The summer season has arrived! It is time to emerge out of hibernation and enjoy the outdoors. Biking is a great way to enjoy the summer weather, get some exercise, and be a bit greener. However, as the number of people biking has increased so has the death toll. One study cited a 29 percent increase between 2010- 2017. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy a bike ride this summer, but you do need to be mindful about safety. Here are some easy ways to keep yourself safe during this biking season:
Have Proper Equipment and Gear
Firstly, make sure the bike you are riding is in proper condition. The seat should be at an appropriate height and locked into place. All the gears and brakes need to be in working order. The pedals and spokes should have reflectors. A bell and rearview mirror are also recommended. Additionally, as personal injury attorney and avid cyclist Dan Stanton of Cooney and Conway says, “I would suggest a blinking red light on the back of your bike and a white light on the front.” While this is a law in some jurisdictions for nighttime riding, Stanton suggests if for daytime use as well.
Secondly, children and adults should always wear a helmet no matter the duration or destination of the ride. The helmet should be certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and fit according to NHTSA guidelines. Finally, wear bright and reflective clothing anytime you are riding because as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns, “Wearing white has not been shown to make you more visible. “
Know the Rules of the Road
Bicyclists are to follow all the rules and traffic laws that apply to motorists. Always go with the flow of traffic, ride single-file if with fellow riders, and be predicable by riding in a straight line. Do not weave in and out of traffic. Also, learn how to signal properly for turning and stopping.
The increase of cyclists has brought upon the rising installation of bike lanes. Cyclists should know the ordinances in their jurisdiction but, for instances in the State of Minnesota, cyclists are not required by law to use them. This is chiefly because motorists use or park in these lines, despite the rules in place to prevent them from doing so. As a cyclist make sure to look behind you whenever you are entering or exiting a bike lane, signal, and yield to traffic as necessary.
Generally, sidewalk riding is not permissible for anyone over the age of ten because the road has been deemed the safest place for bikes in terms of cyclists’ safety and the safety of pedestrians as well. Many jurisdictions have various laws and ordinances about riding on the sidewalk, for instance, in the City of Chicago individuals over the age of 12 are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk unless it is officially marked as a biking route.
As a cyclist you always need to be alert for hazardous road conditions that may make you lose control of your bike. Even though laws state motorists are supposed to verify the way is clear before opening their door, as Stanton warns, “You have to assume a car door is going to open on every car you pass, leave yourself an out.” It is also advisable to be aware of cars making right turns without signaling.
You also need to be alert of pedestrians, many times they are unaware of bike lanes and are only looking for motorists and not bikes especially if the bike lanes are in between sidewalks and parked cars. Don’t be afraid to use a bike bell or shout out to keep them and you safe.
The biggest factor in preventing accidents is to be seen, so wear those bright colors, make eye contact with drivers when crossing an intersection, ride in a group if possible, and make noise or big arms movements to be noticed if necessary.
Sometimes despite our best efforts accidents still happen, Stanton says, “In my experience drivers like to blame cyclists for collisions. Every driver paints the cyclist as the cause of the collisions. Her clothing was too dark. He had no reflectors or light. He wasn’t following the rules of the road etc.” Taking these safety precautions will not only keep you safe but also help you in a cause of action should you have an accident. If an accident does occur Stanton says: “Call the police. Take pictures of the damage. Get the necessary medical attention.”
Staying alert and keeping yourself safe with these few easy tips can make biking a really enjoyable activity especially on these warm summer days.