Cycling and Road Safety
Recently a most unfortunate incident happened just outside of Sioux Falls. Though details are still sketchy it appears that three young people were struck and injured while riding their bikes on a gravel road. Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and we sincerely hope for a speedy recovery. More on the story can be found through Keloland, KDLT, or KSFY.
School is out and bike riders are also out in numbers and at times different from even a couple weeks ago.
We would like to offer a few suggestions to riders and drivers alike. Special Thanks to www.bicyclewarehouse.com for these two excellent articles.
Driving Safely Around Bicyclists
You’re driving along and you spot a bicyclist ahead sharing the road. You’re a biker too. So, just like the cars that you’re watching, you keep an eye on the cyclist. But then, he does something unexpected—something that even seems dangerous to you.
But is it dangerous?
It turns out that even though two- and four-wheelers share the road, there are many differences in how they use it when it comes to safety.
First, keep in mind that while everyone gets frustrated with other road users, cyclists are unprotected by steel, airbags or other safety features. Even small collisions can have catastrophic results. So, use extra care around them. And if you feel the need to honk, a quick beep is loud enough since they’re not inside a car. You wouldn’t want to startle them causing a crash.
Now, let’s hop behind the wheel and look at common cyclist encounters through the windshield to appreciate what’s actually going on from a bicycling perspective.
Q: Why is it… that the cyclist in front of me at the red light is positioned in the center of the lane (photo, top)?
A: This is actually a sign of a smart road-sharer who understands that the detector beneath the pavement that trips the light won’t work unless he gets his bicycle (which has much less mass than a car) on top of it. Unfortunately, bike-friendly intersections with detectors on the shoulder, especially for cyclists are rare. Note: In most locations it’s legal for cyclists to proceed through an intersection if the red light doesn’t change as it may mean the detector isn’t working (but only if it’s safe).
Q: Why is it… that bicyclists ride near the traffic lane even though the shoulder is wide?
A: This is because they are more aware of, and more at risk from road hazards. They are riding on the side of the road where the pavement is worse and debris tends to collect.
When you’re driving you can’t see hazards the way cyclists can. Drivers sit back and look out. Cyclists sit up and look down watching for glass and potholes that can cause a flat tire, and sand and slippery metal grates that can cause a crash (photo). They also watch for parked cars and exiting drivers who may swing their door open at the worst possible moment.
All these are reasons why cyclists often hug the traffic lane for their own safety. And, it’s why the law reads that cyclists ride as far to the right as is “practicable.” As a driver, pay attention and trust that the cyclist is riding where he has to be safe. Simply slow down and wait until you can pass safely with adequate clearance.
Q: Why is it… that cyclists sometimes move into the center of the lane? If they’re supposed to ride as far to the right as is practicable, shouldn’t they stay on the shoulder?
A: When you see a rider do this (called “taking the lane”), it’s their way of telling you that they need to use the whole lane to be safe and that you need to wait for them to move over before passing. You’ll see this on narrow roads where a passing car would pinch and endanger a rider making the mistake of staying on the shoulder; and also on steep downhill’s where a bicycle can go as fast as a car. The high speed also means that the cyclist needs more maneuvering room than provided on the shoulder. Simply wait and they will move over when it’s safe to.
Q: Why is it… that cyclists ride side by side a lot? I thought it was better if they drafted in single file?
A: While it’s true that drafting behind each other saves energy, that’s something racers are more familiar with than everyday riders. And, just like when you’re driving in a car with a friend, cyclists like to have company on rides and talk when riding. So, they’ll ride side-by-side sometimes, which is okay as long as they aren’t inhibiting the reasonable flow of traffic. Usually though, they’ll only do this when there’s room to ride that way and when the traffic is light. And they’re also mindful of traffic and ready to ride single file when necessary.
Q: Why is it… that that cyclist got all upset back there?
A: There are a few common things that startle and endanger cyclists and can cause them to gesture or shout to try to let you know that you need to drive more attentively. One of the most common driving mistakes is turning across a cyclist’s path unsafely. Never cut off an oncoming rider by turning left in front of them, or do it by turning right too soon after passing them (note that in many areas it is illegal to pass before an intersection when you are turning right).
Understand that since a bicycle is much smaller than a car, it’s difficult to see them and judge how fast they’re going. Don’t assume that bikes are slow, either. They can easily travel as fast as cars. So, never turn in front of a cyclist unless you’re certain it’s safe. Otherwise the rider will be forced to slam on the brakes and it’s much harder to stop quickly on two wheels. He may smash into the side of your car, get seriously injured and damage your vehicle, too.
Another dangerous move is passing a cyclist when you can’t provide safe clearance. Bikers call this “getting buzzed.” It’s scary, dangerous and illegal. Your side-view mirror may barely miss them. If you’re driving a truck, it’s even worse. The noise and rush of air could cause the rider to lose control and crash, falling into the traffic lane. For these reasons, many places now require drivers to allow a minimum of 3 feet of clearance. But in all locations, the law requires passing safely. This means slowing and waiting until you can move over and pass safely providing ample clearance.
Q: Why is it… that when I come up on a cyclist at an intersection, they get in the way?
A: What you perceive as them getting in the way is actually them trying to make sure you see them. They may be going straight and often right-turning cars will come up on the left and then move right, endangering them. Cyclists who’ve had this happen, watch for it and get in the way. But, they will do their best to allow room if there is enough on the right. They just don’t want you to come up on the left and then turn right into them.
Q: Why is it… that cyclists don’t use hand is signals to tell me what they’re going to do at intersections. Drivers have to signal, why don’t cyclists? I never know what they’re going to do and it’s dangerous.
A: Actually, in many municipalities, it’s not a law that cyclists must signal because it can be dangerous for them to remove their hands from the handlebars. Instead, it’s considered enough that the cyclist lean in the direction of the turn, which is an indicator drivers can watch for. Some cyclists will use hand signals, but it’s not always mandatory. It’s best to be patient and wait to see what they’re going to do whether they signal or not.
Q: Why is it… that bicyclists fix their bikes right near the road where it’s dangerous? Why don’t they find a safe spot?
A: Usually this is because the most common bicycle breakdown is a flat tire. Unlike a car, you can’t safely ride on a bicycle with a flat tire. So, cyclists have to stop wherever they puncture to fix it. If it’s a narrow road with no shoulder, they will try to find the safest spot, but sometimes that’s still pretty close to the road. When you see them, slow down and allow a wide berth because they’re doing the best they can
Q: Why is it… that cyclist is riding on the sidewalk? Isn’t that illegal?
A: In many areas it’s actually legal to bicycle on sidewalks. Usually it’s where the roads are busy, narrow or fast and it’s safer to be on the sidewalk. You will also sometimes see kids riding on sidewalks because their parents told them to ride there since they don’t want them in the road with cars. Some riders will also choose the sidewalk when the road doesn’t seem safe to them. As a driver, it means watching for these cyclists, especially at intersections where they can enter from either direction and be obscured by parked cars.
Q: Why is it… that that cyclist I passed a ways back, just passed me and all the other cars waiting at the red light to get in front. Now I have to pass him again.
A: What might seem frustrating to you is actually a cyclist being careful, and moving toward the front for good reasons. He may be avoiding right-turners without their directionals on or not wanting to breathe exhaust fumes. Or, in a long line of traffic, he might have to move to the front in order not to miss the light. Note too, that if there’s a dedicated bike lane, bikers are free to move to the front in it and you should not stop in it when cyclists are present.
Thanks for reading and please bike and drive safely.
Cycling & Road Safety
Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
Cycling on or near a road presents potentially serious risks to your safety. Before you jump on your bike, check your cycling safety knowledge to reduce your risk of injury. Everything from bike maintenance to what you wear affects your safety while cycling. Children also need to learn and practice bike safety rules before riding on their own.
Proper equipment is essential when cycling. You need a properly fitted helmet every time you get on a bike. You want the helmet to fit snugly as it rests flat on your head. Adjust it so it rests on your forehead with about two finger-widths between the helmet and your eyebrows. Test the chin strap, ensuring you can fit no more than two fingers under it. An inspection of the bike each time you ride ensures it is in proper working order. Check tire inflation and the brakes. Your bike needs reflectors. A light is also useful if you ride beyond daylight hours.
Yakkay Helmets in the USA The cool bike helmet. Your style, your size & the right price! www.amsterdambikesusa.com
Visibility and Clothing
You are most visible during daylight hours. Riding after dusk puts you at a higher risk because drivers may not see you until it is too late. Wear bright colors so you stand out. Add reflective strips to your clothing if possible. Fitted pants reduce the risk of accidents by keeping the pants out of the bike chain. Footwear is also a consideration. Shoes with a closed toe protect the foot in case of an accident. You also want a shoe that doesn’t slide or get caught on the pedals. An athletic shoe with quality treads usually works well.
Cyclists should follow the same rules as vehicles when riding on the road. Obey traffic lights and signs, including stop, yield and one-way signs. Ride your bike with the flow of traffic. Avoid riding too close to the curb, because you might run into a parked car. Driveways and parking lot entrances are particularly dangerous because cars entering and exiting may not see you. Stay alert at all times, especially near driveways, parking lot entrances and crossroads. Even when you have the right of way, proceed with caution in case a car driver doesn’t yield to you or see you.
Hand signals help other drivers anticipate your next move. When you are ready to stop, bend your elbow to create a 90-degree angle and point your hand downward. A right turn also uses the arm at a 90-degree angle, but your hand points upward. For a left turn, stick your arm out straight to the left. A signal alone isn’t enough to change your path. Always look behind you and to your side to look for drivers who may not notice you.
Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/357549-cycling-road-safety/#ixzz1vbej6U6Z
Bicycle Safety Fact:
Out of the 660,403 cycling accidents in 2000, nearly 1/4 of the injuries involved children ages 5-9, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Teach Children to be Safe
Because so many children are involved in bicycle accidents, the Sioux Empire Safety Village is zealously working to fund and build the Safety Village Project. With realistic experiences, children will learn how to stay safe on public roads and the importance of safety equipment. If you wish to help support the project, please contact the Sioux Empire Safety Village.
Simple Tips to Remember to Stay Safe:
- Bike Size – Ride a bike that is the right size for you.
- Brakes & Tires – Check that the wheels aren’t loose and your brakes work before each ride.
- Look Both Ways…Twice! – When exiting a driveway, stop, look left, look right, look left again, and exit only when there is no traffic.
- Ride on the Right – Ride on the RIGHT with the flow of traffic.
- Obey Traffic Signs – Stop at all STOP signs and all traffic lights.
- One Way Streets – Do not ride in the wrong direction on one way streets.
- Use Hand Signals – Use proper hand signals to indicate turns to drivers.
- Ride single file.
- Pedestrians First – Give the right of way to pedestrians.
- CARRY NO PASSENGERS – except on approved baby seats.
- Wear Safety Equipment – Always wear your bicycle helment when your ride your bike.
- Other Bike Safety Tips