Have you ever noticed the bumper sticker, ‘Start Seeing Motorcycles’? Today’s blog was inspired by that saying because we think there are far too many accidents that involve people riding bicycles. The bike culture is growing in all 50 states which is great for health reasons and the environment. But 2015 statistics indicate that there were 45,000 bike related accidents in the U.S., which is about 900 accidents per state. That’s too many. And even though that is about 5,000 less than the prior year, fatal accidents have increased about 12%. The statistics show that most of the fatal accidents happen outside of designated safety areas, like bike lanes.
Advocacy, education and infrastructure changes in our cities have all helped to reduce accidents but there is more to be done and we each need to do our part. Here are a few suggestions to help the bicyclists and drivers improve their efforts:
6 ways to help bicyclists be safe
- Make yourself as visible as possible by wearing brightly colored clothing during the day. Even if you are biking to work, at least wear a bright shirt/jacket and change once you arrive at the office. Wear reflective clothing, powerful headlamps and tail lamps or don’t bike after dark. It’s extremely hard to see a dark object until the headlights shine on a moving object and then it might be too late to avoid an accident.
- Bike defensively and never assume a driver sees you. That means to use your hand signals, stay in bike lanes, ride single file and keep your hands on the handle bars.
- Obey all traffic signals. At an intersection, look at all four ways of traffic to be sure it is safe to proceed. Pedestrians always have the right away in crosswalks and intersections. Bicyclists are considered a vehicle so they need to adhere to the same rules as drivers so be sure and obey all traffic signals and rules. For instance, if the bicyclists wants to turn left at an intersection he/she must yield to oncoming traffic. If the bicyclist is continuing straight through an intersection they have the right away at a green light which means a driver who is turning right must yield to the cyclist.
- Bike with the traffic not against it and try to not use sidewalks as those are for pedestrians.
- Do not use earphones as they can prevent you from hearing a warning signal.
- Do not weave in and out of traffic. It may gain you 30 seconds but it could cost you your health or worse your life. You should not do this with your car and the same goes with motorcycles and bicycles.
5 ways to help drivers see bicyclists
- Be mindful that biking season has begun. If you live in a warm climate there is not off season so drivers always need to be watching for bicyclists.
- Be observant of bike safety infrastructures. If the city has infrastructure in place, like biking lanes, a motorist may go into a bike lane 200 feet before they are turning right. Be sure and start to signal at least 100 feet before the intersection.
- Know the hand signals that bicyclists use to tell drivers they are changing direction or stopping. They use their left arm angled downward for stop, left arm pointing left means they are turning left and left arm bent upward at the elbow means they are turning right.
- Indicate that you see the bicyclist. At an intersection it is ok to motion to the bicyclist to let him/her know they can proceed safely and you see them.
- Use your blinker well in advance to let a bicyclist know you are changing direction.
What are our cities doing to create greater safety for bicyclists? The best answer we found is called Vision Zero and many U.S. cities, of varied sizes, are using it as the comprehensive tool to guide future decisions as they plan for growth. It is a strategy that was first used in Sweden in the 1990’s with a focus to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for. We are impressed how it has inspired cities like Fort Collins, CO to build 45 ‘grade crossings’ to help pedestrians and cyclists safely cross intersections, Seattle, WA to lead the way in adding concrete buffers to all protected lanes and Minneapolis, MN with its 20-30 miles of off-street paths in and around the city that are maintained 12 months out of the year.