Bicycle Safety

While millions of people enjoy the thrill of riding bikes, it’s important to remember that a bicycle is not a toy—it’s a vehicle. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Each year, nearly 1,000 persons die from injuries caused by bicycle crashes, and 550,000 persons are treated in emergency departments for injuries related to bicycle riding.”

When you go bike riding, keep these bicycle safety rules in mind:

1)      Be Prepared

2)      Be Visible

3)      Be Alert

4)      Follow the Rules of the Road

Be Prepared

Preparation is an important aspect of any safety plan. Before you leave the house, consider the following bicycle safety tips.

Get the Right Fit

Before you can think about riding your bike for any sizable distance, you need to make sure it fits you. A properly fitted bike is easier to control on the roads and causes less fatigue to your muscles. Consult our page on sizing your bike for more information.

Perform an Inspection

Check your equipment regularly to make sure everything is in good working order. Before riding, make sure that your brakes work and your tires are properly inflated. Keeping your tires at the correct pressure helps prevent punctures and unnecessary wear to your tires and rims.

Wear a Helmet

According to the Center for Disease Control, “Head injuries account for 62% of bicycle-related deaths, for 33% of bicycle-related emergency department visits, and for 67% of bicycle-related hospital admissions. Without a helmet, a simple fall can lead to something as serious as long-term brain damage or death. To help protect yourself from head injury, always use a helmet, and make sure you wear it according to manufacturer instructions. For information on selecting a helmet, see our choosing bicycle accessories page.

Gear Up for Safety

Riding in sandals is not a good idea. In addition to a bicycle helmet, you’ll want to make sure to wear shoes that protect your feet. You should also pack a basic repair kit and a cell phone to call for help if needed.

Choose Your Travel Time Carefully

When planning bike trips, try to avoid early morning and late afternoon rush hours when traffic is at its heaviest. If possible, you should also try to ride during the daytime when the weather’s nice. Low light and poor weather make it more difficult to operate your bike.

Be Visible

When sharing the roads with other vehicles, it’s important to make sure they can see your bicycle. This holds especially true when riding through heavy traffic or during low-light conditions. The following bicycle safety tips give you a significantly better chance of being seen on the roads, ultimately helping you avoid a potentially fatal crash.

Wear Bright Colors

Whether you’re riding during the daytime or at night, wearing bright, reflective clothing can increase your chances of being seen by other vehicles. While you might assume that the color white falls into this category, it has not been shown to increase visibility. Your best option is to go with fluorescent colors, like neon yellow or lime green. If night riding is unavoidable, consider wearing reflective clothing or adapting your existing clothes with reflective tape.

Use Lights & Reflectors

Bicycle lights and reflectors give you a significantly better chance of being seen when riding your bike at night. For riding at any time, the National Safety Council recommends using front, rear, spoke, and pedal reflectors, as well as a horn or bell for giving audible cues to other vehicles.

Ride With Traffic

Always ride with the flow of traffic rather than against it. If you ride against traffic, a driver may not see you because they don’t expect traffic from that direction. Similarly, you should avoid riding on sidewalks because drivers can’t see you coming at intersections.

Use Hand Signals

Before making a turn, changing lanes, or slowing to a stop, use a hand signal to warn traffic around you. When turning left, look behind you, extend your left arm straight out, then look again before turning or changing lanes. When turning right, look behind you, extend your left arm out with your elbow bent upward at a 90-degree angle, then look again before turning or changing lanes. To signal that you are slowing or stopping, extend your left arm out with your elbow bent downward at a 90-degree angle. When signaling, keep one hand on the handlebars to maintain control. Remember to establish eye contact with drivers. Seeing a driver is not enough; you have to be sure they see you.

Be Alert

The roads are filled with careless drivers and unexpected hazards. To avoid an unfortunate accident, you need to be a vigilant biker. Keep yourself protected on the roads by following these tips on bicycle safety.

Look Out for Other Vehicles

Even if you obey all traffic laws, you still run the risk of being hit by a motorist who’s driving recklessly or not paying attention. When this happens, you need to be prepared to take evasive action. Pay special attention to vehicles in driveways, in parking spaces, and at stop signs—they can pull out in front of you suddenly and without warning. Ride far enough away from the curb to avoid incidents with parked cars, such as doors opening or cars pulling away unexpectedly. You should also be on the lookout for cars making a right hand turn in front of you, as well as cars coming from the opposite direction and turning left in front of you. They may misjudge your speed or not see you at all.

Avoid Road Hazards

When bike riding, keep your eyes on the road in front of you, and be on the lookout for potholes, gravel, broken glass, puddles, and other unsafe road conditions. When riding with friends or family, be sure to point out any hazards to those behind you.

Use Your Mirrors

Mirrors give you a greater view of your surroundings, helping you see approaching vehicles and potential openings behind you. While bike mirrors are a great tool, they are no substitute for your own eyes. When turning or changing lanes, always look over your shoulder to make sure the road is clear.

Don’t Wear Earphones

Much like bike riding, music can be motivational and inspiring. But if you’re thinking about getting your groove on while bike riding, you should reconsider. It’s a much safer choice to keep your ears clear in order to hear your surroundings and identify any potential threats. This is especially true when traveling in high traffic areas. While wearing headphones is still legal in most states, it is regulated in a handful. If you have to listen to your music, consider listening at a reasonable volume that doesn’t block out external sounds.

Follow the Rules of the Road

In most States, bikes are considered vehicles, and cyclists must follow the same rules as motorists. This means obeying traffic signals, yielding when appropriate, and using the traffic lane appropriately. It also means not riding while intoxicated.

Obey Traffic Signs, Signals, and Lane Markings

Bicyclists must obey all stop signs, traffic lights, and lane markings. In addition to stopping for red lights, it’s a good idea to stop for yellow lights. Rushing through a yellow might not leave you enough time to clear the intersection before the light changes.

Yield to Traffic When Appropriate

In almost all cases, drivers on a smaller road must yield to traffic on a larger road. If you’re entering a larger road from a driveway, sidewalk, or bike path, slow down to make sure no traffic is approaching. You should also yield to pedestrians in cross walks and sidewalks.

Use the Traffic Lane

Unless there is a designated bike path available, you’ll need to share the traffic lane to the left of the white line with other vehicles. If possible, ride to the right of this lane, but not so far that you hit the curb, lose your balance, and fall into traffic. If the road is too narrow for a bicycle and car to travel beside each other safely, ride closer to the center of the lane. Move to the center of the lane when traveling at the same speed as the traffic around you. This will help keep you out of motorists’ blind spots. You should also move to the center of the lane when making a left turn against traffic, to avoid conflicts with right-turning vehicles, and to avoid potholes and other road hazards.

Don’t Drink & Drive

This should go without saying, but it’s important enough to mention. You should never drink alcohol and ride your bike. Intoxication effects your ability to react to your surroundings, and can lead to serious and even fatal injuries.