May is bicycle safety month – know the rules and risks of biking
Taking safety precautions can help save lives
With gas prices still high, riding a bike or e-bike as an alternative to driving to work can provide much needed fresh air, exercise, and save you at the pump. Before you start commuting by bicycle, know the rules and risks.
Around 846 bicyclists are killed each year in crashes with motor vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Taking safety precautions, knowing what to watch out for and educating yourself on the biking rules of the road is extremely important. There are several things to keep in mind when taking a bike to work.
Safe biking includes wearing the right clothing and equipment.
Make sure you have these items:
- Helmet. A properly fitted helmet with a liner is important.
- Basic equipment. Make sure your bike is equipped with reflectors, a front headlight and a rear light. A rear light that flashes is preferred. A lock will keep it safe while you're away and a bell could be helpful in congested areas.
- Clothing. Make sure you select appropriate clothing so you can be easily seen when riding. Wear light-colored or reflective clothing to enhance visibility, particularly at dusk and into the evening hours. Never wear clothing items that can get caught in any part of the bicycle such as the spokes or chain. Always tuck and secure shoe laces and pant legs so they don't get caught in your bike chain.
- Repair equipment. Having an extra tire tube, a bike pump and a small bag of tools will help if a tire should blow or be damaged.
Plan your bike commuting route
Plan out and try your riding routes before you start to commute. Choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Look for routes with bike lines, bike paths, reliable surfaces and slow to moderate vehicle traffic. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether.
Biking rules of the road
Educate yourself on the rules of the road for biking and e-biking. If a crash were to occur, the unfortunate reality is that the cyclist is more likely to be injured than the motorist. Knowing and understanding the rules of the road will keep you safer.
Types of bicycle crashes
- Left cross. A left cross accident happens when a car heading the opposite direction makes a left turn and doesn't see the cyclist.
- Right hook. A right hook accident is when a car driving the same direction cuts off a cyclist in a right-hand turn.
Also, be sure to know what insurance coverage you have and what they cover in case of an accident. In some states, State Farm® offers a Personal Mobility Policy (PMP).
Don't drink and bike
This should go without saying, but don't bike to work if you're planning on attending happy hour or plan to consume alcohol. Alcohol increases the chance of an accident. Nearly 40% of cyclist fatalities were due to alcohol impairment.
Remember, you can get stopped while riding a bike if you are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol in most states. The term vehicle can be interpreted to include the use of a bicycle or other form of transportation. Make sure you plan your day accordingly to avoid riding your bike after consuming alcohol.
Bike riding reminders
Preparation and education can help make your bike commute safer.
Here are a few key reminders:
- Preplan and find the safest route to work.
- Ride a bike that fits you so it is easy to control.
- Ride a bike that works well, is maintained and has properly working brakes.
- Always check the tire inflation before a commute.
- Make sure bikes have reflectors and lights.
- Never wear headphones, as it is a distraction and hinders your ability to hear and focus.
- Always lock your bike at your workplace and any place it is unattended.
- Carry all items in a backpack or strapped to the back of the bike.
- Tuck and tie your shoe laces and pant legs so they don't get caught in your bike chain.
Commuting via bike or e-bike is increasing in popularity. When driving a vehicle, make sure you understand and know how to navigate with the bicycling community. Here are few key reminders for drivers:
- Stay out of bike lanes.
- Pass cyclists slowly and with caution.
- Always yield to bikers as they have the right of way.
- Always be aware of any oncoming bikers.
- Look for bikes or bikers before opening your car door.
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