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Bicycle Safety

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If you are a cyclist, no matter your background or level of experience, one thing seems to rank of most importance for anyone who rides a bike, and that is safety.  Everyone has heard the saying, “it’s not if, but when” in regards to collisions involving cyclists and other vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “there were 857 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2018,” and that number does not include the thousands of bike riders injured in traffic accidents.  Being in a college town, there are plenty of folks who use bikes as their main transportation to campus, so it is important for both riders and vehicle drivers to follow the rules of the road and share the road with consideration for one another.

The two main types of bicycle crashes include falls and collisions with cars.  Obviously, the latter are typically more serious.  Regardless of how the crash happens, prevention is the name of the game.  NHTSA provides some bicycle safety facts that cyclists should take into consideration:

  • Regardless of the season, bicyclist deaths occurred most often between 6 pm and 9 pm.

  • Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban ares (75%) compared to rural ares (25%) in 2017.

  • Bicyclist deaths were 8 times higher for males than females in 2017.

  • Alcohol was involved in 37% of all fatal bicyclist crashes in 2017.

And while cars are at fault for many of the collisions with bikes, there are several preventative measures that cyclists should take to ensure the safety of themselves and others:

  • For starters, always wear a properly fitted helmet

  • Wear bright reflective clothing

  • Wear a headlamp, no matter the time of day you are riding.

  • Avoid wearing headphones; you need to be able to hear cars and possibly horns

  • Slow down at intersections

  • Look drivers in the eye when you are in a potentially dangerous situation and make sure they see you

  • Be predictable and signal your turns with your arms

  • Do not ride on the sidewalk

  • Wave your arms if you are unsure of your visibility, especially at intersections when cars are turning right while you are in a bike lane

  • Follow the rules of the road as if you were driving a car

  • Ride defensively

It is also important for drivers to be considerate and share the road.  People on bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as people driving a vehicle.  NHTSA advises drivers to:

  • Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed

  • In parking lots, at stop signs, when backing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles

  • Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear

  • Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist

  • Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle - when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane

Cycling can be a fun and healthy hobby, but there are plenty of risks involved. Regardless of who causes a collision, it is an absolute certainty that the cyclist will pay the price with their health in the event of a wreck.  Let’s stay safe out there and keep our roads safe for everyone using the road!

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