Wearing a helmet is important to help protect bicycle riders from traumatic brain injury should you have a bicycle accident. However, should you be hit by a moving vehicle, that helmet is not enough to protect you. The simple fact is that cars have a lot going for them while bicyclists are at a great disadvantage. Defensive bicycling is enough reason to remind yourself of the many ways to prevent collisions with motor vehicles. Sure, the drivers should be looking out for you – but you can’t depend on anyone but yourself to be safe on the road.
Here are eight things to keep in mind as you bicycle:
- Ride to the right – sometimes. While bicyclists are advised to ride as far to the right of the road as possible to stay safe from cars traveling parallel, this opens you up to other accidents. Someone exiting a parked car could cut you off, and you will be less visible to drivers who are pulling out of parking lots or driveways.
- Go to the left a little, but only if you look first. Some motorists will pass cyclists at a very close range. If you unexpectedly move even a few inches to the left you could be hit from behind. Don’t trust that a driver will notice you making a change – look first, then Don’t look and move at the same time. Attach a mirror to your bike to help you in your efforts, but never neglect to turn your head and look too.
- Don’t pass on the right. If you are moving faster than a slow-moving vehicle, adjust your speed. Overtaking a slow car makes you invisible to motorists who are turning left at intersections – and the slow vehicle you’re trying to move past could turn into you too.
- Don’t underestimate your speed. Plenty of motorists are already underestimating your speed because you’re on a bicycle, but you know you can move quickly. And, unfortunately, this one is on you – if a car moves ahead of you and then starts to turn right in front of you, slow down as fast as possible. Otherwise, a collision is almost inevitable.
- Keep to the left when the lanes demand it. If you have to take up a whole left lane to prevent someone from passing you, cutting you off, or turning into you, then take up the entire left lane. Have no guilt – this is a defensive move that could save your life. Motorists, no matter how adept they are at sharing the road, are still in a better position than you as a cyclist. If the lane isn’t wide enough for a car to safely pass you, make it your own.
- Ride with traffic. Never ride against traffic on the left side of the street – no motor vehicle operator expects someone to be coming at them (car or bike) from the wrong direction. You might be able to see cars better by riding against traffic, but cars won’t see you, you can’t make right turns, cars approach you at faster speeds, and you’ll get ticketed eventually for riding the wrong way. Riding the wrong way is three times as dangerous as riding the right way – for children, the risk is seven times greater.
- Watch for parked cars. A moving car is not your only problem as a bicyclist. If you are cycling along a line of parked cars, put enough space between you and them so that if someone opens their door they won’t cut you off and make you slam right into it. This is one of the most common bicycle-car accidents.
- Avoid crosswalks and sidewalks. Motorists don’t expect bicyclists in crosswalks, which makes you more susceptible to being hit. Slow down, or walk your bike across the street instead of riding if you have to. Stay off of the sidewalks in general – they’re not meant for bicyclists.