Understated Bicycling Safety Tips
57 million Americans ride bikes regularly. With nearly two billion bicycle outings a year, it should come as little surprise that nearly 580,000 of those rides end up in a visit to the emergency room.
Collisions with motorists cause 90 percent of bicycling deaths.
Unfortunately, Florida has the second highest traffic fatality rate in the country for cyclists. Often, the offending motorist is hitting the gas to pass, as opposed to slowing down. For those of us passionate about cycling, there’s nothing worse that a car coming dangerously close, “buzzing” us as they pass by. Many drivers don’t feel cyclists should be on the road and should only ride in parks or away from cars. But ignorance of the law is no excuse. Cyclists have the legal right to be on the road.
- Get a good head light and tail light, and wear bright clothes. If you’re riding when it’s not bright sunshine, and always at night, use a headlight and tail light. It’s required by law between sunset and sunrise. Even for daytime riding, a bright light that has a flashing mode will likely make you more visible to motorists, as will bright clothing. Helmet-mounted lights allow you to look directly at the driver to make sure he/she sees you. It’s also a good idea to use three-dimensional lights. This way the traffic beside you can see you as well as the traffic ahead of you, and behind you. TIP: The Uninsured Motorist clause on your auto insurance may pay if you’re the victim of a hit & run while bicycling. Check your policy.
- Don’t ride on the sidewalk. You risk getting hit by cars pulling out of parking lots or driveways, as they often aren’t expecting you. You risk getting hit by vehicles making turns across the sidewalk. You are more visible when sharing the road. Finally, riding on the sidewalk is illegal in some places.
- Don’t hug the curb - take more of the lane when you can. Give yourself a little space from the curb. That gives you some room to move, if you have to avoid a motorist who pulls out in front of you, or to miss a pot hole. Taking part of the lane prevents cars from passing you too closely on narrow roadways. Motorists can see you better if you’re squarely in the road, rather than on the extreme edge where you’re easily overlooked. If the lane is too narrow for cars to pass you safely, then move left and take the whole lane. Getting buzzed by cars is dangerous. In Florida, you must ride as far to the right as is “practicable.” The exceptions being when passing or turning left, or when the road is too narrow.
- Avoid busy streets. One of the biggest mistakes new cyclists make is to ride the exact same routes they drive. Cyclists have a right to ride on busy urban roads, but that’s a small consolation when you’re dead. Stay on calm roads.
- Ride as if you were invisible. Ride in a way so that motorists won’t hit you - even if they don’t see you. Don’t count on the car driver to take action to avoid hitting you (e.g., by their slowing down or changing lanes). Stay out of their way. Then you won’t get hit even if they didn’t notice you were there. Example: Cyclist’s left turn It’s a good idea for cyclists to make a hand signal to warn motorists they are turning left – but most cyclists don’t do that. it’s a better idea to make your left turn when and where there aren’t cars around to hit you. You can hang out in the middle of the street, stopped, with your left arm out, waiting to make your turn, but you’re counting on cars behind you to see you and stop. If they don’t see you, you’re in trouble. Go to the next street. Slow down until the motorists pass you. Avoid the potential for a problem.
- Don’t wear headphones. Florida and other states make it illegal to wear headphones while cycling. However, this doesn’t stop a majority of cyclists from using their iPods on the road. The truth is, it’s majorly unsafe to reduce your ability to hear the traffic around you. Whether you saw it from a pro or a friend, purposely diminishing your hearing reduces your reaction time to the possible accidents that surround your daily ride.