Bicycle Safety

As warmer weather approaches, more and more cyclists will take to the public roads. In 2011, 677 pedalcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes. All road users must respect each other to foster a safer transportation environment. As an avid cyclist, I thought it important to review some excellent safety tips.

Bicycles, on the roadway, are like any other vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities. It goes without saying, any cyclist should be wearing a well fitted helmet, colorful clothing, and obey the rules of the road. Here are some additional safety measures for cyclists to avoid being struck by an inattentive driver.

1. Gain Motorist Attention . When cycling through an intersection, it is important to gain the stopped motorist’s attention to alert the driver that you are present. A good attention grabber is a headlight with flashing mode on your bicycle. A cyclist should also attempt to get a motorist’s attention by making eye contact and waving before safely proceeding through an intersection. If you are unable to make eye contact with the driver, you should slow down if a sudden stop is required.

2. Watch for Car Doors . As cyclists drive past parked cars, it is common to stay close to the car. Unfortunately, when a driver suddenly opens the door, the cyclist is faced with little choice. This is a common type of crash and can be avoided by riding far enough to the left that you will not run into any door if it is opened unexpectedly.

3. Avoid Sidewalks . For serious cyclists sidewalk riding can be very dangerous. The cyclist is vulnerable to cars pulling out of parking lots or driveways. You are also threatening pedestrians and dog walkers that also cause bad crashes. It also becomes very dangerous as the cyclist attempts to make a street crossing at a crosswalk where drivers are not expecting bikes in the crosswalk. It is hard for the motorist to see you because of the nature of turning from one street to the other so it is very easy to get hit this way.

4. Don’t Ride Against Traffic . Each year a number of serious injuries and deaths occur because the cyclist attempts to ride against traffic. The problem occurs when a car turns out onto the road from a side street not expecting to see a cyclist in the wrong lane. The motorist had no reason to expect that someone would be coming at them from the wrong direction.

5. Avoid Blind Spots . Cyclists stopping at a red light should pull up next to a driver and make eye contact. If the cyclist stops in the unsuspecting driver’s blind spot, there is a risk of getting hit when the light turns green. It is important that the cyclist’s presence be made aware before the driver takes off at the green light deciding to turn directly into the path or into the body of the cyclist.

6. Beware of the Pass/Right-hand Turn . Another common situation when cyclists are hit on the road occurs when a motorist passes and then makes an immediate right-hand turn. The cyclist is confronted with the turning car and usually has nowhere to go other than into the side of the car. Once again, avoid riding on sidewalks because of the danger of turning cars. When riding on the road, the cyclist should be mindful of cars coming up from behind who may attempt this dangerous pass and turn. It is advisable to have a handle bar or helmet mirror to monitor traffic coming up from the rear. The same logic applies – cyclist should never attempt to pass a vehicle on the right-hand side at an intersection. It could be that the motorist decides to make a right-hand turn into the path of the cyclist.

7. Keep Your Line . In order to avoid being rear-ended on a bicycle, the cyclist must never ever move left without looking behind. Some motorists like to pass cyclists within mere inches, so moving even a tiny bit to the left unexpectedly could put you in the path of a car. Once again, a rearview mirror is important and will help in monitoring traffic coming up front behind.

8. Beware of Night Riding . Some 60% of bike collisions are caused by cyclists riding at night without lights. A recent study showed that 39% of deaths on bicycles nationwide occurred between 6:00 P.M. and midnight. If a cyclist rides at night, he or she must have a flashing red rear light. The cyclist should also wear reflective clothing such as a safety triangle.

By following these safety tips and obeying the rules of the road, cyclists are much less likely to be struck by a motor vehicle. As a fellow cyclist, let’s look forward to warmer weather and safe peddling.

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