Bicycling is one of the most popular recreational activities in the United States and it is increasingly popular as a viable transportation option for that work commute or running errands. With as many bicycles on the road as there are, it’s important for riders to make sure that they are always practicing basic bicycle safety and teaching those practices to young riders.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers riders a simple guide to bicycle safety in its “Seven Smart Routes to Bicycle Safety” pamphlet:
1. Protect Your Head. Wear a Helmet.
Helmet use is the number one way to protect yourself in the event of a crash. They are proven to be 85-88% effective in preventing traumatic brain injury, which is the primary cause of death and disabling injuries in bicycle accidents. Never ride a bicycle without first putting on an approved helmet. This rule applies to everyone—adults and children alike—and in Alabama, it is against the law for children to bike without a helmet.
2. Assure Bicycle Readiness. Ensure Proper Size and Function of Bicycle
Safe riding depends on safe equipment. You want to make sure that your bicycle is an appropriate fit for your size to ensure that you can handle it properly. And, of course, you want everything to be in good working order. Avoid accidents that could easily be prevented just by having a bike that works for you.
3. Ride Wisely. Learn and Follow the Rules of the Road
Bicycles are considered to be a vehicle on the road, subject to traffic laws. Make sure that you know the rules of the road for where you are bicycling (check out Alabama’s laws here!). Generally, this means riding in the same direction as traffic, obeying all traffic signs and signals, and using turning signals, among other practices.
4. Be Predictable. Act Like a Driver of a Vehicle
Related to following the traffic laws, bicyclists can keep themselves safe by being predictable rides. Avoiding sudden changes in direction or speed means that it is easier for other vehicles on the road to share it with you.
5. Be Visible. See and Be See at All Times
Visibility is key for bicycle safety. It is easy for a cyclist to fall into a vehicle’s blind spot or simply to not be noticeable on the roadway. Wearing bright, fluorescent colors and using bicycle reflectors and lights will help ensure that those other vehicles can see you.
6. “Drive” with Care. Share the Road.
Because bicycles are treated the same as other vehicles, they have to share the road with other vehicles. If there is a bike lane available, use it! If not, then take extra precautions when sharing the roadway. Be courteous of other vehicles; ride a safe distance from the curb to avoid hazards of parked vehicles; anticipate the actions of other drivers; use bells and horns to alert others of your presence.
7. Stay Focused. Stay Alert.
Always be alert and focused when you are riding your bicycle. This means not wearing headphones, since they make it harder to hear traffic. Be looking ahead on your path for any obstacles or roadway hazards, such as potholes or cracks, that could come up.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.