by a vehicle when leaving a driveway. Make sure you can clearly see BOTH ways and take a moment to ensure you can accurately judge the speed on oncoming traffic. I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen bikers look towards oncoming traffic but fail to check the other direction, at vehicles who may be turning.
- You are more visible on the road. Bicyclists often assume that by riding on the sidewalks or the curb they are reducing their risk of being struck, however bikers are far more visible riding on the road, preferably in the center of the lane. Sidewalks often stop without warning which means you will be jutting on and off the road. It’s better to remain on the road instead of veering on and off again.
- Watch carefully for road debris. By riding in the center of the lane, you can quickly move about to avoid road debris and potholes- that is, if you see them in time. A recent AAA report indicates that road debris caused over 200,000 crashes in a four-year period. They recommend scanning the road every 12-15 seconds to help avoid crashes. Bicycle safety starts with the cyclists, but it extends to every other vehicle on the road.
- Obey the law and follow the rules of the road, just like any other vehicle. Bikers have the rights of any other vehicle, but they also have the same responsibilities. That means that cyclists must observe the right-of-way, be in the proper lane, and signal when turning. This also means stopping at traffic lights and stop signs.
Many crashes are not “accidents.” Thousands of crashes each year are avoidable just by obeying the rules of the road. Cyclists should remain abreast of bicycle safety and invest the time in a course to learn how to bike safely.
Of course, motorists also need to be respectful of the rights of cyclists. If a motorist endangers your life or welfare by buzzing you or riding too close behind you, take down their license plate number and notify the police. This risky behavior, although rare, is not acceptable.
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Fortunately, as cycling is becoming more popular, motorists are becoming more familiar with and aware of bikers on the road. Still, as we all know, drivers are often inattentive and preoccupied with their cell phones, eating, children in the car, music, and a number of other distractions. We, as cyclists, must practice bicycle safety by riding defensively and always being aware of the others on the road around us.
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