The Importance of Bicycle Safety
Cycling is one of the most popular recreational activities in the United States. Even though there have been many efforts to promote cycling safety, bicycle accidents, and related fatalities continue to occur in alarming numbers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2019, 846 bicyclists were killed in crashes involving motor vehicles, and also that roughly 60,000 non-fatal bicycle-related occurred in the same year. To reduce the risk of accidents and save lives, it is crucial to educate cyclists and the public on the importance of bicycle safety.
The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive guide to bicycle safety, including topics such as:
- Understanding the importance of prioritizing bicycle safety and the factors that contribute to bicycle accidents
- Laws and regulations related to bicycle safety, including state-specific laws
- Ensuring a safe ride, including choosing the right bicycle, proper maintenance, and safe riding habits
- Bicycle safety for children, including education and safety gear
- What to do in the event of a bicycle accident, including steps to take immediately and also how to deal with insurance companies
By providing this information, Dan Rose Law hopes to educate cyclists and help them stay safe on the roads, reducing the number of bicycle accidents and fatalities.
About Bicycle Safety
To reduce the risks that come with biking it is important to understand what those risks are. Some key factors that contribute to risk during cycling are:
Factors that Can Contribute to an Accident
- Poor visibility: When drivers are unable to see cyclists on the road, it dramatically increases the chance of an accident.
- Distracted driving: Drivers who are texting, on the phone, or otherwise distracted have a higher probability of causing an accident.
- Poor road conditions: Potholes, uneven pavement, debris or other hazards can contribute to cyclists losing control of their bikes and causing an accident.
- Reckless cycling: Cyclists who refuse to follow established rules of the road or who take unnecessary risks are more likely to be in an accident.
- Lack of protective gear: The risk of injury in an accident is much higher for cyclists who fail to wear protective gear, such as helmets and reflective clothing.
Taking The Proper Steps to Reduce Risk
- Wear a helmet: A helmet is one of the most important pieces of safety gear since in an accident, the head is the most important body part to protect. Helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of serious injury in many cases.
- Use lights and reflectors: Making sure you are always seen by drivers by doing everything you can to make yourself visible can help reduce the risk of accidents. This is especially true at night.
- Follow the rules of the road: It is important that cyclists should heed traffic signals and signs, ride with the flow of traffic, and use hand signals when making turns.
- Stay alert: Cyclists should never get casual when riding and should always stay focused on the road staying aware of their surroundings at all times.
- Avoid distractions: Just like driving a car, using your phone or getting caught up in other distractions while cycling will increase your chances of being in an accident.
- Use bike lanes and designated paths when available: Bike lanes and designated paths, when adhered to, have been shown to reduce the risk of accidents.
The Importance of Education in Bicycle Safety
- Many cyclists are not aware of all of the risks that come with biking and how they can reduce those risks.
- Education on bicycle safety can help cyclists understand the importance of good safety habits, federal and local laws and regulations, and good preparation for ensuring safe riding.
- Bicycle safety education can also help drivers understand how to safely share the road
A sound understanding of all of the factors that can contribute to cycling accidents along with proactively taking action to reduce the associated risks can literally save lives. It is important for both cyclists and drivers to be educated to maximize the chances of avoiding accidents on the road.
Laws and Regulations Related to Bicycle Safety
In the United States, there are laws and regulations regarding bicycle safety that all cyclists should be familiar with, including:
- Helmets: In some states, helmet use is required when riding a bicycle.
- Bicycle Lights: Some states also require light use during nighttime riding.
- Sidewalks: Some states do not allow cycling on sidewalks, whereas some do.
- Passing: Many states require that drivers pass cyclists at a “safe” distance, typically this is at least 3 feet.
- Group Riding: Some state laws have provisions for how many cyclists can ride side by side.
Federal Laws and Regulations
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Regulations: The CPSC defines safety standards for bicycles and related equipment, including, but not limited to helmets and reflectors.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA mandates that sidewalks, roads, and public transportation must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This includes cyclists.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Regulations: The NHTSA has safety standards for motor vehicles, with a goal to reduce the number of accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles.
Liability in Bicycle Accidents
- Who is at fault in a bicycle accident can be an extremely complex issue.
- In some cases, the driver of the motor vehicle may be wholly at fault for the accident, while in others, it may be the cyclist who is at fault.
- Factors that can influence decisions about liability include state laws, and the specific circumstances of the accident, including the actions of both the cyclist and the driver.
To reduce risk on the road for cyclists, it is important that both drivers and cyclists have a sound understanding of and follow the laws and regulations related to bicycle safety. An understanding of liability when it comes to bicycle accidents can also be a help to cyclists by protecting their legal rights and assisting them in the process of seeking proper compensation for injuries and/or damage. A bicycle accident lawyer with a proven track record can also help in this regard.
Tips for Safe Cycling
Prioritizing safety on the road can ensure that cycling remains a fun and healthy recreational activity. Here are some tips for safe cycling:
Wear Proper Safety Gear
- Always wear a properly-fitted helmet that conforms to state laws where applicable.
- Increase visibility by wearing bright clothing ideally with reflective components.
- Using quality gloves can provide a better grip on the handles.
- Be sure to wear shoes that cover your toes for proper foot protection.
Follow Traffic Laws
- Obey all traffic signals and signs.
- Use hand signals for turns and stops.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic.
- Use bike lanes or designated cycling areas when they are available.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Keep a sharp eye out for hazards on the road, like potholes, debris, or wet pavement.
- Be aware of the traffic around you and try to make eye contact with drivers to make sure that they see you.
- Watch for pedestrians and be sure to yield to them when necessary.
- Avoid distractions like using your phone or listening to music or podcasts with headphones while cycling.
Maintain Your Bicycle
- It’s a good idea to check your brakes, tires, handlebars, pedals, or other components regularly so that you can be confident that they are in good working order.
- Keep your bicycle clean, especially the parts that contribute to a smooth ride, like your chains and tires.
- Make sure your bicycle is the right size and is adjusted for your body.
Stay Alert and Defensive
- Anticipate potential road hazards and be ready to react quickly.
- Always assume that drivers don’t see you and always be ready to take evasive action, if necessary.
- Avoid cycling in bad weather or at night, if at all possible.
These tips will absolutely help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries during a bike ride. Safe bicycling is about protecting yourself, and also those around you.
Bicycle Safety for Children
The best time to teach children about bicycle safety is right when they start to learn to ride. This is important for ensuring their safety on the road. The following are a few tips for parents and guardians to help keep children safe while cycling:
Proper Safety Gear
- Children should always wear properly-fitted helmets.
- Be sure that children always wear brightly colored clothing and reflective gear to increase visibility.
- Use gloves to protect their hands and provide a better grip on the handlebars.
- Children shouldn’t wear open-toe shoes but should choose shoes that fully cover their feet.
- Teach children early to adhere to traffic signals and signs.
- Practice hand signals with children for turns and stops.
- Teach children to ride in the same direction as traffic.
- Have children use bike lanes and/or other appointed cycling areas when they are available.
Be Aware of the Surroundings
- Teach children to keep an eye out for on-road hazards, including potholes, debris, or wet pavement.
- Make sure children stay aware of traffic around them and are intentional about making eye contact with drivers to make sure they are seen.
- Teach children to be aware of pedestrians and yield to them as necessary.
- Be sure children are vigilant in avoiding distractions like phones, headphones, or other diversions.
Proper Bike Fit
- Children’s bicycles should be the right size for their height and weight and be adjusted accordingly. For example, seats that are too high can pose risks.
- Check chains, tires, brakes, and other parts to be sure they are in good condition and function well.
- Keeping children’s bicycles clean will ensure the best ride possible. For example, excessive dirt in the chain areas can pose risks.
- For kids, riding with an adult or in a group can be a safer way to ride, especially when they are more inexperienced.
- It’s a good idea to have children get into the habit of asking for permission before going on a bike ride so that you know where they are at all times.
- Establish rules for children to stay within familiar cycling areas or routes.
Proper education and training can go a long way in reducing the risk of bicycle accidents and injury for children. It may be necessary to refresh this training multiple times as children (and even adults) can forget or get into bad habits while cycling.
Bicycle Accidents: What to Do
Even when you are following all the rules, accidents can still happen when riding a bike. The following is a guide on what to do if you are in a bicycle accident.
First Seek Medical Attention
- If you or anyone else involved in the accident is injured, your first priority is to seek medical attention immediately.
- If needed, call 911 for assistance.
- Even if it doesn’t seem like you’re injured, it’s still a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional just to be sure there are no injuries beyond the surface.
Document the Accident
- If you can, take pictures of the accident scene and include pictures of any damage to your bike, other vehicles involved in the incident, and any injuries you may have experienced.
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses who happened to see the accident.
- Write down all details about the accident, including the date, time, location, or any other relevant info.
Contact the Police
- Call the local police department to report the accident.
- Cooperate with police and provide any information they ask for.
- If the accident involved a motor vehicle, be sure to ask the police to file a report.
Contact Your Insurance Company
- Notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible.
- Provide them with any information they need, including the police report and any photos or other documentation.
Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney
- If you sustained injuries or damage to property in the accident, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney. Initial consultations are usually free.
- An experienced attorney can help you through the legal process and be sure that your rights are protected.
The aftermath of a bicycle accident can be a confusing and stressful time. By taking these steps, you can make sure you get proper medical attention and have thorough documentation of the incident, which can be highly valuable if you end up needing to file an insurance claim or take legal action.
Riding your bicycle, rather than driving, is a great way to stay healthy, save money, and even reduce your carbon footprint. However, it’s important to prioritize safety when cycling to avoid accidents and injuries. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can minimize your risk of getting into a bicycle accident and being injured. You’ll also enjoy riding far more.