Next month will be National Bicycle Safety Month. Once again, we join in the national campaign to educate and inform on the dangers of riding a bicycle in this country and how best we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from a serious or fatal bicycle accident.
Dangers of Serious Injury from Bicycle Accidents in Indiana and Illinois
In our last post, we discussed the growing risk of a fatal bicycle accident in this country. More people of all ages are riding bicycles today. More adults are choosing to ride bikes instead of taking cars to work. This means a rise in the number of fatal bicycle accidents, which is expected to continue in the near future according to the Department of Transportation.
May 2017: National Bicycle Safety Month
Next month, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) will once again oversee a national campaign to increase awareness of the risks of serious bicycle accidents in this country.
This year, National Bicycle Safety Month will be encouraging everyone who rides a bicycle, as well as drivers who share the road with bicyclists, to be a “Roll Model.”
- Riding and Driving Prepared: expect the unexpected.
- Safety First: bike riders should wear a bicycle helmet and drivers should wear their safety belt.
- Know the Law: on the road, a bicyclist is considered a vehicle and must obey the same laws and adhere to the same responsibilities as motorized traffic.
- Share the Road: those driving motor vehicles and those riding bikes should respect each other’s right to be on the roadway and “look out for each other.
Drivers Need to Respect Bicycles on the Road
For many drivers in Indiana and Illinois, coming upon a bicyclist in traffic is a frustration if not more. After all, bikes cannot compete with cars or trucks in speed. They’re harder to see in traffic. And many bike riders wander in and out of lanes and roadways, moving in and out of traffic.
Nevertheless, the driver of a car, truck, minivan, SUV, or commercial truck or bus must respect that bicycle just as any other vehicle on the road.
The failure of drivers to respect bicyclists on the roadway can lead to a serious traffic accident or a fatal bike crash.
Drivers need to know that anyone riding a bicycle has the same rights of the roadway as someone driving a motor vehicle. The bicyclist also has the same duties as the driver on that road.
Here are some things for drivers to consider as they share the road with a bicycle:
- Drivers must yield to bicyclists just like the driver would yield to a car or truck.
- Drivers should never underestimate the speed of the bike; sometimes a bicycle can be moving very fast.
- Drivers should be very careful to not underestimate the speed of an approaching bike when they are turning into the path of that bicycle as it travels along the roadway or on the nearby sidewalk.
- Drivers need to be aware that bicycles may be nearby but hard to spot as they travel through parking lots or near intersections. Whenever the driver is at a stop sign, or parking his vehicle, he should be particularly aware of the risk of a bicycle riding past his car or truck.
- Intersections are a particular danger zone for bicycle accidents. When turning right on a red light, drivers should look to the right and behind their vehicle, checking for oncoming bikes.
- Drive defensively when sharing the road with a bicyclist. Go slower than the speed limit if that seems wise given the road conditions.
- Be careful when passing a bicycle on the road. It may be hard for the bike rider to see your vehicle, so give the cyclist lots of room. Change lanes and move past the bicyclist only when you are absolutely sure it is safe to do so.
Bicyclist’s Duties: Bicycle Laws in Indiana and Illinois
Bicyclists must obey the rules of the road as well as special laws and statutes that apply specifically to riding a bicycle. Cities, counties, even local school districts may also pass rules and regulations that a bike rider must obey.
There are a great many state laws and local ordinances regarding the riding of bicycles in Indiana and Illinois. For a nice list of all the bicycle laws passed for bicyclists in Indiana and Illinois, see the compilation provided online by The League of American Bicyclists.
Changing State Bicycle Laws
Warning to bicyclists: keep up with what you are required to do!! State bicycle laws in Indiana and Illinois are changing all the time. While it’s a good starting point, the ABL’s 2012 list is not current and may not be accurate.
For instance, this 2017 legislative session there is a proposed bill that would end the state law requirement for all bicycles to have a bell.
A person may not ride a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred (100) feet. A bicycle may not be equipped with and a person may not use upon a bicycle a siren or whistle.
There have been other legislative proposals seeking to address the danger of serious bicycle accidents in our part of the country. Bills are entered every year by state lawmakers; some of them become law and some do not.
We discussed some of them in our earlier post, “Bicycle Accidents in Indiana Target of New Proposed Laws,” when the 2015 legislative session was considering changes to the Indiana Motor Vehicle Code’s Title 9, Article 21, Chapter 11, “Bicycles and Motorized Bicycles.”
It is the responsibility of the bike rider to know current bicycle laws that apply to riding a bicycle in his part of the state. Failure to comply can impact any bicycle accident claim that results from a serious bicycle accident. Stay safe!
Here in Indiana and Illinois, the danger of a serious or even fatal bicycle accident is all too real. Let’s do all we can to protect our families and friends by supporting National Bike Safety Month and encouraging awareness of bicycle safety on the roads of Indiana and Illinois. We support bike riding and bicycle safety programs for all ages. Let’s be careful out there!