Whether you’re a kid or an adult, there’s no debating the popularity of biking. There are more than 500 registered bicycle-related records in the Guinness Book of World Records, and you’d be hard pressed to walk down any street in America and not see kids riding their bikes.
But before you ride down the driveway and onto the neighborhood streets, everyone should know the rules of the road. Why? Statistically, almost two people die every day from a bicycle-car related crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Additionally, a NHTSA report from March 2017 found that bicyclist fatalities had jumped drastically from 729 in 2014 to 818 in 2015.
While riding a bicycle presents a fun and alternative mode of transport, it can also put you at risk, so Mercury Insurance wants to encourage all riders to follow these important bicycle safety tips:
1. Always wear a bicycle helmet
Wearing a helmet is still one of the most important ways to stay safe while on a bicycle, and it’s required by law in some states for children under a certain age. A helmet will protect your head if you happen to hit something or someone, fall or get struck by a vehicle. Regardless of the distance of your trip or preferred route, always wear a helmet to help prevent head injuries.
2. Avoid busy streets
Biking down a major roadway might make for a direct and faster route, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll be the safest one when sharing the road with fast-moving traffic. Traveling busy streets increases your risk of getting into an accident with a car because motorists can be distracted and sometimes fail to realize that they’re sharing the road with cyclists. If you really must use a major roadway, avoid the rush and leave early.
3. Don’t wear ear plugs or headphones
Listening to music while riding a bicycle may sound like a good way to enjoy your ride, but it can also be dangerous. Florida and Rhode Island have banned headphone use and California recently followed suit, passing a law prohibiting the use of headphones while cycling. If you choose to listen to music, be sure you still can hear what’s going on around you. A cyclist’s primary focus should be safely traveling from point A to point B.
4. Put a headlight and taillight on your bicycle
NHSTA reports that the majority of bicycle accidents happen in urban areas and at non-intersections with the highest percentage of deaths occurring between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 11:50 p.m. If you need to ride your bike at night, be sure that others on the road can see you. Wearing brightly colored or reflective clothing and lights will help drivers see you. Adding a headlight, taillight and reflectors to your bike will also make you more visible during early morning or evening rides. Check the laws in your state.
5. Use hand signals
Turning, changing lanes or stopping without signaling is a recipe for disaster for any vehicle on the road. Since bikes aren’t typically equipped with turn signals or brake lights, hand signals should be used to indicate your intended movements to other drivers. Be sure you know the proper motions to alert drivers of your next move ahead of time.
Remember, many of today’s drivers are distracted while behind the wheel, posing a threat to cyclists and others. No matter how many precautions you take to obey the rules of the road, never assume others are paying attention to you.