Over the last decade, more and more people are beginning to cycle, especially as a way to commute to work and for exercise. With this increase in trend and the constant use of cars on the road, it’s inevitable that accidents are going to be more likely and frequent.
Unfortunately, we can see this hypothesis already coming into fruition as cyclists are having accidents more frequently and continue to do so in record numbers.
According to federal data, cyclist fatalities on the roads have increased almost every year since 201- with the number well surpassing 750 annually and with no signs of plateauing. In which case, it’s necessary you do everything you can to stay safe while riding and thus significantly decreasing your chances of having a potentially fatal accident.
Luckily, we’re here to take you through safety measures and prepare you for your biking experience making it safer and less risky for you and those around you.
How To Protect Ourselves While Cycling
There are a number of precautions you can take before heading out on your bicycle with each having varying degrees of efficiency in your quest to ensure road safety. So let’s have a look at them:
Bicycle equipment malfunctions contribute to a significant number of crashes be it from a faulty helmet or brakes that didn’t work. You can reduce the risk of an equipment-related accident by checking your bike, helmet, and gear before you hit the road.
Ensure your tires are properly inflated, check your reflectors, and lights to make sure that they’re working and in proper order. You can also inspect your chains and gears for any defects, fractures, or issues. These simple steps can prevent an accident that could change your life. Keep your equipment maintained and up to date. If you haven’t purchased a new bike in years then it might be worth getting it checked out at a bike shop or replacing it altogether.
Not all states require cyclists to wear a helmet. However, it’s common knowledge that a helmet greatly reduces the chances of receiving a serious injury so much so that it’s essentially a death wish to not wear one.
Head injuries are the leading cause of fatal bike accidents and unfortunately, 97 percent of victims do not wear helmets meaning many deaths may have been prevented had the victims been wearing helmets. This is something you can easily do and should do. You may feel silly with it on but that’s much better than the alternative possibilities that arise from not wearing it.
It’s important to make sure that you’re fully familiar with bike hand signals. You need to be able to communicate with nearby drivers and other cyclists. A driver cannot anticipate what you’re going to do unless you provide a fair warning so make sure that your hand signals are obvious and clear to others. Accidents are less likely to happen when everyone on the road is on the same page so it may be worth learning the basics at least.
Many bike accidents occur at night and unsurprisingly, this is due to low visibility on the cyclist’s part. This is particularly true at intersections when your paths are likely to cross. While installing reflectors on your bike can help, it’s also important to wear bright and/or reflective clothing, so invest in a waterproof jacket with reflective material so you can easily be seen in the dark.
Stick To The Road
The sidewalk can be much more dangerous than you’d expect. Sidewalks belong to pedestrians and so you’re more likely to crash into a pedestrian or lose control when the sidewalks are crowded than you are on a more open road. On top of this, the sidewalk pavement is more likely to be uneven than asphalt on the road so you may be at more risk of hitting a crack or bump in the sidewalk and get launched from your saddle.
Remove All Distractions
While this is especially true with car accidents it also applies while cycling. And since you’re already more vulnerable to serious injury or even death, distracted cycling can be even riskier. So make sure not to have headphones in and keep all technology off. A ringing phone may throw you off and your lapse in attention may lead to an accident or injury. Be safe and just switch it off. You can always check it later.
An increasing number of cities across the country are embracing dedicated bike infrastructure like the implementation of bike lanes which makes it easier and safer for cyclists to get around. Bike lanes of all varieties are popping up across the country. However, a protected bike lane can only keep you safe if you ride in it. Whenever you see a bike lane, make sure to use it as it’s the safest place you can be on your bike.
Common places Accidents Occur
There’s somewhat of a trend when it comes to the locations where bike accidents most often occur. By knowing where these accidents happen, you can stay safer by being warier of your surroundings when on these stretches of road.
Unfortunately, you’ll notice that many traffic accidents that occur in these situations are down to drivers which may be scary as it can feel like your life isn’t in your hands. But there are preventative measures you can take to avoid any wannabe daredevils that drive recklessly.
It probably occurred to you that roundabouts are one of the most common locations for accidents to happen, especially bigger ones with numerous exits. These accidents are normally a result of motorists emerging from a side road onto a roundabout without giving way to cyclists or a motorist overtakes a cyclist and then turns off the roundabout, leaving the insufficient room and an inevitable collision.
Accidents at T-junctions are, unfortunately, are one of the most common places for an accident to occur and are up there with roundabouts. These accidents usually happen due to motorists emerging on to main roads and colliding with cyclists or motorists failing to give way when they turn across oncoming traffic. So be sure to watch out when on a T-junction as reckless drivers are especially harmful when driving in these areas.
Filtering And Overtaking
It’s not uncommon for people to commute to work on their bicycle and with so many cars on the road, the volume of traffic and impatience of some drivers can be a cause for concern. Cyclists are well within their rights to filter between or overtake lanes of stop-start traffic but accidents normally happen in these circumstances when motorists change lanes without checking their mirrors or blind spot before they change direction.
Potholes will always be a problem and some are in the most inconvenient and dangerous places. These potholes tend to be located at the sides of the road so riding in a more central position where you can have much clearer visibility, in turn, allowing you to spot any potholes that may be waiting for you.
This is another one where staying in the center of the road is going to help you out. Ironically, stationary cars are something you want to watch out for. A surprising number of accidents occur when drivers open their car doors and a cyclist slams into them. While these aren’t the most lethal accidents there are exceptions and it’s easily avoidable. While drivers can learn to be more aware you’re much better off going slower on declines especially where there are cars parked along the pavement.
What Can Be Done To Make Roads Safer?
While the things we’re about to discuss aren’t something you can do yourself we think it’s important to raise awareness on how things can be improved to make cycling a safer activity. By petitioning and calling out for these changes we gain a better chance at achieving some better-regulated road laws that help protect everyone including cyclists.
The public works departments and related organizations can start this change by preserving pedestrian pathways with regular maintenance. They should attend to them as they would their bike paths and clearing any trash or debris that can lead to accidents. it’s a relatively small step but a necessary one.
Some other preventative methods that could be implemented are:
- Improved lighting – Improved lighting will increase visibility and reduce the risk of accidents at night. this is especially important as the main cause for night incidents is low visibility.
- Paved shoulders – Though it may seem like an obvious precaution, not every roadway has paved shoulders where a pedestrian can walk. In these areas, planning professionals should install or widen shoulders to widen that gap between pedestrians and drivers
- Raised crossings – The addition of raised crossings in an area will separate the flow of traffic from walkways. Pedestrians remain safe in an elevated area as the drivers beneath them enjoy an unimpeded roadway where they don’t have to stop or slow down.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can cyclists ride in the middle of the road?
Not only is it legal for a cyclist to ride in the middle of a lane, but it’s also the recommended method of cycling when it comes to safety as there is a much higher quality of visibility while riding in the middle lane.
Do cyclists have to keep left?
Needing to hug the pavement is something of an urban myth. Cyclists should stay a good distance from the curb when they do ride near it but you are allowed to cycle in the middle of the road so long as you don’t block or slow down oncoming traffic.
Do speed limits apply to bicycles?
Bicycles are not included under speed limits. While you can’t normally be charged for speeding on a bicycle, you could be charged for careless cycling by cycling fast in a crowded area for example.
Bicycle safety is undoubtedly not an exciting conversation topic but fortunately, practicing it is pretty easy and only requires a few extra steps and precautions while on your cycle tracks.
Be cautious especially at night and never trust the abilities of road users. many drivers are idiots and there’s no use putting your trust in the awareness of a motorist because it could prove fatal.
Practice what we’ve discussed here and spread the word so those annual bike fatalities can start to decline. Stay safe, wear your helmet, and…