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By Jim Adler May 5, 2016

“It’s as easy as riding a bike,” we often hear. But bicycle riding isn’t easy when collisions occur and bicycle riders are injured or killed. In recent years, more than 600 bicycle deaths and over 50,000 bicycle injuries — many of them severe and debilitating — have happened annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In fact, since 1932, over 44,000 bicyclists have been killed in American traffic accidents. That  constitutes around 2 per cent of all traffic fatalities.

These sobering bicycle accident statistics mean it’s vital for bike riders to learn ways of avoiding bicycle fatalities and injuries.

Laws May Not Save You

Bicycles are a healthy way to get around, but only when riders avoid bicycle accidents. The most common bicycle accidents are falls, and the most serious bicycle accidents are collisions.

Though traffic laws may be on bicyclists’ side, as in any type of crash, being on the right side of the law may not always save you. It’s best to ride defensively and avoid getting hit, not just rely on protections which the law should provide.

You can be right, but dead right. More important is avoiding bicycle fatalities and injuries in the first place.

Generally, a bicyclist must follow the rules of the road that also apply to cars and other larger vehicles. But bicyclists also tend to have the same legal rights as pedestrians walking in crosswalks, on sidewalks or in a bicycle lane. That is to say, vehicles must yield to bicycles.

Since not all vehicles will do so, bicyclists should keep bicycle safety tips in mind to avoid having a collision, regardless of who would be to blame.

Bicycle Safety Tips

Among bicycle safety tips are these:

  • Always wear a protective helmet, and perhaps also protective pads for knees and elbows. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wearing a helmet is believed to reduce the danger of suffering a head injury by 85 per cent.
  • If possible, avoid riding on busy or congested roads. Again, just because you have the right of way doesn’t mean you won’t get hit by motorists, who often fail to see bike riders, just as they fail to see motorcyclists.
  • Avoid riding a bicycle at excessive speeds. Riding too fast can make it harder for you to stop and harder for other vehicles to avoid you.
  • Get a front-mounted headlight — often required by law — for riding at night. Also get a light on your helmet, and wear reflective clothing. Also worth getting are blinking red lights for the rear of the bicycle. And keep in mind you can have the lights mounted on your bike illuminated in the daytime, as well as at night.
  • Bicyclists also can get mirrors to help them be aware of approaching vehicles.
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers to ensure they’ve seen you and won’t pull out in front of you. If you’re worried that a driver may not see you, try waving, shouting or beeping your bike’s horn.
  • Ride as far to the right as possible, while keeping in mind that someone in a parked car could open their door suddenly and block your progress.
  • Don’t ride against traffic, but with the flow of traffic. A study reported by BicycleSafe.com indicates that riding against traffic is three times more dangerous than riding with the flow of traffic, and 25 percent of all bike crashes involve bicycles heading the wrong way.
  • As with driving a car, do not pass on the right.
  • Give turn signals, which mean pointing to the right with your right hand and arm if you’re turning right, or pointing to the left with your left hand and arm if turning left. You also can have your upper right arm parallel to the ground and your lower right arm and hand pointing upward to indicate a left turn.
  • Avoid using music players or mobile phones while you ride. These can be distracting and also can prevent you from hearing other vehicles.
  • Plan your route and look for bike paths or bike lanes where available.

Bicycle Safety Tips for Teens and Pre-Teens

With around half of all bicycle accidents involving children younger than 16, the NHTSA has these additional bicycle safety tips for teens and pre-teens, along with those listed above:

  • If you want to ride on a sidewalk, make sure that is legal in your community, and always yield to pedestrians.  But the NHTSA advises young riders to avoid or minimize riding on sidewalks.
  • Learn to drive your first bicycle safely, perhaps by first riding it in a park or on an empty parking lot.
  • Ride a bicycle that fits you. If it’s too large or too small, you may have difficulty controlling it.
  • Take a bicycle class at a local bike shop or at school.
  • Don’t fool around. Riding with no hands isn’t impressive — it’s foolish. Don’t ride a bike to impress friends with your zaniness. Ride a bike to protect yourself from injury. A bicycle may be a birthday present, but a bicycle isn’t a toy.
  • Tie your shoelaces and tuck them into your pants legs so they won’t get caught on your bicycle’s chain.
  • Don’t carry anything in your hands while riding a bike, but rather in a backpack or strapped to the rear of your bicycle.
  • Don’t try to carry a friend on your bike. Unless it has more than one seat, it’s only meant for one person.
  • Stay focused and ride defensively at all times. One moment of inattentiveness is all it takes for a crash to happen.

Bicycle Accident Lawyer

If riding a bicycle defensively still doesn’t protect you or a family member from a collision causing injury, notify a bicycle accident lawyer with Jim S. Adler & Associates. You may be legally entitled to substantial payments for your bicycle injury medical costs and other losses.

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