May is Bike to Work month, and with the Spring weather finally (hopefully) upon us, those of us in the cycling community expect to see a large uptick in the number of riders on the road. With the increase in riders comes the unfortunate, but inevitable increase in bicycling crashes and injuries. My blog this month will be devoted to bicycling safety.
According to statistics kept by the Centers for Disease Control in 2015 in the United States, over 1000 bicyclists died from injuries sustained in crashes. That same year, 467,000 bicycling related injuries were reported. It was determined that adults aged 50-59 have the highest bicycle death rates; that children of all ages have the highest rates of non-fatal injuries and that in 37% of the reported incidents, alcohol was implicated for either the motor vehicle driver or the cyclist.
So what are some of the ways to help prevent bicycling injuries? The list below is a good start for cyclists:
- Obey all traffic laws, stop signs and traffic signals. Be sure to signal your intention before turning. Yield at all times to pedestrians. Ride as far right as is safely possible, and if you need to take the lane because of obstructions in the road, signal your intent to do so, move safely and then move right again as soon as it safe to do so.
- All riders should wear an approved and properly fitted bicycle helmet EVERY time they ride. Studies show that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injury.
- Bright colored or fluorescent clothing during the day and reflective clothing during evening hours makes bicyclists more visible to drivers.
- Lights: daytime running lights (white in front, red in back) that flash increase rider visibility. At night, a white light on the front and a red in the rear are the minimum that should be used.
- Carry identification (driver’s license, non-driver ID etc.) on your person at all times. You may also consider using a RoadID that can be worn on your wrist containing your information and emergency contact information.
Safety tips for drivers when bicyclists are present:
- Share the road. Bicycles are considered vehicles and have a right to be on the road.
- Slow down.
- Pass bicyclists safely and at slow speed. On narrow roadways, bicyclists are permitted to take the lane if necessary. Drivers must wait until it is safe to pass. When it is safe to pass, drivers may cross a double yellow line in order to maintain a safe passing distance between the car and the bicyclist. In Pennsylvania, the law requires 4 feet of passing room. In New York, the law only states it must be a “safe distance.” New Jersey sadly has no safe passing law.
- When exiting your car from the driver’s side, do the “Dutch reach.” Open your car door with your right hand, which aids you in looking over your shoulder to see if a cyclist is approaching your car from the rear. This will prevent you from opening the door into the path of an oncoming cyclist, called “dooring.”
- Remember that bicyclists can travel more quickly than you think. Be especially careful when making left turns in front of oncoming bicyclists. If you would not make the turn in front of an oncoming car, don’t make it in front of a bicycle.
Keeping these tips in mind, and using common sense to take care of all road users, the bicycling season will be a great one! Now get out there and ride!