A Crash Course in Bike Safety

Have you noticed that there seem to be more and more bikes on the road lately? This is no surprise, as bike-sharing programs have popped up around the country from New York’s Citi Bike to the Bay Area’s Ford GoBike. These programs have definitely encouraged more people to explore the convenience and efficiency of riding bikes again.

As a matter of fact, from 2000 to 2016, the nation saw a 51 percent increase in bike commuters. There were a total of 863,979 bicycle commuters on the road! The top 5 riding cities were New York, Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

This has caused cities to improve their infrastructure to provide a safer ride and environment for riders. This includes creating bike lanes, repainting existing ones, putting up new bike traffic signs and more. Exciting right?

While many people think of biking as a dangerous activity, there have been studies that show that biking is just as safe as driving.

You’re probably eager to join the biking scene. Before doing so, there are just a few rules and tips that you should learn for your own safety.

Biking Rules to Remember

When riding a bike, you will most likely be sharing the road with cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles. This could put you in dangerous situations and even cause life-altering injuries. In order to prevent that from occurring, follow these rules:

  1. If you are over the age of 13, you are not allowed to bike on a sidewalk.
  2. Bicycles are considered road vehicles, even though they do not have a motor. Therefore, riders must bike on the road in the same direction as traffic.
  3. Obey all traffic signs the same way you would if you were driving. This means stopping at red lights, yielding to other vehicles, following one-way signs and more.
  4. If there are bike lanes available, always use them.
  5. If you are traveling with kids, secure them in a attached carrier. Children are not allowed to ride on handlebars or stand and hold on to you as you ride.
  6. In the majority of states, riding a bike on the freeway or highway is illegal.
  7. Stay alert while riding and try to anticipate what other drivers, pedestrians, and other bike riders will do next.
  8. Since bikes are less stable than cars, always try to look ahead for cracks or potholes in the road.

If you’re looking for bike laws for a specific state, take a look here.

The Required Gear for a Safe Bike Ride

A Helmet

Surprisingly, most states do not require bicycle riders to wear helmets if they are over the age of 13. While there are certain cities that have different laws, the majority of states do not have helmet laws that say riders must wear a helmet.

Werecommend that you have a helmet on every single time you ride, no matter how long or short the ride is.

Charleston bicycle accident attorney, Max Sparwasser, says that not wearing helmets while riding could result in life-altering traumatic brain injuries. Don’t risk your quality of life simply because you don’t want helmet hair or because bringing and holding onto a helmet is inconvenient.

To see each state’s law on helmet usage look at this map.

A Bell or Horn

Install a bell or horn on your bike, so you can alert other drivers or bikers that you are around them. It is incredibly important that you get one that works and makes an adequate amount of noise.

Bright or Reflective Clothing

Whether you are biking at night or during the day, be sure to wear bright or reflective clothing. While this is especially important at night, it is also needed for the day. Wearing bright clothing allows drivers to easily see and distinguish that you are there.

Lights

Riders should also install a white light and a red light in the front and back of their bikes, respectively. These lights will make it easier for drivers to see them at sunrise, sunset, and throughout the night.

Be sure to install a white light in the front of the bike and not a yellow one. White lights are brighter in the dark and more eye-catching.

Brakes

While this is a no-brainer, I wanted to include brakes in this section to remind bikers to consistently check their brakes. If you ride your bike on a daily basis, the brake pads can get worn out quickly. Learn how to remove and change them here.

Bike Safety Tips

In order to make every ride safe and positive, here are a few tips and tricks that you should follow. This information will not only help keep you safe, it will help keep pedestrians and drivers safe as well. So without further ado, here we go.

1. Don’t text, scroll, like, favorite, or anything like that while you’re riding.

Similar to driving, bike riders should not be preoccupied on their phones while riding at any time. This rule still applies when you’re riding on a quiet street. Holding your phone while riding can cause you to fall and sustain a bike injury.

2. Don’t ride with headphones on.

Playing music while riding can cause distractions and prevent you from hearing your surroundings, so don’t do it! We know this is a big ask, so if you do feel the need to listen while riding, please do so at a lower volume.

3. No zigging or zagging.

When possible, ride in a straight line. If you weave in and out while you ride, it could make drivers anxious and make it more difficult for them to go around you.

4. Avoid riding in a driver’s blind spot.

Riding in this area makes you invisible. This puts your life at danger. Try to parallel a car when possible so that they can see you at all times.

5. Ride in a single file line.

When riding with other bicyclist, ride in a single file line, not next to one another. Bike lanes are quite narrow as they are made for individual riders.

6. Make your signal seen.

If you are making a turn or changing lanes, make sure that your arm signal is seen by the driver around you. Try your best to make eye contact with them before making any changes. Here are the arm signals that bike riders use:

  • Turn Left: Extend your arm straight out and parallel to the ground.
  • Turn Right: Extend your arm out with your elbow bent to form an “L” shape with your hand pointing up.
  • Slow Down: Extend your arm out with your elbow bent to form an “L” shape with your hand pointing down.

7. Bring a tool kit with you.

It is possible for a chain to get loose or other minor issues when you’re on a ride. To help mitigate these issues, bring a tool kit with you wherever you go. Take a look at this maintenance guide to learn the basics when it comes to bike repairs.

8. Watch out for parked cars.

Riding into an opening car door is way more painful that you would imagine. Avoid this by riding a good distance away from the curb. This will also help you avoids cars that are pulling out of parking spaces.

Image via Thinkstock.

32 comments

Paula A
Paula Arias5 days ago

Thanks

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Richard B
Richard B16 days ago

thank you

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Angela AWAY K
Angela K20 days ago

noted

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Ann B
Ann B21 days ago

i wish out POLICE FORCE would post these...kids/adults do not stop at stop signed, ride in front of cars, are on the wrong side of the roads, and some never watch for cars..you have to wonder where the children's parents are..and NEVER at duck......

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara22 days ago

Do not trust roads in the dark if there are no streetlights.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara22 days ago

Be safe, be seen

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara22 days ago

don't crash!

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara22 days ago

There are always more bikes on the road in summertime.

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Lesa D
Lesa D22 days ago

it's just like riding a bicycle... oh!

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Winn Adams
Winnie A22 days ago

Thanks

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