As more and more people commute to work, hit-and-run fatalities are on the rise. According to a recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there has been a 60% increase in deaths from 2009 to 2016.
Communities across the country are thinking differently when it comes to the infrastructure of our roads. Towns and cities are making massive improvements to make our roads safe for bike commuters of all ages and abilities. Bike commuters can find bike lanes or shared bike lanes (where a car and a bike share the same lane). Cities like Minneapolis, Portland, and New York are ahead of the game when it comes to the idea of being “bike friendly.” Still, even for seasoned commuters, it’s important to stay up to date with bike safety tips when riding to work, school or our out to dinner…
Bike Commuter Safety Tips
- Avoid Riding on Sidewalks – A sidewalk is a horrible and unsafe place to ride a bike (unless you’re 5 and just learning how to ride a bike). Cars pulling out of driveways aren’t used to seeing fast cyclist cursing along the sidewalk and could make for an easy collision. Furthermore, mixing pedestrians and cyclists is dangerous to both. It’s much safer to ride in the street, with traffic while following the rules of the road for drivers and vehicles.
- Wheels Go With Traffic – Ride in the same direction as cars. Walkers move in the opposite direction of traffic. It is illegal in all 50 states to ride a bike on the wrong side of the road. Motorists look for traffic coming from the usual direction, not the wrong-way traffic.
- Be Visible – Stick to bright clothes during the day and lights on your bike at night. It is estimated that thirty percent of cycling crashes occur at night, although only about four percent of cycling is done at night. Reflectors that come standard with bikes do very little. It’s imperative that you invest in a headlight and a tail light for your bike (sold together). Many states are beginning to ticket night cyclists without lights.
- Follow the Rules of the Road – That’s ride. Bike like you’re a car. Stop at all stop signs. Wait until the light turns green to go. Don’t cut in front of cars. Use proper hand signals when turning.
- Learn Proper Lane Position – Novice commuters typically “hug the curb.” This encourages cars to pass by too closely. Experienced cyclists let traffic pass when they can but they “use the full lane” when needed for safety. If cars are passing you too close, move a bit left to show other drivers that they must use another lane. This way you also reserve a “safety space” to the right. But if you collect a string of cars behind you, try to find a safe way to let them pass. It takes practice and confidence to learn to ride effectively in traffic.
- Be Predictable – Ride in a straight line. Yes, even while going uphill! It’s a good signal to drivers that you’re confident and that you know what you’re doing.
- Be Courteous – Don’t be a _____(fill in the blank). Share the road with other drivers and cyclists. If others act rudely, stay cool and don’t descend to their level. Smiling and waving is always a nice gesture if an angry motorist gives you the evil eye! Bike commuting and sharing lanes with motorists is still catching on. Some motorists have not yet accepted that the lanes are to be shared where a bike lane is not available.
- Wear a Helmet! – Not wearing a helmet while commuting signals to a driver that you are careless and not following the rules. While a helmet will not prevent a bike crash, it’s minimal insurance that may allow you to walk away from an accident. Make sure your helmet fits and is adjusted properly.
- Practice Bike Maintenance – Depending on how often you ride, take your bike to a shop for regular tune ups. Before hopping on, give the bike a quick run through – make sure that wheels are tight and that tires are in good shape. Squeeze the brakes hard to see that they work and that cables are not about to snap.
- Buddy Up – If you’re new to commuting, find an experienced commuter who will show you the ropes and give you the confidence to do it on your own.