Sharing the Road: Essential Bicycle Safety Tips for Riders and Drivers
Cycling is a popular sport, and that trend is only increasing as more people are taking it up for fun, fitness or as a practical way to commute. However, the increased number of cyclists on the road also has the potential to result in serious injuries. Here are some easy ways for riders and drivers to stay safe.
Don’t Skip the Safety Gear
Head injuries are a leading cause of death and severe injury in cyclists of all ages, so the simple step of wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet can save your life. Many accidents are also caused by drivers who simply did not see bikers, so it’s important to wear bright color and reflective gear. Avoid dark clothing, even during daylight. At night, headlights and taillights are also recommended. Many safety-conscious cyclists also buy wheel lights, LED vests and other high-visibility gear.
Act Like a Car
Many novice riders feel safer riding against traffic, but the safest way to ride is to follow the flow. In most locations, cyclists are legally required to follow most of the same traffic laws as cars, including following traffic signals. Riding against traffic or acting in unpredictable ways gives drivers less time to react, making a collision more likely. Hand signals are also a good idea if you plan to turn or stop soon.
Know Your Bike
Before heading out onto roads with heavy traffic, make sure you’re familiar with your bike’s capabilities. Ensure you can shift gears and stop reliably in a variety of circumstances. You don’t want to find yourself coasting in the middle of a busy intersection as you struggle to find the right gear.
Many drivers see cyclists as an annoying hassle, but a collision between a bike and a car can seriously injure or kill the rider while leaving the driver unharmed. Since the size and power of both vehicles is so different, it’s important that drivers take extra caution.
The most important thing is to simply be aware of shared roads. Maintain an appropriate speed for the conditions, and give bikers plenty of room. While local laws can vary, generally a good rule of thumb is to give cyclists at least three feet of space before passing them.
Remember that bicyclists have every right to share the road. The law in most areas treats bicycles about the same way it treats cars. Expect adult riders to follow the same traffic laws you do, and treat them about the same way you’d treat another car in return. Do not underestimate their speed.
Signaling is always important, but it’s especially critical if you’re approaching an intersection when cyclists are around. Since cyclists often ride in bike lanes or on shoulders adjacent to the main road, they may attempt to cross at the same time as or closely following a car heading in the same direction. Simply turning on your turn signal to let riders know that you plan to cross their lane of traffic can prevent an accident.
Most collisions involving a bicycle and a car are easily preventable with a little bit of extra care. Whether you’re driving a bike or an automobile, follow these basic rules and stay alert to avoid accidents.