Now that I am getting back in the saddle, I wanted to touch on bike safety because it is a very important issue for both cyclists and drivers. In May, a friend of mine was involved in a near-fatal bicycle accident and spent the next 5 months in recovery. She was hit by two cars while riding on a slim shoulder on Shoreline Highway in the Bay Area and suffered injuries including multiple fractures to her skull, jaw, cheekbones and ribs, a broken clavicle and a punctured lung.
Luckily her recovery has been positive, and her accident has finally got improvements to the stretch of road off the ground. For years, the community has been calling for a wider shoulder and reduced speed limits in the area.
Why am I sharing this story with you? Because there are important steps that both riders and auto drivers should take to ensure the roads are kept safe. It is a fact that more people are using two wheels instead of four and it is a wonderful thing for our health and our environment. Drivers need to share the road, and cyclists need to know what their responsibilities are too. Here are some facts, tips and things to keep in mind whether you are on two or four wheels.
Give them space: Recognize that bicycles have a right to the road and may legally take the full lane. Allow at least 3 feet of space while passing.
Respect their speed: Do not underestimate how fast some cyclists are moving. In many circumstances, a bike can travel as fast as a car. Never turn in front of a bicycle, even if you think it’s traveling slowly.
When in doubt, wait: If you can’t allow the bike 3 feet of space, wait to pass until you can – just as you would for any other slow-moving vehicle.
Be patient: Do not honk or yell at bicyclists. You could startle them or cause them to veer.
Be careful when opening your car door: When parked along roadways, look for bicyclists before opening your door, as a cyclist may be hugging the side of the road, right in the line of your car door. Open your car door into a rider’s path and you may cause a serious accident.
Look for bikes: Keep an eye out for cyclists, and always look both ways before exiting a driveway or intersection.
Safety in numbers: When you can, ride with others so that you are more visible and have more presence than a solo rider. Communicate with your fellow riders and let them know of any upcoming danger like pot holes, a car door opening, etc. Don’t assume they will see it because you do.
Plan your route: Go to Map My Ride or find a map or your city’s bike routes. Don’t think that the faster way in your car is going to be the best route to take via bike.
WEAR A HELMET: Not looped around your handle bars – wear it snugly on your head. This really should not even be an option – just do it!
Light the way: With the time change, if you are commuting to work via bike, it will most likely be dark on the way home. A $15 LED light will keep you safe on the road. Attach it to your bike or helmet.
Ride defensively: Keep an eye on your surrounds and anticipate what cars might do next. We all know the stupid things drivers do, and you should be prepared.
Don’t use an iPod: When you are riding your bike between 15-20 MPH, it is important to be able to hear what is going on, whether it be jerks honking at you, sirens, or another rider letting you know of a danger in the road.
Follow the rules: Signal all the time and stop at stop signs and stop lights. Cyclists have to follow the same traffic rules as cars. Know that when you are on the road you are representing all cyclists and being a safe rider will further the progress of more bike lanes and other amenities for riders. Do your part and know that one rider can make a difference.