Over the summer months, there is an increase in young people on bicycles. It is timely to review some safety tips for parents, cyclists and motorists.
Arguably the most important safety tip for cyclists is wearing a helmet – and incidentally is required by law. A head injury can mean brain injury. This is why it is imperative that all cyclists wear a bike helmet. Wearing one doesn’t mean you can be reckless, but a helmet will provide some protection for your head and brain in case you fall.
Traffic Services will be paying particular attention to cyclists and will issue violation tickets to those not wearing a helmet. The ticket is worth $29 – this amount could easily cover the cost of a proper helmet. Even experienced cyclists sometimes fall of their bikes. It is hard to prepare for a fall and it is easy enough to hit your head – you could be knocked unconscious or worse.
Your bike helmet should fit you properly and you should not wear a hat under your helmet. Make sure it is worn properly - level to cover the forehead. Don’t tip it back so the forehead is showing. The straps should always be fastened or it will likely fall off your head when you need it most. If you fall and put your helmet to the test – make sure you get a new one. They don’t work as well after a major crash.
Wear bright clothes and affix reflectors to your bike to keep you safe. This way, others on the road can see you. Make sure nothing will get caught in your bike chain, such as loose pant legs, backpack straps, or shoelaces. Wear proper shoes – sneakers – when you bike. Sandals, flip-flops, shoes with heels, and cleats won’t help you grip the pedals. Never ride barefoot.
Avoid wearing headphones because the music could distract you from noises around you, such as a car blowing its horn so you can get out of the way.
Parents should discuss with their kids the approved biking areas. Kids younger than 10 years old might consider riding on the sidewalk rather than the street. Regardless of where cyclists ride, they need to watch for cars and trucks. Even those riding on the sidewalk need to be mindful of cars pulling out of driveways.
What to teach young cyclists about cycling on the sidewalk:
- Always yield to pedestrians. Get off and walk your bike or put your foot down.
- Ride slowly.
- Always walk your bike through a crosswalk.
- Use a bell or horn to let pedestrians know you are there.
- Make eye contact with drivers. Assume driver’s don’t see you.
- Look for cars in driveways, laneways and at intersections. Be prepared to stop.
- Expect pedestrians to exit from stores.
A bike path free of cars is a great choice if there’s one in your area. Just remember to share the path with other riders, walkers, and strollers who might be using it.
If there is a marked bike lane on only one side of the road, cyclists should only use it when travelling in the same direction as vehicles. When travelling the other way, cyclists should ride near the shoulder of the roadway. Cycling the wrong way in a bike lane increases the risk of a collision with a vehicle or another cyclist.
Some road rules:
- Always ride with your hands on the handlebars.
- Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, an alley, or a curb.
- Cross at intersections. When you pull out between parked cars, driver’s can’t see you coming.
- Walk your bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.
- Ride on the right-hand side of the street, so you travel in the same direction as cars. Never ride against traffic.
- Use bike lanes or designated bike routes whenever you can.
- Don’t ride too close to parked cars. Doors can open suddenly.
- Stop at all stop signs and obey street (red) lights just as cars do.
- Ride single file on the street with friends.
- When passing other bikers or people on the street, always pass to their left side.
A bicycle is the smallest vehicle on the road. It is important therefore, for cyclists to be visible, to ride predictably, to know how traffic works, and to communicate with other road users.
Anticipating the traffic behaviours of cars, trucks, and even pedestrians, can go a long way to helping avoid accidents. It will also help to learn some hand signals. These are akin to turn signals and brake lights for bikers. It will help cars and trucks know what you will do next, so they don’t run into you.
How to avoid a collision:
The door prize:
A driver opens his door right in front of you. You run into it if you can’t stop in time.
How to avoid this collision: Ride to the left. Ride far enough to the left that you won’t run into any door that’s opened unexpectedly. You may be wary about riding so far into the lane that cars can’t pass you easily. However, you’re more likely to get doored by a parked car if you ride too close to it than you are to get hit from behind by a car which can clearly see you.
The crosswalk slam:
You’re riding on the sidewalk and cross the street at a crosswalk, and a car makes a right turn, right into you.
How to avoid this collision:
- Get a headlight – if you are riding at night, it is required by law.
- Slow down – enough that you’re able to stop if necessary.
- Don’t ride on the sidewalk – crossing between sidewalks is a fairly dangerous maneuver.
The wrong-way wreck:
You’re riding the wrong way (against traffic, on the left-hand side of the street). A car makes a right turn from a side street, driveway, or parking lot, right into you.
How to avoid this collision:
Don’t ride against traffic. Ride with traffic, in the same direction.
For more information and the complete
Ten Ways to Not Get Hit, visit www.bicyclesafe.com.
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