More than 800 people are killed in bicycle accidents each year and another 45,000 injured, according to 2015 statistics provided by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. This represents a six percent increase in bicycle fatalities over a decade and a 2.3 percent increase in injuries over that same time period. Bicycle accidents resulting in injury or death in the U.S. carry a societal cost of over $4 billion a year. With weather that is frequently conducive to bicycle riding and communities that provide areas of interest for riders wishing to take to the roads, Florida unsurprisingly ranks as one of the states with the highest number of bicycle fatalities each year. If you’re a bicycle enthusiast, there is much cause for concern. Below we discuss some tips that will help you stay safe when you’re out on the road on your bike.
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center notes that approximately 13 percent of bicycle crashes occur due to roadways that are not in good repair, and another 13 percent are caused by rider error or the rider not paying attention. According to information provided by AAA Exchange, staying alert is the first rule when it comes to bicycle safety. This requires an awareness of your surroundings and how you fit into those surroundings, even before you begin your ride. Below we discuss some important safety precautions that you should take:
- Make sure you are aware of the condition of your bicycle. Regularly maintain your bike, including periodic inspection of your brake pads and regular cleaning and lubrication of your chain.
- If you’re riding in an area that is unfamiliar to you, check the local laws before you begin riding to understand whether there are areas that are restricted to bicyclists or lanes that you are required to use. This includes whether or not it is permissible for you to ride your bike on the sidewalk.
- As reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicycle accidents are most prevalent between the hours of 6 pm and 9 pm, regardless of season, and accidents are more likely to occur in urban areas. Be aware of the route you plan to take and the time in which you are planning to travel. Avoid busy roads or peak traffic times in order to reduce your chances of an accident with a motor vehicle.
- Identify potential hazards along your route, including uneven or rough surfaces, unknown objects in the road, and icy or wet conditions that can cause slippery surfaces. Always slow down or walk your bike across slippery surfaces.
- Always keep your head up when riding. Do not look at the ground, as this will prevent you from looking ahead, seeing what is coming, and reacting in time.
- Never wear headphones while you’re riding, as this deprives you of the ability to hear vehicles approaching you, car honks, verbal warnings, and other noises that can alert you to dangers.
- Remember, the law considers a bicycle as a vehicle, and bicyclists have the same responsibilities as other drivers on the road. The NHTSA reports that, in 2016, alcohol was involved in 35 percent of all fatal bicyclist crashes, and 19 percent of the cyclists in those fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content of at least the legal limit. Don’t drink and drive, regardless of whether you are driving a car, truck, motorcycle, or bike.
Wariness is an important emotion to have when bicycling in traffic. With nearly one-third of all bicycle injuries stemming from a car striking a bicyclist, a bit of caution by the rider goes a long way toward keeping the ride safe, healthy, and enjoyable rather than painful or tragic. Here are some issues that bicyclists should remain wary of:
- The fit of your bike. If your bicycle is too big for you, it will be harder to control, according to the NHTSA. This includes finding the appropriate frame size, seat height, seat angle, and handlebar height. The proper frame size is one that provides about 2 inches between the top bar and your crotch (if using a road bike) and 3-4 inches (for a mountain bike). The seat should be level from the front to the back, and your seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend of the knee when the leg is fully extended.
- The fit of your helmet. Although a bicycle helmet won’t help you avoid getting hit by a car, a properly fitting helmet will protect your head if you do become involved in an accident. Helmets, like hats, come in various sizes. A properly fitting helmet is one that sits level and low on your forehead with no more than the width of two fingers between the helmet and your eyebrows. The chin strap should be snug enough so that no more than two fingers can fit between the strap and your chin. The helmet should not rock on your head. As helmets can reduce your risk of injury from a bicycle accident by up to 85 percent, you should wear your helmet every single time you ride your bike.
- Do not ride with passengers on your bicycle, as this also makes the bike harder to control. There should be one rider per seat.
- Carry all items in a backpack, in an attached basket, or strapped to the bike. This allows you to keep both hands on the handlebars, which you should do at all times unless you are signaling to turn.
- Drive in the same direction as traffic and with the flow of traffic.
- Be sure you obey all road markings, street signs, and signals, just as you would in a car.
- Be sure to not only signal but also to look over your shoulder to check for oncoming cars when changing lanes or turning.
- When crossing a street from a sidewalk, be sure you slow down, look for traffic, and follow pedestrian crossing signals.
- About four percent of all bicycle accident injuries are caused by a dog running out into the roadway either in the path of the bicyclist or chasing the bicyclist. Be wary of dogs running loose along your planned route.
- If riding on the sidewalk, watch for pedestrians in your path or who may cross through your path. Always pass pedestrians on the left and warn them verbally that you are passing or by ringing a bell.
- Slow down and look for cars that may be backing out of driveways or turning into them. This is especially important if you are riding on sidewalks, as motorists aren’t expecting to see moving traffic on the sidewalk.
- Learn and consistently use the recognized hand signals for turning, stopping, and changing lanes.
As previously stated, the majority of bicycle accidents occur during the hours of dusk and in urban areas. This is because dusk is the time of day in which riders are hard to see, and high traffic situations make it harder for motorists to see bicycles. Below we discuss some things to help ensure that motorists see you when you are out riding your bike.
- Wear brightly colored clothing and a bright helmet, regardless of the time of day, to make yourself easier to see. In low-light or nighttime riding situations, use reflective clothing and lights on your bicycle, including a white headlight and a red light for the rear of your bike. Before you ride at night, ask someone to check and see how visible you are to motorists.
- When riding in a group, always ride single file and allow plenty of space between bicyclists.
- Make sure you ride far enough to the left in the lane that drivers exiting parked cars on the side of the roadway can see you approaching and don’t open their door in front of you. While an open door may not seem like too serious of a hazard, the group BicycleSafe has compiled a list of scenarios in which bicyclists have actually been killed due to crashing into an open vehicle door. Some of the ways this can happen include the bicyclist losing control after striking the door and falling into oncoming traffic, swerving into traffic to avoid hitting the door, or the force of the crash causing the bicyclist to become airborne before hitting the pavement.
- If crossing the street at the same time as a motor vehicle, cross to the left of the vehicle. The reason for this is that the motorist will look left-right-left for traffic and will have an additional opportunity to see you traveling alongside.
- Do not weave in an out of traffic. Keep your position on the roadway predictable for drivers.
- Approach crosswalks with care, as cars turning right will have a hard time seeing you while their attention is focused on the act of turning.
- Travel in the same direction as traffic. This is also important when sharing the road with drivers who are making right-hand turns because they are not expecting to encounter traffic coming from the opposite direction and will not be looking for it. According to BicycleSafe, a study revealed that riding your bicycle in the wrong direction in traffic increases your chances of being involved in an accident by three. For children riding the wrong way in traffic, the chance of getting into an accident increases by seven.
- If you are stopped at a red light, don’t stop to the right of a vehicle. Avoid the vehicle’s blind spot. Instead, stop behind the car in front of you.
- Don’t ever pass a vehicle on the right, as you risk being unseen and hit if the driver attempts a right-hand turn.
- Don’t swerve in and out of the parking lane to avoid having to ride in traffic. Doing so increases your chances of being rear-ended by a car when exiting the parking lane.
- Choose wide streets and slow streets. Lanes should be wide enough for a car and a bicycle to safely travel side-by-side. Even if the driver doesn’t see you, he or she likely won’t hit you if there is enough space between you and the car. Additionally, the slower a car is traveling, the more opportunity the driver has to see you.
What Motorists Can Do to Make Roadways Safer for Bicyclists
If you’re a motorist who travels on roadways that are used by bicyclists, remember that you have a responsibility to share the road. Here are some things that the NHTSA recommends you do to help keep bicyclists safe.
- Yield to bicyclists the same way that you would yield to other motorists.
- Do not underestimate the speed at which a bicycle is traveling. Avoid simply assuming that a bicycle is going slow down enough for you to have time to turn in front of it.
- If you’re turning right on a red light, look to the right to ensure that a bicyclist is not approaching from the right rear of your vehicle.
- Do not pass a bicyclist too closely. If the situation allows, always wait to pass until you have room to move to an adjacent lane, just as you would for any other vehicle.
- Obey the speed limit and reduce your speed for hazardous road conditions.
- When backing up, driving in parking lots, or approaching stop signs, always survey the surrounding area to look for other vehicles, including bicycles, that may be nearby.
- Understand the recognized hand signals that bicyclists use to indicate that they’re turning, stopping, or changing lanes. When sharing the road with bicyclists, watch out for hand signals that will indicate what they’re planning to do next.
Contact Us in the Event of a New Port Richey Bike Accident Injury
If you’re a bicyclist who has been injured in an accident in New Port Richey due to negligence or recklessness by another motorist, you may be eligible for compensation. To schedule your free consultation and case review with an experienced accident attorney from the Dolman Law Group, call us at (727) 853-6275 or contact us online.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL, 34652