There are many benefits to traveling by bicycle – exercise, fresh air, helping the environment, etc. – but there are also risks. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that in 2011, 677 pedal cyclists were killed and 48,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.
However, there are steps cyclists can take to reduce the chance of an accident occurring. And since May is National Bike Month, it’s the perfect time to give tips to first-time cyclists, as well as a refresher course for bicycle veterans.
Bike hard, and stay safe with these 14 safety tips!
- Wear a helmet. Although some states do not require cyclists to wear helmets, it is still highly recommended. A helmet can significantly reduce the chance of major injury if you get into an accident.
- Obey traffic signs and signals. Cyclists are required to follow the same rules and laws as any other vehicle on the road. This includes obeying traffic signs, signals and markings.
- Ride in a straight line. Do not weave in and out of traffic. You will often be traveling at a slower speed than the rest of the traffic, and riding unpredictably increases your chance of an accident.
- Ride with traffic. Never travel against the flow of traffic. It is illegal and no one is expecting someone who is going in the opposite direction.
- Follow lane markings. Use marked bike lanes and paths when available, unless you’re about to turn or if it seems unsafe. Cyclists are required to obey markings like any other vehicle.
- Never pass on the right of a vehicle. Drivers are in better position to see a bicycle passing on the left, not the right. Do not try to squeeze past a vehicle in a right-turn only lane.
- Be ready to brake. Keep both hands on the handlebars to be able to stop as quickly as possible.
- Never wear headphones. Some states allow for one ear to be covered, as long as the other is unhindered. However, it is highly recommended to keep both ears clear to listen for warning cues and oncoming danger.
- Remain visible. Wear bright clothing that is noticeable during the day and night and if the bicycle has a bell, ring it to make motorists aware to your presence.
- Use lights at night. When riding at night, always wear bright, reflective clothing. Equip your bike with lights and reflectors; some states require lights and reflectors to be visible at certain ranges.
- Wear non-loose clothing. Loose clothing can get in the chain and gears of the bicycle, creating a dangerous situation. Make sure your clothing has no loose ends, pieces that dangle or anything else that could get caught.
- Use hand signals. Hand signals tell those around you what you’re about to do, just like turn signals on a car. Signal, look around, signal and then look again before making your move.
- Look out for road hazards. Bumps, debris and other obstacles pose a much bigger threat to cyclists than they do to four-wheeled vehicles, so be on the lookout and avoid them when possible.
- Maintain your bike. Routinely checking and maintaining your bicycle helps extends its life and ensures that it’ll work properly. Check the brakes, tires and for rust.
There are plenty of reasons to ride a bike, but it’s not as simple as jumping on and turning your legs – you have to know the rules. In all 50 states, people on bikes are required to follow the same laws as drivers, so it’s best to be prepared.
Enjoy the feeling of the sun and the breeze on your face, and most importantly, stay safe!