CyclIng has become one of the most popular activities for people in these isolated times. Bicycle sales are skyrocketing and bike shops can hardly keep them in stock! With that growth in sales and activity, there are more bikes and cyclists on the road and therefore more potential injury. That potential can be reduced dramatically if we all follow some simple techniques and wear good personal protective equipment.
Helmets are a Must for Everyone
Helmets are a must for everyone, not just children. We cannot predict where we might fall, if we do. Head injuries can be permanent and devastating, and mostly preventable with a helmet.
Helmets come in different sizes. Good helmet fit is really important so follow the directions given you by the bike shop or store where you purchase your helmet.
Basic Great Practices (from the Nation Highway Transportation Safety Administration)
- Ride a bike that fits you—if it’s too big, it’s harder to control the bike.
- Ride a bike that works—it really doesn’t matter how well you ride if the brakes don’t work.
- Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing (during the day), reflective gear, and a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike (at night, or when visibility is poor).
- Ride one per seat, with both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.
- Carry all items in a backpack or strapped to the back of the bike.
- Tuck and tie your shoe laces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain.
- Plan your route—if driving as a vehicle on the road, choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.
Be focused and alert to the road and all traffic around you; anticipate what others may do, before they do it. This is defensive driving—the quicker you notice a potential conflict, the quicker you can act to avoid a potential crash:
- Drive with the flow, in the same direction as traffic.
- Obey street signs, signals, and road markings, just like a car.
- Assume the other person doesn’t see you; look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall, like toys, pebbles, potholes, grates, train tracks.
- No texting, listening to music or using anything that distracts you by taking your eyes and ears or your mind off the road and traffic.
By driving predictably, motorists get a sense of what you intend to do and can react to avoid a crash.
Drive where you are expected to be seen, travel in the same direction as traffic, and signal and look over your shoulder before changing lane position or turning.
Avoid or minimize sidewalk riding. Cars don’t expect to see moving traffic on a sidewalk and don’t look for you when backing out of a driveway or turning. Sidewalks sometimes end unexpectedly, forcing the bicyclist into a road when a car isn’t expecting to look for a bicyclist. If you must ride on the sidewalk remember to:
- Check your law to make sure sidewalk riding is legal;
- Watch for pedestrians;
- 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. This way, if the sidewalk ends, you are already riding with the flow of traffic. If crossing a street, motorists will look left, right, left for traffic. When you are to the driver’s left, the driver is more likely to see you;
- Slow and look for traffic (left-right-left and behind) when crossing a street from a sidewalk; be prepared to stop and follow the pedestrian signals; and
- Slow down and look for cars backing out of driveways or turning.
Improve Your Riding Skills
No one learns to drive a vehicle safely without practice and experience; safely riding your bike in traffic requires the same preparation. Start by riding your bike in a safe environment away from traffic (a park, path, or empty parking lot).
Take an on-bike class through your school, recreation department, local bike shop or bike advocacy group. Confidence in traffic comes with learning how to navigate and communicate with other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Review and practice as a safe pedestrian or bicyclist is great preparation for safe riding.
More Information and Helpful Links
- Bicycle Safety from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
- Rules of the Road (PDF, 92.17 KB)
- How to Fit a Bike Helmet (PDF, 2.29 MB)