As a cyclist, you spend a lot of your time avoiding accidents. It’s a little ironic that an activity that keeps you healthy also involves so many precautions to reduce the risk of hurting yourself in a collision with an automobile.
Biking in urban environments has its own set of challenges. In 2015, 70% of fatal cyclingaccidents occurred in urban areas. Here are the 7 best ways to make sure that you are safe in the city.
1. Preview your routes
If you’re going to doing a regular bike commute, it’s a smart idea to check out the route before you set out for the first time. Sure, we would love it if the bike lanes covered the whole length of the trip, but that’s not always the case. You can use an app like Lanespotter to help check for dedicated lanes and trails in your area.
You can also take a cruise on a weekend day, when the traffic is lighter. Even with bike lanes, your route could be affected by things like road construction or hazards that affect the clear view of a driver.
2. Make sure you’re loud and proud
It may sound a little quaint, but a good bike bell can save a life.By ringing the bell you can makeyourself heard by the pedestrian who is engrossed in texting someone, for example, preventingyou from having to swervearound the pedestrian and possibly into traffic.
These days, bike bells are louder, last longer, and come with extra features like LED lights. Don’t be afraid to use yours!
3. Keep your ears open
Covering up the street noise with headphones or earbudsis a definite no, as far as biking in the city. With some earbuds capable of producing decibel levels that will mask the sound of a construction crew, they’re the last thing an alert biker needs.
As much as you might hate it, resist the urge to wear them while you’re on the road. You need to hear any car horns or other warnings from drivers. And, if you need even more incentive: It’s illegal to wear them in several states.
4. Don’t be afraid of high visibility
Bikers have a hard enough time staying visible to other traffic. Invest in gear that will make sure that you are seen. Sometimes it’s as simple as wearing a white t-shirt. At other times, you may need to go even more flamboyant. Look for reflective clothing and accessories. There are options out there from vests to reflective tape to hats.
Another great way to improve your visibility is with a light. Much as it has been proven with cars and motorcycles using your lights all the time increases your safety.
5. Beware of parked cars
Surprisingly, the most dangerous cars aren’t always the ones driving on the road with you. Parked cars hand out one of the biggest causes of injuries for bikers: the dreaded “Door prize”. This occurs when an unaware driver or passenger opens their door suddenly into the path of a cyclist.
There are ways to avoid “dooring” accidents, such as:
If you’re moving into an area where parallel parking puts you into the danger zone, reduce your speed.
Try to be aware of activity within parked cars. Check to see if there is someone occupying the driver’s seat or a passenger on your side of the car.
Never assume that either drivers or passengers will remember to check for bike traffic before opening their door.
Remember that if someone does open their door in your path, it is better to hit your brakes than to swerve out into traffic.
6. Keep your helmet in excellent condition
Helmets don’t last forever. Even if you haven’t been in an accident with yours, it’s best to replace it every 3years – even sooner if it’s stored out in the elements.
The reasons behind this are that the components of the helmet can wear down and become brittle – reducing the effectiveness.
It goes without saying, of course, that if you’ve been in an accident with your helmet, or if it shows any signs of cracking or wear – get a replacement, immediately.
7. Keep your wits about you after an accident
If you are involved in a collision, remember to be as thorough about gathering information as you would in a vehicle-on-vehicle collision. Get the drivers information -and their insurance information. Seek medical treatment if advised, and remember to document any bills or other costs thoroughly.
It’s also a good idea to consult with a good attorneywho is experienced in bike injury cases.If there are problems with insurance payouts or other bills that could stem from an accident, it’s great to have the help of a professional who knows how to navigate the process of being compensated.
City biking is full of positives – and the occasional negatives, if you’re not careful whilecycling. Be aware, be proactive, and be knowledgeable about your rights, if you are hurt.
Scott is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer andfounder of a personal injury firm in Tampa. His career focus is on all types of personal injury cases. Follow @scottdistasio on Twitter to see what legal wisdom he shares next.