Bicycling is a breeze. Wind in your hair, sun on your shoulders, therapy for your mind and exercise for your body. Whether you pedal along the beach, around a lake or in a park, your summertime ritual surely will be fun. Until you get hit by a car.
The unpleasant reality should make every bicyclist, from the youngest to the oldest, take serious note and step up the safety measures.
“Cyclists and drivers make mistakes that contribute to crashes, but when a crash happens involving a cyclist and a car, SUV, pickup truck, or bus, it is the cyclist who is likely to be injured or killed,” states a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration titled “Preventing Two-Wheeled Tragedies: The Mistakes We All Make.”
Following the rules of the road is an obvious part of the solution. But a not-so-obvious one is maintaining extra awareness while enroute and mental alertness when in traffic. It could save your life, yet the point is lost on most riders. According to the report, a mere 12 percent of bicyclists said they were concerned about their safety on the road. Of those who said they were, the top reason was because of motorists.
“Be predictable,” the report states. “Signal your intentions to others (use hand signals, look over your shoulder before changing lanes, ride in a straight line on the right side of the road). Expect that other vehicles do not see you.”
An all-too-common accident scenario occurs when a driver turns right on red and fails to see a bicyclist on the passenger side of the vehicle. Another involves a bicyclist passing a driveway or a side street from which a vehicle emerges, with the vehicle either slamming into the rider or the rider slamming into it. There, neither the bicyclist nor the driver saw one another.
An additional factor to consider before hopping on your two-wheeler: Florida tops the country in the number of bicycle-fatality rates, followed by Delaware, Louisiana, Arizona and California.
Here are more tips to help you stay bicycle-smart:
- Ensure you and your ride are visible both by day and night. Wear bright clothing. Check your reflectors. Buy and install a headlight.
- Wear a helmet on every outing. While the helmet likely won’t save you if you are hit by a car, it might save you if you go down on your own.
- Don’t drink, as alcohol affects balance, impairs judgment and slows reaction time.