bike safety

If you’re an avid biking enthusiast, you’ve probably read many articles about bike safety that cover the basics, like wearing a helmet and the pre-ride safety checklist. It’s easy to be lulled into thinking that wearing a helmet is the most important thing you can do, and that once it’s on, you’re automatically safe. Yet, this sense of security fails to take into account the vehicles you share the road with. As you head out on your bike this spring, make sure you are taking precautions not to get hit by a vehicle.

Crashes at Controlled Intersections

A crash at a controlled intersection, such as a parking lot or a road with a stop sign, is the most common type of bicyclist/motorist crash. These crashes occur because the motorist doesn’t see the bike before pulling out into the intersection.

This crash can occur when the cyclist pulls out in front of a car before it turns or when the cyclist cannot stop and slams into the side of the car. Either way, the results are serious. To avoid this type of collision, try these tips:

  • Wave at the driver – It might feel a little silly but waving at the driver can get his attention and help you know for sure that he saw you.
  • Make eye contact – If you’ve made eye contact, then you know the driver sees you. If you can’t make eye contact, then slow down so you can stop if you have to. Without that eye contact, you have no guarantee that the driver saw you.
  • Use a headlight at night – A headlight at night, especially a bright LED headlight, will grab the attention of any drivers sharing the road with you.
  • Ride away from the curb – Riding near the cub seems safe, but when you near an intersection, this position can actually put you out of the line of sight. Also, it puts you closer to any oncoming vehicles. Moving a bit away from the curb can give drivers more of a chance of spotting you, while also giving them more time to stop.
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Remember, to avoid this crash, you need to get the motorist to see you. So take precautions to improve your visibility, and you’ll be in better shape.

Collision in a Crosswalk

When you ride on a sidewalk and need to cross the street, you’ll likely do so at a crosswalk. However, if a car makes a turn at that intersection, it will slam into you. Drivers don’t expect bikes to be in the crosswalk, so they aren’t going to be on the lookout for them. Here’s what to do to avoid this collision:

  • Ride on the street – Riding on the sidewalk may seem safer, but in reality it’s not. In fact, it could be as much as twice as dangerous as riding on the road. Cars may be more aware of you if you are riding on the street.
  • Slow your speed – If you are riding slow enough that you can stop, you may be able to avoid a collision.
  • Improve your visibility – Can drivers see you? Improve your visibility with bright clothing, headlights and reflectors, particularly if riding at night.

Sometimes riding on the sidewalk makes sense, but always use caution when crossing the street. Have the attitude that the driver doesn’t see you so you will be prepared for any behavior that occurs.

Hit While Driving Against Traffic

Driving against traffic sometimes seems logical. After all, the oncoming drivers will see you coming and therefore will not hit you. There’s one problem with this strategy, though, and that is intersections.

When a driver is turning right, he is going to look in the direction of the oncoming traffic, not necessarily the direction he’s turning. When he turns and you are in the intersection, you’re hit. This makes this strategy three times as dangerous as riding with traffic. Avoiding this collision is simple: ride in the same direction as traffic.

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Getting Hit by a Door

If you are riding along a road with parked cars on the curb, you can collide with a suddenly-opened door quickly. While this might sound like something humorous, it’s actually quite serious. In fact, if you’re traveling fast enough, it can kill you.

In order to avoid this collision, don’t ride too closely to parked cars. Ride farther out to the left, even though that puts you into traffic a bit. Remember, drivers behind you can easily see you, so you’re more likely to run into a door than you are to get hit from the rear.

Red Light Collisions

Stopping at a red light seems like it would be a safe thing, but it’s actually the recipe for a crash. If you are to the right of a car, you’re probably in the car’s blind spot. When the car starts moving, you are at risk. If the car turns right, you’ll almost definitely get hit. Here’s what to do to avoid this situation.

  • Stop behind the car. – The easiest way to avoid this problem is to avoid the car’s blind spot. Stop behind the car, rather than in front of it, and the driver won’t inadvertently hit you.
  • Don’t pass at lights. – If you are getting a faster start at a light, don’t give in to the temptation to pass. Stay in your position to avoid a disaster until you are out of the intersection.
  • Always assume the car will be turning. – Don’t assume that a car isn’t going to turn right just because it isn’t signaling. Cars can turn at any point, and they often don’t signal, especially at lights.
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Always assume the car doesn’t see you. Be proactive and position yourself for maximum visibility to avoid a collision.

Bicycle/vehicle collisions often have devastating consequences, even when helmets are worn. As you hit the streets this summer, do what you can to avoid these collisions, and you can avoid potential tragedy. If you are injured in a crash with a vehicle, seek legal help to see if you are due compensation.

Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Easy summary: Assume many car drivers got their licenses from a crackerjack box. The way they drive, it’s not beyond reason to assume that. A brain bucket can be equipped with reflective tape and other vivid visual clews to improve biker visibility. Decent reflectors and lights, especially at night, also provide good accident prevention.

  2. Terrific suggestions. I would only mention that even when drivers appear to see you, they may be looking at something else. You are small and a tractor-trailer truck is big and complicated (imagine it is carrying a carnival ride or flatbedding a piece of machinery). That truck will hide you even if it is behind you! So it’s not safe to trust eye contact with drivers (this is also true if you are riding a motorcycle). I don’t even like to trust people waving me past! All I trust is seeing the car rock forward as the driver steps on their brake WHEN they see you. That’s eye-contact plus action, which vastly increases the chance they really aren’t going to pull out at you!

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