Bicycle accidents where people are seriously injured and even killed are a reality here in Indiana and Illinois. Still, the danger of being hurt while riding a bicycle is underestimated and discounted by many people, both as riders and bicyclists as well as parents and loved ones of those who chose to ride a bike for pleasure or transportation here.
Research reveals that there is a growing incidence of fatal bicycle accidents in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that riding a bicycle creates a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than riding in a motor vehicle. The danger to anyone riding a bicycle here in Illinois or Indiana is a serious concern and something that we all need to understand and combat.
May is National Bicycle Month
Since 1956, the League of American Bicyclists has been promoting bicycle riding across the nation in National Bike Month. Bicycle enthusiasts sponsor events and programs designed to encourage people to ride a bicycle and discover the joys of bike-riding. Which is great! Bikes are fun and great not only for exercise, but for the household gas budget.
Their efforts will include celebrating National Bike to Work Day on May 20, 2016, and National Bike to Work Week 2016 on May 16-20. Hopefully, lots of Hoosiers and folk throughout Illinois will participate and get out on their bikes next month.
10 Tips for Bicycle Safety and Preventing Bicycle Accidents
However, encouraging people to get outside and ride their bicycles must come with warnings and tips on staying safe while bicycling, particularly on streets and roads where they are sharing space with cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs.
From the CDC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) we have compiled the following ten tips for staying safe while riding bicycles in Indiana and Illinois:
1. Wear a helmet when you ride.
Bicycle helmets can be invaluable to an accident victim in a bicycle crash. A helmet works to protect the head and spine in an accident, and while injuries may be sustained, the helmet may blunt the force enough to prevent a serious and life-altering traumatic brain injury (TBI).
2. Wear clothing that helps drivers to see you as you ride.
All too often, the driver of a motor vehicle will explain to the police officer in an upset voice, “I just didn’t see her!” Consider your surroundings when you ride a bicycle: if you are riding at night, dark clothes will make it hard to be seen. Having a glow-in-the-dark vest or sash can make all the difference here: fluorescent and/or reflective clothing helps bicyclists stand out as they ride and be seen by drivers.
3. Have lights on your bicycle.
It’s easy enough to place headlights as well as reflective tail lights on a bicycle. These lights will not only help drivers to see you on the roadside, but they may be very helpful to a bicyclist in avoiding road hazards like potholes and road debris.
4. Put reflectors on your bicycle.
Reflectors are very economical and can work as an important warning to drivers that there is a bicyclist sharing the road with them.
5. Respect the roads.
If you are riding where bike lanes are offered, then stay in the bike lane. If you have a choice between two routes and one includes a bike lane, then choose that one. Bike lanes are safer.
6. Respect the traffic.
All too many bicycle accidents are caused by a rider who assumes that there’s no traffic on the road and chooses to ride into the roadway, only to enter the path of a fast-moving vehicle that is unable to avoid a collision. Bicyclists need to respect the fact that motor vehicles are always a possibility on a roadway, and before riding out into a street, alley, driveway, parking lot, etc., the rider should look around and make sure the pathway is clear of vehicles.
7. Ride in a predictable manner for the driver.
Drivers that see the bicyclist on the road will try to avoid an accident by slowing down, or moving away from the bike’s path. The bicyclist should help here by riding in a predictable way, without any sudden swerves or dodges that the driver reasonably would not expect. Ride straight down the roadway in your lane. Look over your shoulder to see where the vehicles are before making a change and always signal them before changing direction.
8. Stop at red lights and stop signs.
Bicyclists should obey a stop sign or a red light just like cars do. The rules of the road are there for a reason: biking through an intersection without stopping is dangerous and inviting an accident.
9. Riding with traffic, not against it.
Bicycles should go with the flow of traffic, with the bike traveling in the same direction as the traffic next to the bicyclist. Riding where you are approaching cars head on is riding in the wrong direction. Not only is it harder for drivers to see a bike in this scenario, drivers will not be expecting to share the road with a bicycle riding at them instead of alongside them.
10. Don’t ride drunk.
It’s shocking the number of serious bicycle accidents that occur not because the driver is intoxicated, but because the bicyclist is drunk or high on drugs. Riding a bicycle on roads with cars, trucks, and SUVs is always dangerous. Doing so while impaired is a high risk situation. Bicycles demand coordination, focus, and a quick response at all times.