A good friend of mine, Wes, got hit by a car this weekend while riding his bike and broke his pelvis in three places. He’s going to be spending the rest of the summer in bed or in a wheelchair and will need extensive physical therapy and pins in his leg to start walking again. Wes thought he had enough time to go through a red light before the traffic started to flow, and was hit by an SUV that didn’t see him. He woke up an hour later in an ambulance on the way to the Hospital and his phone got lost in all the commotion. He was in the hospital for four hours before the nurses could locate his parents and tell them the bad news.
This is an awful tragedy for sure and I’m writing this post to remind everyone to remember the basics when it comes to bike safety. Wes was lucky to make it out of his accident alive, but it could have been avoided if he had just followed the most basic of bike safety rules. For a full brochure on National and Local bike safety laws, click here.
In addition to following the law, use your common sense and talk to more experienced riders about what they do to ensure their safety while riding.
1. Wear a helmet!
I can personally attest to the importance of this VERY basic safety concern. My older sister, Jody, fell off her bike and hit her head on the sidewalk when she was 10 and has had seizures ever since. A helmet is the first step to ensuring your safety in the case of an accident, but won’t keep accidents from happening.
2. Pay attention!
Always assume that someone else, especially the cars around you, is going to make a mistake. Be mindful of stop lights, stop signs, crosswalks, and the presence of bike lanes and sharrows around you and use them accordingly. Come to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs, even if you don’t see any cross traffic while approaching and NEVER try to “beat the traffic”. Also, you can get a ticket for not doing these simple things. While riding in bike lanes or sharrows especially, pay attention to parked cars on the right side of the street. They may not see you while you’re approaching and could open their door right in front of you, so pay attention and allow appropriate spacing.
3. Make yourself visible!
If your commute requires that you ride at night (or if you just enjoy it!) ALWAYS make sure you have a front and rear light and make sure it is ON! This could be the difference in avoiding an accident while riding. Wear bright clothes (never black or gray or blue at night), especially bright shirts. Motorists probably won’t expect you to be riding at night, so heighten your attention and always assume they won’t see you.
4. Signal Your Turns
Always alert others around you, especially motorists, when you are turning or stopping. A simple hand gesture (left hand extended to the left, right hand extended to the right, and a fist pointing straight up) is all that is needed to alert cars and other cyclists of your intentions. This is a great way to prevent cars from turning in front of you, into you, or pulling out in front of you-all common scenarios that can easily turn ugly.
5. Take the Lane
Check your local laws but in many areas you are fully within your rights to take the entire lane of a busy street. Ignore any honking or yelling (I can attest that in Boston this will probably happen!) because sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary. If a car is pulled over or stopped, someone is taking up the bike lane, or if there is an absence of a bike lane, ride in the right lane of the street. Keep a steady pace and don’t brake suddenly. This forces cars to change lanes in order to pass you and decreases the likeliness of an accident on either your right or left side.
For a great perspective on “taking the lane”, check out Keri’s post on the CommuteOrlando Blog titled “Smart Moves: You Lead the Dance”. She also put up a great video on lane position and “vehicular biking” using the very car-heavy area of Southern California in her post “Video: Riding Big and Getting Space”
Following these very basic safety tips could be the difference between life or death (or a broken pelvis!). Some cities make it easier than others, but just because your city has plentiful bike lanes and sharrows doesn’t mean that these rules can be considered lax. Always pay attention and equip your bike with the proper gear and always be sure to PAY ATTENTION!
What’s your best safety tip you’ve learned while cycling? How do you safely commute in your area? We want to know what you do to make your cycling lifestyle safe and stress-free in the urban jungle or even country roads. Share them here in the comments box and help spread bicycle safety awareness with Montague Folding Bikes!