Though it’s getting a bit late in the bicycling season, it’s never too late to talk safety — especially when biking and pedestrian traffic accidents have been so much in the news this year. For those people who have been injured in biking accidents involving automobiles and commercial trucks, you likely already know the pain and hardship caused by the negligence or carelessness of a motor vehicle operator.
For those who have never been injured while riding in urban areas such as Annapolis, Frederick, Rockville or Bowie, count yourself lucky and take heed; there are a number of simple steps that can improve your odds when sharing the road with larger and potentially dangerous vehicular traffic. As Maryland personal injury lawyers, we have see the results of car-bike accidents and we applaud anyone who promotes automobile and bicycle safety in order to help reduce the carnage on our state’s roadways.
To be sure, any bicycle accident can be serious or even life-threatening depending on the speeds involved and the circumstances of the traffic accident. Cuts and bruises are the most likely injuries, which can include painful road rash and deep lacerations. Broken bones are always a potential injury when going up against a car or truck, while concussions and other closed-head trauma are likely in crashes involving large vehicles or higher speeds. (Hitting a stationary object, such as a tree or roadside guardrail can also result in potentially fatal injuries.)
For some hints on safer riding and better survivability in the case of a bike-truck or bike-auto collision, the following may be of some use. Much of what is stated here is common sense and certainly on the lists of most cycling safety advocates, but it never hurts to reiterate best practices.
Never ride without a helmet
Protecting one’s brain from traumatic injury is foremost in the war against cycling-related injuries and traffic-related deaths. Some voices in the cycling community suggest that, in fact, no bicyclist can claim that he or she is a safe rider if they do not wear a helmet 100 percent of the time. While there is no state law requiring helmet use when cycling, many people believe that there should be.
Always obey traffic signs, control and signals
Following posted traffic signs and signals is one of the best ways not to be involved in a traffic accident. Some cycling authorities suggest that treating stop signs as yield signs is acceptable, but one must always consider the immediate traffic conditions to be certain it is safe to continue through an intersection. No sense inviting disaster simply to speed one’s journey.
Maintain maximum visibility
Cyclists are small targets, pardon the expression, so it makes sense for bicycle riders to dress in a way that will make one as visible as possible to others on the road. Experts suggest cyclists wear light- or bright-colored clothing. Also, make certain that sure have a clear front reflector; a red rear reflector (visible between 100 and 600 feet); wheel-mounted side reflectors; reflectorized pedals; and a front headlight (visible for at least 500 feet) for nighttime riding.
Install an audible warning device
Although a horn or a bell will likely not protect a rider from inattentive drivers listening to their radios at full volume, choosing an audible warning device that can be heard in open air for at least 100 feet may help reduce collisions with pedestrians and perhaps other cyclists.
Ride to the right, stay with the flow
Riding one’s bike in the right-most lane or part of the road, as well as traveling with the flow of other motor vehicle traffic will go a long way to helping riders avoid car-bike collisions. As a corollary to this, it is suggested that cyclists not ride on public sidewalks and always allow sufficient room to maneuver one’s bike around potential road hazards.
Signal your intentions
The standard bicycle signaling rules we all learned in school still apply: A raised right arm/hand to signal a right turn; a fully extended left arm/hand to signal a left turn; and a left arm/hand held at a 45-degree angle (with palm facing rearward) to indicate a fast or immediate stop.
Watch for potentially deadly car doors
Every cyclist worth his or her salt knows the danger of passing parked cars. Always be prepared to react quickly for occupants getting out of car by the roadside. Experts suggest that riders avoid the right side of any car that is stopped by the roadside, when near a curb. Furthermore, never swerve in between cars that are parked; always try to ride with least three feet of room between you and parked cars.
Hold your calls; mute your iPod
You’ll get no argument from us here. There is nothing more important when riding in traffic than hearing what is going on around you. One doesn’t need to be blind to understand the value of acute hearing; by not listening to personal music devices or cell phones, a rider can add another dimension of awareness that mean the difference between a safe bicycle ride to the grocery store and an ambulance ride to the emergency room.
Avoid busy streets
Taking yourself out of the equation is one way to avoid a potential accident. Experts suggest that one of the biggest and most common mistakes that bicyclists make is to take the exact same routes they would use when driving their car. Fight that urge. Using bike paths whenever practical will help you stay away from larger, more dangerous vehicular traffic.
Rules of road for bicyclists proposed, BaltimoreSun.com, May 5, 2011