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12 bicycle safety tips to avoid bike-car accidents

June 12, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

I have been involved in bike safety for nearly 20 years.  And my partner, Bob Raitt, started the Michigan Association for Justice bike helmet giveaway for youth in under-served communities to help prevent pediatric brain injuries from bike-car accidents, when he served as president of the organization.

As lawyers, we see so many tragic and preventable bicycle accidents. Many are caused by cars whizzing by, or making turns. Many people just don’t “see” a person riding a bike, even when they are there and plainly visible.

And bicycle injury accidents can be especially catastrophic, due to the great disparity in size and weight when a biker is hit by a car. Consider the latest statistics available from 2010 on bicycle deaths and injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • There were 618 bicyclist deaths, accounting for 2% of all traffic fatalities during the year.
  • 52,000 bicyclists were injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2010.
  • Of the injuries, 18% (or about 9,000) of the bicyclists were age 14 and younger.

Today I wanted to share some basic safety tips for bicyclists, to help them better protect themselves while riding.  These are tips I recently shared to a bike group in Metro-Detroit on bicycle safety:

  1. Obey basic traffic laws: This includes traffic lights, stop signs, one-way streets and other traffic laws. A bicyclist has the same rights and duties as drivers of other vehicles on the road, and additional responsibilities.
  2. Use the bike lane when possible: If there is a bike lane, use it. Ride in the same direction that traffic is flowing.
  3. Ride to the right of your lane: Ride to the right of your lane, or to the outside lanes on a one-way street, particularly when traffic is moving faster than you are.
  4. Use hand signals: Use bicycle hand signals when turning, stopping or moving from a lane.
  5. Lights on your bike: Use a headlight with a white light visible from ahead, and a red reflector/light visible from behind, when riding from sunset to sunrise or whenever there’s poor visibility.
  6. Yield: Be prepared to yield at all times.
  7. Keep at least one hand on your handlebars: This helps keep control of your bicycle at all times.
  8. Free your hands for safe riding: You can use saddlebags, racks, baskets and backpacks to carry packages and free your hands for safe riding.
  9. Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians: It’s also best to give audible warning when passing a pedestrian.
  10. Wear reflective clothing: In conjunction with the lights on your bicycle, reflective clothing helps make you more visible to drivers.
  11. Keep your brakes adjusted: Doing so helps your bicycle skid on clean, dry pavement when braking.
  12. Ride no more than two abreast: If you are riding with more than two people, ride single file.

It’s imperative for drivers of cars to be aware of bicyclists, share the road with them, and take extra caution to protect them. Stay tuned for future posts with safety tips for drivers when driving near bicyclists.

Related information:

6 most common bicycle accidents

Bicycle helmet safety tips for kids

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