Being a personal injury lawyer and practicing Maryland bicycle accident attorney I understand the causes for bicycling injuries in and around large municipalities. Living and working in Baltimore, Annapolis, D.C. and other cities around the state, cyclists must be constantly aware of the dangers presented by other vehicular traffic, as well as watch out for pedestrians and parked cars.
Although bicycle crashes cannot totally be prevented, having some key safety equipment on your bike can make a big difference in helping riders avoid serious injury or death. Cycling is fun, rewarding and healthy, not to mention energy efficient and economical. Although the weather is still rather cold and snowy for most riders’ comfort, the following tips can get you in a safe state of mind once spring rolls around.
Here are five useful accessories that every bicycle rider should consider from the standpoint of accident avoidance and crash survival. Whether you choose to include any or all of the following items in your compliment of cycling gear is up to you. Just keep in mind that any time an automobile and a bicycle meet in a traffic collision, the bike and its rider are usually the ones to suffer.
1) Audible signaling device, such as a horn. Most bike accidents happen when the driver of a car, truck or SUV does not see the cyclist approaching and turns his vehicle into the bike’s path. Having a load horn, especially in loud urban setting, could help to get a driver’s attention before disaster strikes.
2) A rear-view mirror. A large number of cycling-related injuries and deaths are attributed to the rider being hit from behind by a motor vehicle, such as a delivery truck, city bus or passenger car. Using a rearview mirror can help riders avoid this kind of accident by allowing them to see what’s approaching from behind.
For relatively little money, cyclists can purchase rear-view mirrors that clip to the bike’s handlebars, or onto the rider’s helmet. Some newer cycling glasses combine sunglasses with tiny rear-view mirrors built right into the frames.
3) A headlamp. Maryland, like most other states, requires cyclists to have an operating headlamp for use after dark. Although your odds of being cited for not having a headlamp could be quite low, not taking advantage of a headlamp for night riding would be inviting danger on the road. A headlamp serves two separate and distinct functions; first it provides needed forward lighting so that the rider can actually see the roadway ahead of him or her, and thus avoid potholes or road debris that could cause a puncture or serious injury; second, it lets other drivers and slower-moving pedestrians see you coming in the dark, and hopefully avoid a possible accident.
4) A taillamp. Similar in function to a headlamp regarding visibility, a taillamp allows cars and trucks approaching from your rear to see your position on the roadway. Choosing a flashing rear taillamp can give you added visibility at little cost.
5) A helmet. The final yet most significant piece of safety equipment would have to be a cycling helmet. Properly fitted and worn, a helmet provides a rider with an extra margin of protection when riding in urban traffic, but also when riding on a quiet country road. Head injuries are quite common in car-bicycle accidents, and even single-bike crashes.
Wearing a well-designed helmet can significantly reduce the severity of a head injury in the case of an accident, when a rider is invariably thrown from the bike. It’s no surprise that safety advocates and medical experts credit helmets for saving hundreds of lives every year.