Bicycle Safety Tips
As Summer approaches, many Washingtonians are getting back on their bicycles for exercise or even their daily commute. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports that bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries are increasing, meaning it is as important as ever to take precautions to protect yourself while out for a ride. Here are some of our best tips:
Check Your Equipment
- Helmet: Head injury is a serious risk when riding a bicycle. Wearing a helmet significantly decreases your risk of a serious head, face, or even neck injury. In fact, many parts of Western WA make it a legal requirement to wear a helmet, including Bremerton, Port Orchard, and all military installations. You should make sure that your helmet is well-fitting, rightly fastened, and in good condition.
- Bike Size: Not everyone knows that adult bicycles come in different sizes. It is important to have the correct bike, not just for comfort, but also because riding a too-small or too-large bike can interfere with your ability to maintain control. Most bicycle shops and online retailers will be able to tell you what size you need based on your measurements.
- Brakes: Before heading out for any ride, you should test your brakes. If they make noise, if only the rear or only the front are functioning, or if anything else seems off, you should take your bike to a shop to get it checked out.
- Tires: Make sure your tires are properly inflated. This means that they should not be too soggy and flat, which causes riding to be more energy intensive. Flat tires also have poor grip, making you more likely to slip and fall and risking injury. On the flip side, you should ensure that your tires are not over-inflated. Tires that are too heavily inflated may blow off the rim, which can cause ear damage due to noise as well as physical injury to you or those nearby.
- Visibility Aids: Many experienced road bikers will know the importance of visibility aids like bright clothing, reflectors, flags, and lights. Research by the Queensland University of Technology indicates that most bicycle-automobile collisions happen when the driver fails to see the cyclist. Using a variety of visual aids will help maximize your safety, especially at night. Washington law also requires lights and reflectors while riding at night.
Make Smart Cycling Choices
- Control Your Speed: Just like motorists, cyclists are responsible for riding at a speed that is appropriate for the road, traffic, and weather conditions. Know your limits, and don’t push them.
- Look Both Ways Before Intersections: Many accidents happen at intersections, especially when oncoming cars do not see the cyclist until it is too late. Don’t just assume a car will stop – ride defensively and be prepared to stop if a driver fails to yield.
- Keep to the Right: When walking along a road with no sidewalk, people typically stick to the left, where they are facing oncoming traffic. However, while cycling, you are required to ride on the right side of the road, going along with the flow of traffic. This is the case even if you ride on the shoulder.
- Look Out for Hazards: Keep your eyes on the road so that you can avoid obstacles and hazards. This includes rough patches, protruding roots, and potholes, as well as animals in the road or pedestrians.
- Know Your Hand Signals: Every road cyclist should know four essential signals: left turn, right turn, a second version of a right turn, and stop. These serve the purpose of turn signals and brake lights in automobiles and are essential for communication with drivers on the road. Refresh your memory with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s graphic.
Duties of a Driver
As a motorist driving around cyclists, you have a responsibility to do your part in keeping them safe. This includes knowing the hand signals, staying aware, giving cyclists extra following distance, and looking out at intersections. Many of these safety tips apply to motorcyclists as well – check out our blog post on driving safely around motorcycles for our tips.
What should I do if I am injured while on my bicycle?
If you have been physically injured or suffered property damage it is a good idea to call the police so there is a report generated. At minimum get the driver’s information and insurance information. Smartphones are a great tool for taking photos of this information (Driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance card). Also take the names and contact info for any known witnesses and document the location and the details of what happened. If you have damaged property and physical injuries it is good practice to take photographs of these things as well. Make sure to get prompt medical care for any injury concerns. If you are out of sorts and not sure what to do it is never a bad idea to seek medical attention and get yourself evaluated.
If you get hurt while cycling because of a driver’s actions or a hazard in the road, you may be able to seek compensation for your damages. Your best bet is to consult with a personal injury attorney who is familiar with WA law. We have successfully represented individuals injured in bicycle accidents and offer free consultations. Schedule yours today to speak with an attorney and learn about your rights and options.