How To Stay Safe While Riding Your Bike
Riding your bike is a wonderful leisure activity in Southern California, and cycling can even be an eco-friendly way to get to work. Unfortunately, California drivers are not the best at “sharing the road,” which means you’ll want to keep safety in mind whenever you ride.
Fortunately, the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser has compiled some of the internet’s best safety tips from sources like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Safety Council (NSC), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Keep reading to learn how to stay safe on the road.
Step 1: Prepare Your Bicycle
Before going for a bike ride, always check your equipment. Choose a bike that fits you, and make sure:
- Your seat is at the proper height and locked in place.
- Your tires are inflated properly.
- All parts are secure and working properly, particularly the brakes.
- Your bike has reflectors on the rear, front, pedals, and spokes.
- You have a horn or bell and a rear-view mirror.
- You have a bright white headlight and flashing red taillight if any part of your ride will take place after dark.
According to the NHTSA, you can adjust your bicycle to fit by standing over it:
“There should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top tube (bar) if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bicycle.”
Once you’ve chosen the correct bike, make sure the seat is level front to back and adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee. Adjust the handlebars to be level with the seat, then double-check the list above and you’re good to go!
Step 2: Plan Your Outfit – and Your Route
When bicycling, your helmet is your most important accessory. Bicycle helmets in the United States must be approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and will have a certification label inside. Your helmet should fit level on your head, low on your forehead, and snugly – and you should replace your helmet you have any kind of accident.
For more information, read this helpful guide for Fitting Your Bicycle Helmet (opens a PDF).
Aside from your helmet, you should wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright clothing to make yourself visible. If you have to ride at night or visibility is poor, wear reflective gear and turn on your lights.
At any time of day, avoid loose pant legs and wear the proper footwear – sneakers with double-knotted shoelaces are best. Sandals, flip-flops, shoes with heels, or cleats can make it difficult for you to grip the pedals. If you’re carrying anything, you should also wear a backpack to keep your hands free!
Another item you shouldn’t wear is headphones – the music can distract you from the road and important noises around you, like car horns and traffic.
Before you set off, map out where you’re going. If you’ll be riding on the road, choose a route with less traffic and slower speeds. Remember, your best option is to ride away from traffic on a bike path or trail. You can also choose roads with large bike lanes. Crashes are more common at night, so ride during the day whenever possible.
Step 3: Ride Predictably and Defensively
Always follow the rules of the road and ride in bike lanes whenever they are available. Ride in the same direction as traffic and try to keep a steady pace. If you need to change lanes or turn, use hand signals and look over your shoulder to make sure there are no cars in the way. Stay focused on the task of safe cycling instead of texting, listening to music, or engaging in any other distraction.
When you’re on the road, assume other drivers don’t see you and look ahead for hazards. Be aware of potholes, grates, train tracks, loose gravel, and other situations that might cause a fall. If you ride on the sidewalk, make sure sidewalk riding is legal, pass pedestrians carefully and alert them by saying “on your left” or using a bell, and look for traffic in driveways and when crossing the street.
Bicyclists on the road must obey street signs, signals, and road markings like any other vehicle, and bicyclists in bike lanes should be wary of “dooring,” a phenomenon that occurs when parked cars open their door into the path of your bicycle.
In general, only young children should ride on the sidewalk, as drivers don’t always expect bicyclists on the sidewalk, and you could cause a pedestrian accident.
In any situation, ride to protect yourself and use your best judgement.
What To Do When Someone Else Makes Your Ride Unsafe
If you follow the 3-step plan outlined above, you are actively preventing bicycle accidents. Nevertheless, approximately 857 bicyclists were killed in traffic crashes in 2018. Sadly, not everyone on the road drives with safety in mind.
If you get hurt or lose a loved one because of someone else’s negligence or unsafe behavior, you may be entitled to compensation – and we can help.
At the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser, we have more than 20 years of experience helping people like you recover from bike crashes. We are deeply dedicated to our community and want to help you obtain the resources you need to move forward.
Call us at (661) 441-3446 today or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with Santa Clarita Signal’s best personal injury attorney. No recovery, no fee.