Spring weather is perfect for cycling your city’s streets. Biking alongside cars is legal in most states, but taking precautionary steps to ensure your own safety when sharing the road is just as important as knowing how to ride a bike itself.
Wear a Headlamp or Use a Bike Light
Although it should be common sense, using a bike light in both the day and nighttime hours can significantly reduce your risk of accidents. In many cities, bike lights are required by law. At night, they help drivers see whether you are approaching their vehicle or moving away from them and helps them gauge approximately how fast you are going. This helps drivers judge when and how they can move around you.
Use Designated Bike Lane
In some places, bike lanes have been added to the shoulders of major roads to encourage bikers to use them instead of riding in car lanes. While bikes and motor vehicles are legally allowed to share roadways in cities, bike lanes offer a safer alternative to cyclists by allowing them to go slower than vehicle traffic and still utilize the efficiency of a tarred surface.
Slow Down Approaching Intersections
Even though you may have the right of way in an intersection, if a car is turning right to enter the same thoroughfare from an intersection, the driver may have trouble seeing your bicycle. If you notice a car approaching the intersection from a cross-street, slow down to a speed that would allow you to stop suddenly should the car fail to notice you. Being prepared to stop near an intersection could save you from a dangerous collision.
Always Bike in the Right Direction
Biking against the flow of traffic makes you three times more likely to have a bike-related accident. Whether you are riding on the streets or on a sidewalk designed for bicycle traffic, biking with the flow of traffic makes it easier to make drivers aware of your presence on the roadways and reduces the relative speed of impact if you get hit. If you are traveling 15 MPH with the flow of traffic, a rear impact from a car going 35 MPH means you will be hit with a 20 MPH force. However, if you are riding against the flow of traffic, the relative impact speed will be 50 MPH, a potentially deadly force.
Even for the safest cyclists, the threat of impact is always present. Wearing a helmet that fits and long pants every time you ride will help make an accident with a vehicle a little more tolerable. Crash helmets are designed to take the impact of a fall or sudden stop and save your head from unnecessary force. In some counties, crash helmets are required for every bike rider on a public street.
Stop Behind Cars at Red Lights
If you are sharing the road with cars, do not stop beside a car at a red light. Instead, stop behind the vehicle so that you are not in the driver’s blind spot. A driver that forgets to use the indicator signal to make a right turn may not see your bike beside the car and turn into you as you try to go straight through the intersection.
Use Back Roads
During busy times of the week, like on weekends, it is smarter to use back roads to get to your destination than to try and venture out onto main streets where traffic is heavier. Back streets also usually have lower speed limits, meaning cars on the road will be traveling at safer speeds should a collision happen.
Equip Your Bicycle with Mirrors
For just a few dollars, you can purchase a rearview mirror for your bicycle. Mirrors allow you to get a full picture of what’s behind you, not just the glimpses you catch when you turn your head around to check for oncoming cars. Mirrors help you anticipate whether an approaching driver can see you on the road and helps you take precautionary maneuvers if danger seems near.
Know Your Rights
If you end up in an accident, it is important to know your rights before challenging a driver or getting into an altercation. While you should always talk to an experienced attorney after an accident, immediately following the crash, be aware of who had the right of way, what your rights are to use the road you are cycling on, and how to talk to the police officer attending the scene. You can reduce headaches by being polite and having your information ready to exchange with a driver or other cyclist.
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