Cycling has become in the past years more than a way of maintaining our physical shape. People use it for urban mobility, commuting for work, long-distance travel for tourism, and, of course, as an ecological alternative to the traditional (and fossil fuel-burning) vehicles. In the United States alone, the number of regular cyclists increases gradually. In the past three years, statistics registered over fifty million people who ride bikes regularly. However, with this growth in bike users, the risks of accidents become progressively higher. Today, we will discuss bicycle accident prevention and the rules you need to follow at all times.
Most people who use bikes daily, either for recreational purposes or for transportation, know that wearing a helmet and following traffic laws are mandatory. But are they enough to prevent bike accidents? According to the National Safety Council, the majority of bicycle accidents leading to fatalities has its roots in motor vehicle crashes. Although the number of preventable nonfatal bicycle injuries is declining, it does not mean that a car will not hit you in an intersection or an open road, with or without you wearing a helmet.
Most seasoned cyclists who use bikes for commuting and travel traffic-crowded urban areas know they have to wear a helmet. It is more than common sense. They also know that paying attention to and respecting safety signs is something anyone should do to prevent any vehicular accident. In other words, if your bike safety tips start with “wear a helmet” and “follow the law,” you may not have enough information. None of the two will stop cars from hitting you when push comes to shove.
When it comes to a bicycle accident, liability is also an issue you need to consider from a legal perspective. It is not enough to comply with traffic laws. Before you jump on that bike to ride to work every morning and every evening, you need to know all the things you are responsible for and all the things others are responsible for to avoid a bike crash and manage an accident (should it happen) the right way.
Can you prove that the driver did not share the road with you? Can you prove you were not partially at fault for your traumatic injuries in case of an accident? Isn’t it better to prevent than file claims and expect compensations for spinal cord injuries, trauma, piles of medical bills, etc.?
Since we saw that wearing a helmet or following traffic laws is not enough as bike safety methods go, let us detail a handful of more bike accident prevention tips you could integrate into your daily routines!
The law mandates to wear headlights at night. Experts in the field recommend, however, using headlights even during the daytime. Get modern LED lights featuring a flashing mode to make you more visible to motorists during the day. Moreover, headlamps help you become even more visible to any driver because you can look directly at them and make sure they see your light.
It sounds counterintuitive, as riding far into the car lane is cause for accidents, but think about things from another perspective. If you are on the far left, cars behind you will see you. Yes, you may slow down the overall traffic, but cars coming from your right will also see you better. Moreover, when you ride as far to the left as possible, you lower the chances of bumping into a car’s door that opens right in front of you. A driver that cannot see you because you ride to close to the parked cars is more likely to hit you with an open door than the drivers behind you.
Riding on the sidewalk is illegal in many places. It is where knowing and respecting the law comes in. However, even if the law is permissive with sidewalks, you should avoid riding on them anyway. Cars can hit you when they turn or pull out of parking lots or driveways. Moreover, you can injure pedestrians and get injuries if you hit people on the sidewalk. It is better to refrain at all times from such maneuvers.
In case you do not have a helmet mirror or a handlebar mirror, get one now! It is probably going to save your life many times than you can count if you glance in it well before you go through an intersection, take turns, or ride with the flow of traffic.
With the pandemic and the social distancing, more and more people take the bike out for work, physical activities, or fun. In Europe, the necessity of wearing visible cycling gear is now very high on the agendas of traffic safety in many countries. The more visible you are on the road, the fewer risks you have to become the victim of a crash.
According to the NHTSA’s bicycle safety provisions, you should make sure that every time you get on your bike, you wear bright clothing (for the day), reflective gear, front &rear lights, and reflectors (at night, or when visibility is low). Wearing helmets, knowing the law, and riding defensively and predictably are also mandatory knowledge and skills all cyclists should manage.
Experts in bike accident prevention say you should wear reflective vests and bright clothes even when the sun is shining mighty in the sky. Together with the other safety tips combined, you will be less likely vulnerable to accidents, injuries, and lengthy trials or settlement meetings. In a world where cyclists and drivers should share the road in full safety, being responsible for you and the other around you is just as important as learning how to ride a bike in traffic.