Riding a bicycle is environmentally friendly and offers a great way for you to get where you need to go while also getting exercise. When you ride a bicycle, paying attention to your safety is important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 306,892 bicyclists suffered injuries that required them to visit emergency departments in 2018, and 1,024 were killed. These accidents had many different causes, including impairment, distraction, inadequate separation from traffic, speeding, failing to comply with traffic laws, and others. While bicycle accidents are common, there are some simple measures that you can take to reduce your risk of being injured in a bicycle accident.
Here are 10 tips you can use to stay safe while riding on your bicycle.
1. Obey the traffic laws.
Bicyclists have the same rights as motorists when they use roads or highways. However, they also have the responsibility to obey all traffic laws. Before you head out on your bicycle, you should make sure that you understand the laws that apply to you. Bicyclists must travel in the same direction as traffic and ride as far to the right as possible.
Other rules apply, depending on where you live. Make sure to read the rules that apply in your area and follow them at all times.
2. Make yourself visible.
Since bicycles are much smaller than other types of vehicles, it is harder for motorists to see them. This makes it very important for you to make sure that you are as visible as possible to others when you ride your bicycle.
Wear bright clothing and a brightly-colored bicycle helmet during daylight hours. At night, your clothing should be reflective, and you should have front lights, rear lights, and reflectors.
3. Don’t ride while distracted.
Most people have likely heard about the dangers of distracted driving. Bicyclists are also susceptible to distractions while they ride their bicycles. If you ride your bicycle while glancing down at your phone, you have a much greater risk of having an accident.
You should also avoid riding your bicycle with headphones on because it will decrease your ability to hear traffic around you and distract you from what you are doing.
Don’t talk on your phone while you ride. If you need to answer a call, pull over in a safe place, and stop before beginning a conversation.
4. Don’t ride while impaired.
You should never ride your bicycle after you have been drinking alcohol or using drugs. Alcohol can impair your ability to safely operate your bicycle. People who are impaired by alcohol may have balance problems and slowed reaction times. Some legally prescribed medications have similar effects.
If you are taking prescription medications, read the warning labels to see if they have an impairing effect on your ability to safely operate your bicycle.
If your medication has a warning about not operating machinery, you should assume that it can also impair your ability to ride your bicycle.
5. Maintain your bicycle in good condition.
Keeping your bicycle in good operating condition is essential. Bicycles that need repairs can increase the risks of accidents. Make sure that your bicycle’s brakes are properly functioning. Check the chain, reflectors, lights, handle, and bell to make sure that they are all in good condition.
Make sure that your tires have enough air and that the treads are not worn. Make any repairs that your bicycle might need to keep it in good condition. Finally, make sure that your bicycle is the proper size for you.
6. Do not ride your bicycle on sidewalks.
While you might think that riding on sidewalks is safer than sharing the road with larger vehicles, there are several reasons why riding bicycles on sidewalks is dangerous. Sidewalks are meant to be used by pedestrians.
You are much more likely to collide with a pedestrian on a sidewalk or lose control of your bicycle when trying to avoid someone. Sidewalks are frequently uneven. If you hit a bump while you are riding on a sidewalk, you could crash.
Motorists who are backing out of driveways may not see you when you are riding on a sidewalk. If you enter the road from a sidewalk, motorists who are traveling there may not see you and strike your bicycle.
7. Use bicycle lanes whenever possible.
Many cities are adding bicycle infrastructure, including dedicated bicycle lanes. If you have a protected bicycle lane available to you, make sure to ride in it. Cities are much likelier to add more infrastructure for bicyclists if their lanes are used. This can help to improve both your safety and the safety of others.
8. Keep both hands on the handle.
Other than when you need to signal, you should keep both of your hands on your bicycle’s handle when you ride. Keeping your hands on the handle can improve your balance and control. You should never ride with your hands off of the handle when you are sharing the road with motorists.
If you do not have your hands on the handle, it will slow your reaction time. This can result in an accident because of not being able to react fast enough to avoid an unexpected hazard.
9. Always wear a helmet.
You should always wear a helmet when you ride your bicycle. If you are involved in a bicycle accident, a helmet can greatly reduce your risk of serious injury. Many people who are killed in bicycle accidents fail to wear helmets and suffer head injuries. Wearing a helmet every time that you ride can protect your safety.
10. Follow safe riding practices.
When you ride your bicycle, you will be sharing the road with many types of vehicles. You may also ride near pedestrians. Make certain that you pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Ride on the far right side of the road, and travel in the same direction as traffic. If you are riding in a residential area, watch for cars backing out of driveways onto the street.
If you are riding your bicycle on a shared bicycle and pedestrian path, watch for pedestrians, and give them plenty of room. Check intersections that you cross through for oncoming or turning vehicles, and watch for pedestrians who may be crossing the road. Always signal your intention to turn or to change lanes when wanting to turn left. Make sure to dress in bright clothing with a brightly colored helmet.
Follow all of the traffic laws and yield when needed. Remain alert and aware of your surroundings and be prepared to react if a danger exists.
While these tips are not an exhaustive list, following them can greatly increase your safety when you ride your bicycle. You should also follow other relevant tips. You are responsible for both your safety and the safety of others. By following these and other safety tips, you can reduce your chance of being involved in a bicycle accident.