Bicycles have been around for hundreds of years in various forms. We use them for recreation and exercise and as a quick way to cover short distances.
With the “go green” movement, bicycles have once again risen in popularity as an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation. In the United States between 2000 and 2010, the number of people who rode their bicycle to and from work has risen by 61%.
Fatalities on the Rise
Unfortunately, the cost of saving this energy has increased bicycle fatalities. With more bikes on the road, there were more collisions with motor vehicles and others. In 2015, 818 cyclists were killed. This was up 12.2% from the previous year and the highest increase in two decades.
Fifty-one percent of bike collisions with motor vehicles occurred at a traffic intersection, and 32% of these crashes occurred when bicyclists were riding against traffic.
Safety Is Key
What can be done to help prevent fatalities from happening? It’s important that bike riders educate themselves on traffic and safety rules before heading out, especially if they are going to mix with motor vehicles.
The first thing to remember is that you, as a bike rider, are required to follow all of the bicycle safety rules of the road, as well as normal traffic and safety rules. Street signs, traffic signals and road markings still apply, whether you are in a car or on a bike.
What makes you different as a bike rider is that you are also following bike road rules as well. You will be moving slower than motorized vehicles. For this reason, you should always keep to the right-hand side of the road, allowing faster vehicles to pass you.
Try to keep a minimum of three feet between you and any other vehicles. If there is not enough room for you to keep your distance, then you should take the lane and travel in the center of it. You have just as much of a right to be on the road as the cars, but consult your state’s bicycling laws for specific details.
If you are going to pass another vehicle or bike rider, always pass on the left. Yield to traffic when you don’t have the right of way, and make sure you learn and use the proper hand signals.
Universal Cycling Hand Signals
Using universally recognized hand signals warns others of your intentions and can help prevent accidents and injuries. Learn these signals and make sure you use them when you’re on the road:
- Left Turn. When you’re turning left, extend your left arm straight out. Do this at least 10 yards before making your turn.
- Right Turn. For right turns, you are still going to use your left hand. Extend your arm and make a 90-degree angle with your elbow while keeping your hand pointed upward.
- If you are going to stop, make the opposite motion of the right turn. Your arm should be extended at a 90-degree angle but pointing downward toward the road.
Group Bike Riding Signals
If you are going to head out with a group of bike riders, you will need to learn some more hand signals so that your group can communicate and keep each other safe. With these signals, you can use your left or right arm. Choose the arm nearest to what you are signaling:
- To alert the group that you are going to stop, put your arm behind your back and make your hand into a fist.
- Pothole or Road Hazard. To warn others of a pothole or road hazard, extend your arm and point to the hazard. Rotate your arm in circles for emphasis.
- If you encounter gravel on your ride, alert others by extending your arm at a 45-degree angle while wiggling your fingers.
- Shoulder Hazard. If there is debris blocking the shoulder or presenting a hazard, put your arm behind your back at a 45-degree angle. To differentiate this signal from the “stop” sign, extend a flat hand. Repeat several times to alert the group.
- Move Over. If you want to tell someone to move over or to pay attention, signal them by putting your arm behind your back and patting your rear.
Safe Biking Tips
A few other bike safety tips for adults and children to follow include the following:
- Wear a Helmet. In 2015, 54% of those killed in bicycle accidents were not wearing a helmet. Helmets save lives and can reduce your chance of sustaining a head injury by 50%.
- Wear Reflective Clothing. You need to do everything you can to make sure cars see you on the road. Wear fluorescent or bright colors while riding during the day. Wear clothing with reflective material while riding at night. Being highly visible can reduce your chances of being hit by another vehicle by 55%.
- Install Lights. Since 51% of bike fatalities occur at night, it stands to reason that lights would help reduce collisions. Add lights to the front of your bike, to the rear and to your helmet. Add reflectors wherever they will fit. The better drivers can see you, the better the chances they will avoid you.
Bike riding is fun, whether in a group or as a way to find peace and solitude. Take the time to educate yourself on the bicycle safety rules of the road. Put these tips into practice and have a safe and enjoyable ride!