It’s spring (finally), and for a lot of people, that means getting those gears back in action—literally—by hopping back on their bikes. Before you do that, though, it’s always good to have a little refresher of some bike safety precautions you can take to help reduce your risk of being involved in a bike/car accident.
First, consider whether the weather, traffic conditions and actual roads are suitable for riding before you head out. Bike brakes don’t work as well in the rain, so wet weather might mean that you would need to use an abundance of caution. It’s also a good idea to keep your speed below 15 miles per hour if you’re riding in city traffic. Generally, it’s a good speed to allow you ample stopping distance and reaction time if you need it. Second, take a moment to consider these bicycle safety tips from bicyclesafe.com:
Stay on quieter streets. If you decide that you’d rather bike somewhere that you normally drive, don’t take it for granted that the best way to get there by bike is the same as the best route in your car. If you normally drive on heavily-trafficked roads, try to find a bike route that allows you to use roads with fewer and slower-moving cars. Although as a cyclist, you do have the same right to use the busier roads as the motorists do, it is generally safer if you can ride through neighborhoods with less traffic as much as possible.
Remember to signal. Chances are pretty good that if you are conscientious driver, you use your directional signals every time you are about to turn—and you likely do it on auto-pilot, or without giving it much of a thought. That instinct should be the same when you’re cycling. As careful and considerate as a motorist might be, he won’t be able to read your mind or predict what direction you’re intending to go. So, it’s essential that you use the universal arm signals before you turn right or left, and always look behind you when turning left, just to be sure that there aren’t any cars coming.
Avoid using mobile electronic devices while riding. Just like it’s dangerous to drive with headphones in, or while texting or even talking on a mobile phone, it’s similarly dangerous to ride a bike while engaged in these activities. Mobile phones (and listening to music with headphones) present a distraction, and it’s crucial that you are as alert and attuned to your surroundings as possible while riding your bike.
Pretend you’re invisible. Yes, you read that correctly. In other words, ride as though any motorists who are on the road don’t see you. That means that if you’re riding in a way that would cause a car to need to take action to avoid hitting you, then you are relying on that driver to be undistracted, alert and trustworthy to do so. If you’re riding so that it doesn’t matter whether the driver sees you or not, then you are in control and you won’t be hit, even if the driver doesn’t see you. The bottom line is that although you do want drivers to be able to see you while you’re cycling, you also don’t want to have to rely on those drivers for your safety. So, before you maneuver, think about whether you could make the turn or if you’re riding safely even if you were invisible — and, if not, then you’re trusting the driver to take the correct action, which might not always happen.
Use appropriate lighting when riding at night. Headlights and tail lights are equally important when riding in the dark. Many of the “blinky” tail lights are inexpensive and available at your local bike shop. You can also purchase LED headlights so that the bulbs will last up to ten times as long as traditional lights.
Sometimes, taking the whole lane is safest. It might seem like the smartest way to ride is to hug the right curb, but that’s not always the case. There are three main reasons why moving to the left can help you:
- A car at an intersection in front of you can see you better in the middle of the road than if you’re on the edge.
- If you’re towards the right on a road where there are parked cars, you’re in danger of being hit by a driver opening his door without warning.
- Taking the lane can avoid cars buzzing past you too closely.
You have to use judgment in each scenario as to whether taking the line is safe or practicable. It ultimately will depend on whether the road is narrow, has a lot of intersections and driveways, and the speed of the traffic. If you must ride towards the center of the lane in order to avoid parked cars and traffic from the right, but there are cars forced to slow behind you or change lanes to go around you, then it’s likely not a good road for bicycling.
Remember, plain, old fashioned common sense goes a long way when riding your bicycle. Be aware of your surroundings, try to communicate your intentions to motorists, and take precautions with speed and traffic considerations. If you do get injured, McIntyre Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.