According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 49,000 bicyclists were injured and 726 bicyclists were killed in 2012. We can change this.
Bicycle safety is the use of safety practices to reduce the risks associated with cycling on trails, paths, in parks, and on public roadways. Every cyclist must know and understand that once they enter into public space, by law, bicycles are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles.
On trails and in parks, one of the most common complaints pedestrians have about bicyclists is how they pedal up from behind unannounced and leave you startled as they pass at a high rate of speed. Another common complaint, from motorists, is how bicyclists tend to think they own the road and how they weave and turn without paying any attention to the traffic around them. Whenever a bicyclist enters into a public space, s/he must realize and understand that by law, bicycles in public transportation spaces are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs and follow all traffic laws.
As recreationalists, there are many things we can do personally to increase our safety. The first is taking personal responsibility for our own safety.
A large percentage of crashes can be avoided if motorists and cyclists follow the rules of the road and watch out for each other. The National Bicycle Theft Registry bicycle safety-tips focus on encouraging safer choices on the part of bicyclists and drivers, to help reduce injuries and deaths on our roadways.
In many cities, helmets are required when riding a bicycle on public roadways. Regardless, it is safe practice to always wear a helmet when riding because they greatly reduce the risk of head injury in the event of a fall or crash. To learn more about proper fitting helmets, please visit https://helmets.org/.
Ride a properly functioning bicycle. This means the crank, gears, axle, and breaks all work. A bike that does not work is an accident waiting to happen.
Wear reflective gear that makes you more visible to others. A front and back light, plus side reflectors, are required in most cities.
Ultimately, our safety is based on the level of personal responsibility we take in the management of our daily life. This includes how our behavior impacts the safety of others. When we are in a public space, we must not only watch out for our own safety but we must also keep others safe by not conducting ourselves in a manner that creates dangerous situations or imposes upon the sanctity of others.
keep both hands on the handlebars when riding, unless signaling to make a turn. Before getting on the bicycle, make sure both pant legs and shoe laces are safely tucked and there is nothing that can obstruct or catch moving parts.
Carry all items in a backpack or strapped to the bike. Do not carry items using your hands or strapped to your arms from the elbows to the hands. Also avoid carrying items strapped to your leg between the knee and foot.
Use bike lanes or bike paths when bicycling in public areas, and proper hand signaling when making turns. Do not weave or make unpredictable maneuvers when others are near and do not exceed 10 mph. When approaching others from behind, slow to less than 5 mph and announce your presence by stating which side you will be passing on. When passing children or pets, be prepared for sudden, unpredictable movement toward your bicycle and be ready to react quickly.
When riding on public roadways, plan your route and avoid congested areas. Use bicycle lanes, trails, and pathways as much as possible and avoid sidewalks. If you have to use a sidewalk, it is best practice to walk your bike.
5. Defensive Bicycle Safety
Earlier we stated that taking personal responsibility includes conducting ourselves in a manner that does not impeded upon the safety or sanctity of others. Defensive bicycling includes a set of practices that keep us safe.
Ride with the flow of traffic, in the same direction.
Obey all street signs, signals, and road markings.
Assume others cannot see you. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, looking ahead for hazards or dangerous situations that can cause a fall or crash.
No texting, listening to loud music or using anything that distracts or inhibits your eyes and ears or takes your mind off the road and traffic.
6. Rider Predictability
Rider predictably is important to motorists, so they can get a sense of what you intend to do and be prepared to react should the unexpected occur.
When on public roadways, bicyclists should always stay to the right of traffic where they are expected to be, and travel in the same direction as traffic. Bicyclists must also signal when making turns and look over their shoulder before changing lane position or turning. This holds true even if the bicycle has a rearview mirror.
Bicyclists should always avoid or minimize the use of sidewalks, especially in areas where a bicycle lane is provided. If a bicyclist must use a sidewalk, they should:
Check the law to make sure sidewalk riding is legal;
Pass pedestrians with care by first announcing "on your left" or "passing on your left" or use a bell;
Ride in the same direction as traffic. If crossing a street, keep in mind motorists will look left, right, then left again for traffic. Always stay within the expected view of the driver;
When crossing a street from a sidewalk, slow and look in both directions then behind you. When at a crosswalk, bicyclists are expected to follow all pedestrian rules and should be prepared to stop. Riders should walk their bicycle across busy intersections and on busy sidewalks; and
Slow down and look for unexpected traffic, such a car backing out of a drive way or a car door unexpectedly opens.