It’s warming up and everyone is happy to be out and about. So an increased number of drivers and cyclists are getting out on the road.
While there are health and environmental benefits to cycling, the road can be a very dangerous place when it’s not shared responsibly. According to The U.S. Department of Transportation, there’s been a steady increase in bicyclist fatalities since 1991, with 2016 reported bicycle deaths (840 fatalities) increased by 1.3 percent.
It’s critical that both cyclists and drivers take necessary actions in order to keep themselves and each other safe. Cyclists need to defend themselves with preventative measures and strategic ways of riding. Drivers, on the other hand, need to be extra vigilant and respectful of the additional cyclists that are inhabiting the lanes. Here are some tips to keep in mind when sharing the road.
Protect Yourself Before You Ride
- First and foremost, always wear a helmet. While wearing a helmet is not a cure-all, it’s one of the easiest ways to prevent major injuries. But it’s equally important that you ensure a proper fit and wear a helmet properly so your helmet can best protect you. Any of our Playtri staff can help access and advise on bike helmet fit.
- Make sure to keep your bicycle in riding condition with correct air pressure and working gears to avoid equipment failures as much as possible.
- Tuck and tie your shoelaces 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.
- Don’t go onto the roads if you don’t feel confident with your riding abilities. We suggest joining a group ride to get started or to take classes to learn about new advances in cycling safety.
Make Yourself Visible
While it might seem obvious, it’s critical to remember that you’re more in danger as a cyclist on the road because drivers may not see you.
- Be extremely visible by using bright flashing lights along with reflective tape anytime but especially important for dawn and dusk riding. Consider newer technology to alert cyclists when a vehicle approaches from behind:
- Wear bright colors and reflective gear:
- Ride with others in a group when possible:
- “I didn’t see the cyclist” is, unfortunately, a common statement in cases involving motorists and cyclists. That’s never an excuse, but it’s imperative that you, the cyclist, make yourself as noticeable as possible.
Ride Predictably and Responsibly
Many communities post signs that cyclists have the right to share the road. Often, the safest thing to do on a road that is below 35 miles per hour is to take a whole lane. Because the side of the road can get pretty dirty, you’re better off riding predictably in a straight line in the middle of a lane than making sudden movements to get around puddles or debris on the shoulder.
It is recommended that cyclists avoid riding on the sidewalk so that pedestrians are also safe.
Cyclists follow the rules of the road at all times. While it’s tempting to ride through a stop sign, it is imperative to your safety that cyclists come to a full stop.
Use bike signals with your arms for turns and stops or simply point to where you are turning ~ it's okay to over-communicate your intentions to other cyclists and drivers on the road.
Be Mindful of Intersections
Intersections are one of the most dangerous places for a cyclist.
One of the most common situations that lead to cyclist injuries on the road is when a cyclist is going straight and gets hit by a car making a right turn by crossing over the cyclist’s path of travel.
Drivers need to signal early and cyclists who are traveling straight through an intersection need to be sure to not pass cars on the right if the cars have their right-turn signal on or appear to be veering right to make a turn. Bikes should pass on the left in these instances.
Pass With Care
Cyclists should always try to ride as predictably as possible. There are circumstances that force a sudden movement by a cyclist. It’s important for drivers to keep this in mind while passing bicycles on the road. The law in most states dictates that a driver must give a cyclist three feet space while passing.
It’s a good idea to be extra cautious when passing a cyclist — by driving slowly and giving sufficient distance — you never know when a cyclist might need to veer unexpectedly.
Getting stuck behind a cyclist may slow a driver down a few minutes, but the reality is that cyclists have virtually the same rights as motorists in nearly every state and need to be treated that way. Getting road rage behind a cyclist is a recipe for disaster for all involved.
The safe course of action for both cyclists and drivers is to be patient and respectful of each other’s existance and right to the road.
Ride happy and stay safe.