Bicycling is one of those rare sports that is both fun and useful. It’s great exercise and can even transport you to work and back all with just two wheels and some pedal power. There has been a staggering 70 percent increase in the number of commuters using bikes between 2000 and 2009 and bike lanes are popping up all over cities along with bike share programs. Bikes are literally getting a larger share of the road and are taking up that space.
Of course, there is always the issue of safety. While fatalities of bike riders have been declining since 1975, there were still 720 fatalities in 2014 of bicyclists who collided with motor vehicles, as a personal injury lawyer can attest. Bicycle safety is just as important now as it has ever been and in case it’s been a while or never since your bike safety course in elementary school, here are some important things to know when taking to the road on two wheels.
Ride on the right side of the road: Bike on the road in the same direction as the cars. Do not bike against traffic, particularly on a one-way street as drivers will not be looking in that direction when making a turn onto the street. Use bike paths and bike lanes when they are available. However, do not bike on interstates, highways, or other high-speed roads.
Obey the signs. Just as you would in a car, stop at the stop sign, and stop at the red light. Yield when it says to yield and go the correct direction on a one-way street.
Gear up. This means having the proper safety gear including a helmet, light, reflectors, bell, and, of course, functioning brakes. Always check your bike before you begin to ride to ensure that these items are working and can be seen, especially if you are planning to ride at night or before dawn. If you’re riding during the day, wear bright clothing.
Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Just as you should be doing when you’re driving, your full attention should be in riding and steering your bike. Do not use your smartphone to talk on the phone or text. Avoid wearing headphones as you may not be able to hear approaching vehicles. Do not drink and bike.
Straight on. Ride in a straight line when possible. This makes it more predictable for drivers who are trying to pass you. Riding in an unpredictable pattern increases the chance of a driver not seeing you zig into their lane until it is too late.
Use your signs. Bikes aren’t outfitted with blinkers, but your arms will do quite nicely to signal. There is an official signal language of biking all of which is done with the left hand so that the right hand can remain on the handlebars at all times. To signal left, put the left arm out straight from your side so that it is parallel to the ground. To signal right, put the left arm out and bend at the elbow upwards to form an “L” shape. To signal that you’re slowing down, put the left arm out, bend at the elbow downwards and form an “L” shape.