May 4th, 2020| May is National Bicycle Safety Month, and it’s the perfect time of year to take stock of the best practices for cyclists and other motorists. This is an important annual observance, especially here in California. Kaiser Health News reported that the rate of bicycle accidents in California from 2016 to 2018 was at its highest for any three-year period since the mid-1990s. Traffic accidents killed 455 cyclists in California in that three-year span. Those kinds of numbers are unacceptable for preventable incidents like bicycle accidents. It’s in everyone’s best interest to curb the number of crashes involving cyclists. To reduce these accidents, we all need to play a role. Let’s start with what cyclists should know to ensure their next ride is a safe one.
Tips for Bicyclists
Part I: The GearWhether you’re a new cyclist or a crafty veteran, it never hurts to revisit the basics, and that means equipping yourself with the right gear. Step one is finding a bicycle that is the right size for you. Bikes that are too big or too small are difficult to operate and could put you at an increased risk of crashing. Once you have a bike that suits you, you should consider the most essential piece of safety equipment every cyclist needs to own: a helmet.
Get the Right HelmetThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a great list of tips to help you in your search for the best helmet. Here are its suggestions:
- Measure your head to determine your size. You want a snug fit, but the helmet shouldn’t be so tight that it is uncomfortable or restricts blood flow.
- A helmet should be centered on your head and leave only two fingers worth of space above your eyebrows.
- When you buckle the strap under your chin, make sure that you can fit no more than two fingers between your chin and the strap.
- Make sure your helmet doesn’t rock when you move your head.
- As a final test to make sure the helmet is secure, open your mouth wide, as if you were yawning. You should feel the helmet pull down on your head.
Other Safety EquipmentTo make sure your next ride is a safe one, use all necessary safety equipment.
- When you ride during the day, wear brightly colored clothing to make yourself more visible.
- When you ride at night, wear reflective clothing so drivers can see you.
- If your bike doesn’t include reflective material, place some on your bike before riding at night, or purchase and install reflectors.
- Make sure your bike has a white front light and red rear light, especially when riding at night or in areas where visibility is low.
Part II: The RideYou’re all set with the right equipment. Now, it’s time to follow best practices when riding. Here are five tips to help you stay safe:
- When carrying items, put them in a backpack or in a bag securely fixed on the back of your bike.
- Make sure your shoelaces are tied and tucked in place.
- Always practice defensive riding—travel in the same direction as traffic, follow the rules of the road, assume motorists can’t see you, and avoid any visual or audible distractions.
- Be as predictable as possible by signaling your intentions to drivers and staying in designated biking lanes.
- If you’re a less experienced cyclist, limit your rides to sparsely trafficked areas until you feel more comfortable with your cycling skills.
Tips for MotoristsEven non-cyclists can observe National Bicycle Safety Month by sharing the road safely with cyclists. Here are the best practices for keeping cyclists safe:
- Give cyclists the same space and courtesy you would any other driver.
- Never underestimate the speed of a cyclist when anticipating their movements.
- Be mindful of a cyclist’s presence at stop signs, red lights, and in parking lots.
- When passing a cyclist, leave plenty of room. If possible, pull over to another lane like you would when passing any other vehicle.
- As always, follow the rules of the road—avoid speeding, distractions, or other reckless driving habits.