My favorite bike trail parallels a city street for about a mile. Every time I ride that stretch, I am reminded of the perils bicyclists face every day. On the trail, my biggest hazard is toddlers with training wheels; but out in the street are speeding, inattentive or even distracted drivers.
Safe cycling depends on all parties understanding their responsibilities and following the rules of the road. Motorists must be attentive to cyclists, yield when required and take care when turning across bike lanes. Cyclists also must ride with the traffic, make themselves visible and signal turns.
In most states, helmets are required for children, but I don’t know many adults who ride on the street without one, even where it’s legal.
Bicycles in the roadway are considered vehicles and are required to follow the same traffic rules as cars and trucks. The federal Bike to Work website, a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Transportation, federal Highway Administration and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center at the University of North Carolina, offers safety tips for both cyclists and motorists.
Be sure to visit the site to read the full details of each of these points, but in general, safe cyclists take care to:
- Ride with traffic and follow all rules of the road
- Take care in choosing where to ride
- Ride on the trail, paved shoulder or marked bike lane or bike route
- Be predictable and visible
- Watch for debris or obstacles such as storm grates
- Watch for turning traffic
- Stay alert, using eyes and ears when biking
On the other side of the equation, motorists need to:
- Watch for bicyclists at all times; bikes may take the entire lane in certain situations
- Drive the speed limit and avoid aggressive maneuvers
- Pass bicyclists with care
You’ll find a number of great resources on the Web for more information: The National Center for Bicycling and Walking offers the Top 10 Bike/Ped Resources. I Am Traffic, another bicycle advocacy group, has an interactive map of state laws that affect cyclists. And finally, I am a fan of the Rails to Trails Conservancy, since I prefer to ride mostly on developed bike/hike trails. Use its locator to find a trail near you.