How Bicyclists Can Reduce Risk Of Accident

Biking in traffic is not as bad as it seems; cyclists hardly ever get run down by drivers in fact most of the accidents don’t involve cars at all. The most common issues are usually found where you would least expect to find them; they are on car-free paths that are filled with distracted pedestrians, dog walkers, in-line skaters and cyclists with different skill levels. But when bike riders do get in an accident with a car it is usually serious. In 2009 there were 630 U.S. cyclists that were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles. But every year there are more than 500,000 cycling accidents that end up in a visit to the emergency room.

When riding on the road common sense is your best defense:

  • Don’t ride drunk: One-third of all cycling deaths involve a legally drunk cyclist
  • Ride with traffic: Never ride against traffic and stay as close as possible to the side of the road that is furthest from the traffic
  • Don’t ride with headphones: Hearing the “click” of a car door could save your life

Here are some ways to reduce your risk of an accident:

1.) Don’t go on the road without a helmet

  • Head injuries are responsible for around three-quarters of the deaths among bicyclists that are involved in accidents. Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of a head or brain injury by roughly two-thirds or more
  • Safety tip: Make sure your helmet is not on backward! The helmet should cover your forehead, when you look up you should see the helmet’s front edge. Wearing a baseball cap or hair clips can interfere with fitting; but the steel ball at the top of the baseball cap could concentrate the force of the impact in one spot

2.) Replace your helmet every three to five years

  • The sun’s rays weaken the glue, resins and other materials that are used to make helmets. Sweat and hair products can also reduce a helmet’s effectiveness. If you are in an accident or the outside of your helmet is foam or cloth and not plastic you need to get a new one. If you feel like your helmet has gotten big over time and you have added pads that is a sign the helmet is losing its protective ability and dropping your helmet shouldn’t hurt it, but don’t spike it
  • Safety tip: The helmet should be approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the ASTM (in the past it was the American Society for Testing and Materials) or the Snell Foundation

3.) Be predictable

  • Ride in a straight line and hold it while checking over your shoulder. Do not weave in and out of traffic. If there are potholes, the street is not wide enough to share safely it or you see a row of parked cars, it may be safer for you to “take the lane” temporarily, in other words ride in the middle of the street until you can safely ride on the side of the road
  • Safety tip: Taking the lane works in urban areas where the traffic is not moving to fast. But if you can’t keep pace with the cars, you need to get out of the way as soon as you can and expect for people to beep their car horns at you

4.) Be visible

  • There is evidence to suggest that riding your bike at night without a light is a factor in almost half of all cycling deaths. To reduce your risk only ride during daylight hours and wear bright or fluorescent colors, it will increase the distance that drivers can see you from. You should use white lights in the front of your bike and red lights in the back of your bike and use reflectors and reflective clothing too. By law, you must ride with a light at night; if you disobey this law, you could be legally responsible for your injuries
  • Safety tips: Buy lights and reflectors at your local bike shop where you can test the different types and models they have. The light on the back of your bike doubles as a reflector in case the battery drains while you are riding

5.) Assume drivers are blind

  • And assume that car drivers are drunk or multitasking these are usually the case when a car hits a cyclist. Colorful clothing can increase your visibility to drivers, but don’t let it lead you to a false sense of security. Drivers usually don’t see cyclists because they are not looking for them. Getting more cyclists on the road could help this problem
  • Safety tip: If you travel into the sun at dawn or sunset, wear a red or deep orange shirt. Don’t wear white because sun-blinded drivers will not see you on your bike

6.) Dodge the door

  • Ride outside the door zone this means keep a distance of 3 to 5 feet between the handlebars on your bike and the parked vehicle. To do this you might have to “take the lane,” which is a right cyclist’s have in most states
  • Safety tip: Look for silhouettes or movement inside the car. Look for taillights that have just gone out that usually means a driver is just about to get out of their car. Watch mirrors and listen for a doors opening

7.) Anticipate accidents

  • You should assume that the car coming in the opposite direction will turn left in front of you and you need to be prepared to slow down to avoid it. Know where the car behind you is, so when you move out to avoid the pothole, rain grate or a parked car opening its door, you have plenty of room to move smoothly in front of the car or behind the car to take up the lane, don’t get yourself pinned in
  • Safety tip: If you see a car turning into your path, go with the flow and turn into the lane with the vehicle, even if you were not planning on going that way. The most dangerous sections of the road for cyclists are intersections and that includes driveways

Bicyclists must use turn signals!

Legally, cyclists must signal when they are going to turn unless signaling would make them fall off the bike. But do not take for granted the fact that all drivers will signal a right hand turn

To signal a left:

  • Point your left arm straight to the left

To signal a right:

  • Point your right arm straight to the right

To stop:

  • Point your left arm bent at a right angle with your hand pointing down. Signal about 100 feet before turning



Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC