Bike riding is a popular activity in sunny California, and it is on the rise. Unfortunately, bicycle accidents happen all too often. Severe accidents can lead to serious injuries or even fatalities. The good news is that you can help protect yourself by following basic safety tips. Having a sense of awareness can help prevent major pedestrian and bicycle accidents from happening.
Wear a helmet to reduce the risk of head or brain injuries
Most cyclists know that wearing a helmet could prevent serious injuries should they fall or be knocked off their bicycles. For maximum protection, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises cyclists to wear head protection on every ride and ensure that their helmets fit properly and are strapped on securely.
Follow the rules of the road
Bicycles are vehicles and every state requires them to follow traffic laws such as signaling turns, stopping for stop signs and riding in the proper lane of traffic. This also helps make you more visible to drivers because you are driving in a predictable way.
Have the right gear
In addition to wearing a helmet, make sure the rest of your clothing and equipment is ready to go. Check your tire pressure, gears and brakes. If you have items to bring, use a backpack or strap them to the back of your bike so you can keep your hands free. Wear visible clothing so that drivers can see you easily. Bicycle fatalities happen most often from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Always use lights when riding at night, or even as the sun is going down.
Assume the drivers do not see you
Unfortunately, drivers rarely look for bicycles. Riding defensively means you stay alert to your surroundings, no matter what the drivers around you are doing. Do not try to look at your phone or listen to music while you ride. Watch for cars that may be backing out of driveways, opening their doors or cutting in front of you.
Approach intersections with care
Ride with particular care near intersections as fatal accidents are often caused by turning drivers who either do not see bicycles or see them but misjudge their speeds. Make sure you are in the correct lane of traffic and try to make eye contact with drivers so you know that they see you.
Watch out for road hazards
Cars and trucks can navigate a variety of road conditions because their weight helps keep them stable. On the other hand, bicyclists are at a greater risk of an accident each time they encounter a dangerous road condition. Just a few hazards to watch out for include loose sand or gravel on the road, potholes, large cracks and train tracks. Try to refrain from riding on poorly lit roads, especially at night.
If you are new to biking, the California Bicycle Coalition has a list of helpful resources, including links, classes and videos to get you started with tips on basic maintenance, safety and equipment, including how to teach a child to ride. Vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists share the road every day. You can do your part to reduce the risk of a bicycle accident by following the above basic safety protocols.