Whether you are a weekend warrior, a five day commuter, or are just looking to get some exercise and save money on gas, bicycle road safety is of utmost importance for all classes of bike riders. Unlike a car accident, getting hit or falling down on a bicycle can result in severe injury, disability, or in the worst cases, even death. Wearing a helmet can prevent the most serious of injuries from occurring, but following a few simple guidelines can help to prevent the large majority of accidents that bike riders face. Here are three tips to make sure you stay accident free and enjoy your riding time, all of the time.
1. Ride on the right side of the road
While this may seem like a legal no-brainer, I still see a lot of cyclists riding in danger by riding illegally. The correct place to ride your bike is on the right side of the street, going with the flow of traffic, utilizing the bike lane. The bike lane is safer than the sidewalk because it allows a much higher level of visibility both for you and for the drivers moving behind you. People are looking out for riders in the bike lane, and often don’t expect or look for a cyclist riding on the sidewalk. Plus, the bike lane is usually smooth and allows for a higher speed and efficiency in riding. Its win-win!
The other important factor is riding with the flow of traffic. If riding against traffic, you are not only in a spot where people will not be expecting a moving vehicle; you are also going to encounter a significantly higher number of cars. Moving with the flow of traffic, your speed is often similar to that of other cars, meaning that few will be passing you. Riding against, cars will be zipping by every couple of seconds. More cars passed equals a higher risk of accident, period.
2. Be visible!
Lack of visibility is often the cause of bicycle accidents which could be easily avoided. In 1999, a study was made which showed that 39% of biking fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight. This should be a shocking statistic, as this is a time where very few people are actually riding their bikes. This is owed to a sharp decrease in visibility at night time. While night riding should be avoided, if it is necessary then bike lights and bright clothing, as well as reflectors should be used.
Even during the day, using a light can mean the difference between a car hitting you or giving you the extra space you need to ride comfortably. Visibility is the number one way to increase your safety on a bike.
3. Be aware
Awareness on your part is also a very important piece in the cycling equation. This is easier to achieve on short rides where your mind and body will not be extremely fatigued. If listening to music, use only one earphone or a speaker to ensure you will be able to hear and react to traffic before it becomes a safety hazard.
Installing a rear view mirror on your helmet or handlebars can also be a great way to identify problem drivers that are either getting too close for comfort or seem to be blissfully unaware. This gives you time to slow down and get off the road to avoid a collision.
Finally, be aware of road conditions and the condition of your own bike. If roads are wet, and your brakes are not totally up to par, you must be hyper-aware of all stops on your route so that you do not ride straight into traffic.
Bicycle road safety is very important, no matter how often you ride. By following these three easy steps, a huge number of accidents can be avoided, and you will be able to ride with a greater peace of mind. Riding a bike doesn’t have to be unsafe – Ride where you should, make yourself visible to others, and make sure that you yourself are aware of all surroundings and conditions. Most importantly, enjoy the ride.