The keys to being safe on a bike are almost entirely in your hands. I will outline five critical layers of bike safety. Learn these simple things to make you a more predictable and safer cyclist.
Layer 1: Control your bicycle
About half of all cyclist accidents are single rider crashes. If you can skillfully control your bike by starting, stopping, and smoothly turning, you can better avoid falling. Learn how to control your bike when you need to stop or turn quickly. Always use both brake levers, this way you will know how the bicycle handles in an emergency. If you should lose control that you will surely get hurt.
Layer 2: Know and follow the rules of the road
A bike is a legal vehicle in all 50 states. As a vehicle operator, you are must obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals. Ride in the direction of (with) traffic, on the right side of the road. Never, ever ride against traffic; it is against the law and the most dangerous practice.
Use the right-most (slow lane) lane in the direction of traffic. Use the correct lane for turns. Intersections are the most hazardous locations and the place where most auto/bike crashes occur. Before you get to an intersection, position yourself in the proper lane, and use hand signals. Be acutely aware of all surrounding traffic. Make eye contact with other operators. Look for cues, that will warn you that the unexpected is about to happen and take action before it becomes an emergency.
When riding in groups, stay focused and follow good group riding procedures. Never pass a rider on the right without a verbal warning. Use hand and voice signals. Riding in a group of bicycles is statistically more dangerous than riding with motor vehicles.
Layer 3, Ride in the smartest position in the lane.
Know when you should take the full lane and when it is safe to share the lane with motor vehicles.
Use your lane position to help other drivers see you. Many inexperienced cyclists ride too close to the far right edge of the road. This is a misguided attempt to give the vehicle operators room to pass when there isn’t enough room. Doing so on a narrow road is the prime cause of riders being pushed off the road. A poor motorist will try to fit their vehicle between the center line and the rider, leaving you with no option other than leaving the paved road or being sideswiped. In lanes that are too narrow to share with cars (less that 12 feet wide), you should ride closer to the center of the lane, rather than closer to the right. Use this smart lane positioning to make yourself as visible as possible and to control your space on the roadway.
Layer 4. Manage Hazards
Learn and practice evasive maneuvers. Use the front wheel hop should you ever need to get over a curb. The quick dodge will let you clear a small hazard on the road. The quick turn will enable you to avoid being struck when a vehicle makes a right turn in front of you. Being able to safely quick-stop will let you survive most of the other hazards. Always be ready to avoid a motorist’s mistake, but be aware that in tight traffic, an evasive action should not put you into a worse hazard. Focus, be aware, be prepared, and try to have a back-up plan for every contingency
Layer 5: Utilize passive protection.
When all else fails, helmets and gloves are your last line of protection. Make sure you are wearing an approved bike helmet. It must fit properly, keep the chinstrap buckled so that your helmet is in place during that moment when you need it most. Carry ID, any important medical info, emergency contacts, and your insurance information in a place were First Responders can find it. Carry a cell phone with ICE (In Case of Emergency) programmed into the speed dial.
Before your next ride! Call your auto insurance agent and check on your uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage. Should you be injured by a driver who does not have insurance, doesn’t have enough insurance or one who flees the scene, you should have this coverage. It is not expensive, have your agent add more than sufficient coverage to your own policy.
Incorporating these simple things in your every ride will make you a more predictable and safer cyclist; a rider who can expect to enjoy many happy miles on your bike.
source: Acme Bicycle Shop newsletter