Riding a bicycle is a great form of transportation—it’s cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, and a great form of exercise. However, Maryland residents who ride bicycles—whether it be to work every day or just occasionally to get some fresh air—should always practice safe biking habits and be aware of other drivers on the road. Bicycle accidents can occur in the blink of an eye and cause serious injury, or even death. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2018, 857 bicyclists were killed in crashes in the United States. As you might expect, when a crash occurs between a bicycle and any other vehicle, it is almost always only the cyclist who ends up being injured. But a large percentage of crashes can be avoided if cyclists follow the rules of the road and practice safe biking.
There are several ways cyclists can protect themselves before even heading out on the bicycle. The first way is one of the most important: wearing a helmet. But not just any helmet will do—it is equally important that a cyclist wears a properly fitted helmet that can actually protect them if they were to be in a crash. The sizing of helmets can vary from one manufacturer to the next, so before heading out on a ride with a brand-new helmet, take the time to accurately fit it to make sure that it’s snug and ready to protect you if the worst-case scenario occurs. In addition to wearing a helmet, cyclists can also protect themselves before even getting on the bicycle by wearing clothing that makes them more visible to others, tucking in shoelaces and pant legs, so they do not get caught in the bike chain, and planning their route to ride on bike lanes or bike paths whenever possible.
While biking, there are some additional steps that a cyclist can take to avoid a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages bikers to ride defensively and predictably. Defensively means being focused on the road and the traffic around you, so that you may notice a potential hazard or another vehicle early on and act quickly to avoid a crash. To ride defensively, drive with the flow of traffic, obey all street signs, signals, and road markings, avoid distractions, and keep a sharp eye out for hazards and potentially dangerous situations. On the other hand, Riding predictably means riding consistently, so other vehicles have a sense of what you intend to do. Additionally, it means riding where other vehicles might expect you to be—riding on the sidewalk may cause crashes, for example, because drivers in cars do not look at the sidewalk when looking to see if a turn is safe for them to make.