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Cycling is a great workout and can make for a healthy and cheap alternative to driving a car or using public transport to get around. Riding a bike is good for traffic, good for health, and good for the environment, but it does not come without its own set of risks. There are many things that both motorists and cyclists can do to make sure everyone shares the road safely and courteously.
- Watch for bikes when opening doors. Passengers and drivers blindly opening doors into bike lane can cut off a cyclist, causing a crash between the cyclist and the door, or force them to dangerously steer into motor vehicle traffic. In most states, opening doors into traffic establishes fault if doing so results in an accident.
- Share the road. Give bikes space, especially on crowded streets. Only pass when there is enough room to do so safely and never tailgate a person on a bike.
- Check for cyclists when turning or pulling over to the side of the road. Motorists may not always think to check the right side of the car when turning or pulling over to the right, but a bike may be approaching. Treat bike lanes like another lane of traffic.
- Do not park in bike lanes. Aside from being a fineable offense, this forces cyclists into motor vehicle traffic.
- Always use your headlights – even during the day. Using your headlights at all times helps other road users see your vehicle better, especially in inclement weather.
- Get off the phone. This should go without saying and applies whether cyclists are present or not, and sharing the road with cyclists requires extra attention. Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents.
- Always wear a helmet – while this may only be a legal requirement for those under 16, this should be rule number one for all riders. The leading part of the body to fly forward off of a bike in a crash is usually the head and bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 60%.
- Know the rules of the road. Cyclists must follow the same rules as motorists and can be cited for things such as running red lights, not yielding for pedestrians in crosswalks, and heading the wrong way down a street.
- Always use your headlights and taillights at night and make sure they are the correct color (white for front, red for back), and clearly visible from a distance of at least 600 feet. Reflectors must be present on both the front and back sides of the pedals or on the ankles of the rider.
- Wear highly visible clothing, especially at night.
- Never ride on limited access highways such as interstates. These roads are marked with signage at onramps prohibiting bicycles.
- Cyclists must yield to pedestrians, especially when riding on sidewalks (not all towns and neighborhoods allow bike riding on public sidewalks). When passing a pedestrian, cyclists should use an audible warning such as a bell or verbally calling out to the pedestrian.
- Use hand signals to indicate the intention to stop, turn, or change lanes.
(Photo Credit: iStock)
Every May, the NHTSA and state governments come together to coordinate Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which strives to spread awareness about motorcycle laws and education designed to keep everyone on the road safe. The number of deaths and injuries caused by accidents involving motorcycles is staggering, and many of these are caused by non-motorcycle users of the road. It’s important to understand safety issues facing motorcycles in traffic, regardless of whether your vehicle has two wheels or more. Below is a list of safety tips you should familiarize yourself with before your next ride:
- Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet while riding. You are much more likely to experience severe brain damage caused by head trauma in a crash if you are wearing a non-compliant helmet.
- Wear brighter, more reflective gear, especially while traveling at night, and make sure your lights are functioning, bright, and visible (unblocked).
- Lane splitting may help save time and avoid getting rear-ended in heavy traffic, but it can also be very dangerous and illegal. If you’re going to filter forward, make sure it is done safely, with courtesy, and only where it is legal.
For Other Road Users:
- Because motorcycles are smaller than cars and trucks, they can be more difficult to spot, especially in blind spots. Always check your blind spots & mirrors, use your turn signals, and use extra care when you know motorcycles are nearby.
- Give more following distance to motorcycles. This gives motorcyclists room to perform emergency stops or maneuvers for road hazards like gravel, potholes, standing water, cracks, or train tracks that passenger vehicles can usually continue over at reduced speed.
- Share the road with motorcyclists, but not the lane. Motorcyclists should always get a full lane width, even if it may look like there is room for a car.
- Never operate any vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Leave the phone in your pocket and just focus on the road. Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.
- Take time to rest during long trips so you stay alert, awake, and ready for the road ahead.
You can learn more about Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month at the NHTSA’s website.