Road safety for cyclists
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The pandemic unarguably changed the way most of us live our lives for the better part of 2020, from practicing social distancing to wearing masks and frequently washing our hands to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Things are finally taking a turn towards normalcy as many establishments ease up on restrictions with the increase of vaccinated Americans.
People are starting to venture out and enjoy life, and with summer just around the corner, many will choose cycling as their primary source of transportation or fitness. As things get back to normal, more cars are also on the road as families start making summer plans. Now that traffic is picking back up, cyclists and drivers need to be cautious on the road.
Cyclist safety tips
No matter when you are cycling, prioritizing your safety and the safety of those around you is key. The best way to stay safe is to remain aware of your surroundings. You should never assume that others on the road can see you, and you should follow cycling laws at all times. Here are a few tips to help you stay safer on your bicycle.
Biking in traffic
Biking in traffic is often unavoidable, but you could find yourself in a dangerous situation if you do not stay vigilant. It may be challenging for drivers to see bicyclists due to blind spots, so keep your eyes on the cars around you at all times and give yourself space to maneuver if a vehicle should unexpectedly change lanes or brake. You should also use appropriate signaling. Most states require cyclists to ride with the flow of traffic, but be sure to research bicycling laws in your area before you gear up and get on the road.
Off-road biking is a great fitness activity, but it can be more challenging than biking on paved roads and has its own set of risks. Ensure you have a bike equipped to handle off-roading, as standard bicycles do not have durable enough tires. Be careful to steer clear of obstructions such as large rocks or trees, and always wear appropriate safety gear.
While many states permit riding on sidewalks, pedestrians always have the right of way. It can be difficult to stop abruptly to avoid those out walking, and you could potentially injure yourself or someone else. It is best to avoid cycling on sidewalks when possible or make sure you have a clear line of sight if you must. Use hand signals for oncoming pedestrians and fellow bikers.
If you ride in an area with roads, chances are you’ll eventually encounter road construction, which can be very hazardous to cyclists. Road construction presents unique obstacles, including unfamiliar travel patterns and construction debris that could puncture your tire or cause you to crash. Stay extra vigilant when you encounter construction, paying close attention to signage, signals from workers and the road itself for stray objects.
Bicycle safety features
Cyclists face a unique set of risks on the road because they are completely exposed to the elements. The risk of injury is also much more significant on a bicycle if there is a collision. Some things are beyond our control, but luckily, modern bikes come with several great safety features. Some features are standard, while others can be purchased and added as an accessory. These gadgets make riding a bit safer.
Riding at night can be especially dangerous because it is hard to see and be seen. Lights can enhance your line of sight and signal to others on the road that you are approaching. Bike lights come in different colors and can be added to the front or back of your bike, your helmet, or even your wheels.
Almost everyone who cycles these days wears a helmet, and some states even require it. Even if your state does not require it, wearing a helmet while cycling is a good idea. Helmets protect you from a head injury in the event of an accidental fall or crash. Helmets come in different sizes and have adjustable straps to fit your head correctly, so ensure that your helmet fits properly to protect you better.
Similar to bike lights, reflectors are a great tool to make others on the road aware of your presence. A reflector is less intense than a light but still helps cars, cyclists and pedestrians see you at night. Many bikes come with reflectors pre-installed, and they can be located anywhere on the bike. Most often, they appear on the rear, front and wheels of the bike.
Just like a car has a horn to alert other drivers on the road, a bike bell serves the same purpose. Bicycles are relatively quiet from a distance, so unless someone happens to see you, they may not be aware you are approaching them. Whether there are cars, other bikers or pedestrians, chiming your bike bell lets others know you are in the vicinity. Some bikes come with bells installed, or you can purchase and install one yourself.
Bike road rules
There are rules to follow when biking on the road to ensure everyone’s safety. As a cyclist, you are immersed in traffic with other vehicles and bikers. So, before you grab your bike and hit the road, you should make sure you are aware of the rules and be prepared to follow them.
State-by-state bicycle laws
From one state to the next, bicycle laws vary. While some states require all cyclists to wear a helmet, others are more lenient and rely on personal discretion. Many states also dictate where you can ride. Some states require you to stay in the bike lane, and others allow you to ride on the highway. Because laws are subject to change, it is important to check often to ensure you comply with your state and community bicycle laws.
When driving a vehicle, drivers communicate their intentions using signaling lights on their car. Blinkers indicate an upcoming turn, and brake lights show they are slowing down and possibly coming to a complete stop. Because bicycles are not equipped with these lights, cyclists should use universal hand gestures to show others when they turn or stop. Appropriate signaling can prevent collisions because it gives the drivers, cyclists and pedestrians near you awareness about what you are planning to do next.
Insurance and bike collisions
A collision between a car and a bike is treated in some ways like a typical car crash. Typically, the driver’s insurance company covers any resulting costs, depending on their level of insurance coverage. But if their policy does not have adequate coverage, the biker’s auto policy might pay to fill in coverage gaps. If you bike frequently, it is a good idea to make sure your insurance plan has enough coverage to make sure you are fully covered in the event of a collision.
Tips for drivers
If you drive a car, there are times you must share the road with bicyclists. You should make sure you do your part to keep everyone safe and keep an eye out for bicycles to avoid potential collisions.
Respect the bike lane
Many roads across the country have designated bike lanes for cyclists to travel safely at their own pace without disrupting traffic flow. As a driver, make sure you are not driving in this lane, except when crossing it as necessary to make a turn. Also, make sure you do not drive too closely or veer into the bike lane, especially if a bicyclist is currently using the lane.
Maintain safe distance
If a bicycle is on the road while you are driving, maintaining a safe distance from them is crucial for everyone’s safety. Bicyclists need more time to increase or decrease their speed, so if a car follows too closely, it is easy for a collision to happen.
Pass on left
The rule for passing other cars in the U.S. is to pass on the left. The same is valid for passing cyclists. In some states, it is not just a courtesy but a law to pass any other kind of vehicle on the left side of the road.
Look before opening doors
Once parked, it is essential to check your surroundings before you open your door. Often, on major roads that have bike lanes, the curb is parallel to the lane. So before you are ready to exit your car, be sure there are no oncoming cyclists, as an open car door can obstruct their path and potentially cause injury.
When you are behind the wheel of a car, you must stay focused on the road. Minimize distractions such as cell phones and remain aware of your surroundings. Lack of distractions lessens your chances of a crash and makes the roads safer for drivers and cyclists.
Safety tips for kids
Biking can be a fun way for kids to stay active, but always making sure they are supervised and road-ready. Every child is different, but these tips can help ensure your children stay safe while bicycling.
Having the right size bike for your child is crucial. A small bike may be uncomfortable, but a bike that is too big can be detrimental. They should easily get on and off the bike and reach the pedals and the ground. Every child should be fitted for their bikes and accessories. Small children grow fast, so you should check their gear at least once a year to ensure they have not outgrown their equipment.
- Lights and reflectors: Helps kids see better at night and be noticed by others.
- Bright clothing: Brightly colored clothes will help your child stand out in traffic, allowing drivers to easily see them and avoid any possible crashes.
- Correct footwear:Proper footwear is important to keep your little one’s feet protected from the ground and debris. Sneakers cover the whole foot, while flip flops leave their feet exposed and can be dangerous when pedaling.
- Bell or horn: A bell or horn helps children alert others that they are riding in the area.
- Training wheels: Training wheels help beginning bikers maintain balance.
Where to ride
To make riding fun and safe for the whole family, establish rules for your child to follow while bicycling. Every parents’ rules may look a bit different, but here are a few safety tips that anyone can implement into their own family bicycling rules:
- Stay close: Make sure your child stays close to you while riding a bike. Keeping them within reach helps you easily intervene if need be.
- Don’t stay out too late: Traveling in the dark can be challenging for drivers and bikers alike. Once the sun starts to set, it is best to end kids’ bike rides to keep them safe.
- Stay out of busy roads: Because children are small, it is even more difficult for drivers to see them. Also, they may not be as cautious on the road as adults.
- Follow traffic signals: Obeying traffic signals helps prevent possible collisions. Teach your kids to pay attention to traffic lights and street signs, so they know when they have the right of way.