Many Americans use bicycles to commute for additional exercise and to save money on gas. While biking is a great activity and can help reduce traffic congestion and pollution from car exhaust, it’s important for bicyclists to be safe on the roads. Hundreds of people in Oakland and Alameda county are injured or killed every year after being hit while biking to work however there are many safety measures you can take to avoid an injury.
Consider the following tips for a safer bicycle commute to and from work.
- Plan ahead
Before starting your commute, you may want to do a few practice runs on the weekend. While traffic patterns are likely different, this will give you an estimate of how long it will take you to reach work. Rushing while bicycling to work will increase your chances of an accident. If you leave work during rush hour, see if you can find an alternate route that may be easier for you to navigate on a bike, instead of contending with busier main roads.
- Make yourself visible.
If your commute takes place in the early morning or late evening, make sure your bicycle has reflectors, so drivers can spot you more easily. Also check your area’s bicycle laws. Some areas may restrict bicycles on sidewalks while others prohibit bikes on some roads. Whatever the case may be in your area, try to ride predictably with the flow of traffic so other drivers can easily spot you.
- Give yourself space.
Don’t travel too closely to passing cars, and if you must use a bike lane, pay close attention to the cars parked ahead. If a driver suddenly opens his or her door and you don’t have time to stop, you could collide with the opened car door and sustain serious injury or reflexively swerve to avoid the sudden obstacle and wind up in the adjacent lane of traffic. Also remember that cars cannot stop in an instant. Any vehicle will require more distance to safely stop at higher speeds, so take this into account and never risk any sudden maneuvers that could put you at risk.
- Wear a helmet.
Some states require bicyclists to wear helmets while others only require riders under the age of 18 to wear them. Regardless of your area’s bicycle helmet law, wearing a helmet can significant reduce your chances of sustaining a serious or fatal head injury in an accident. Only use Department of Transportation-approved helmets.
- Ride responsibly.
Most states consider bicyclists on the road as drivers beholden to the same traffic laws. During your commute, ride with the flow of traffic, only turn or change lanes when it is safe to do so, and signal before making any turns to warn other drivers ahead of time.
- Avoid bicycling under the influence.
Alcohol and drug use can impair your ability to safely handle a bicycle. You should never attempt to operate any kind of vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
- Make eye contact at intersections.
A good rule of thumb for pedestrians also applies to bicyclists: When crossing in front of stopped opposing traffic, try to make eye contact with the stopped drivers to acknowledge you are crossing and they can see you.
These are just a few ways you can stay safer while bicycling for your commutes. With the proper preparation and keen situational awareness, bicycling can be an exciting, cost-effective, and healthy alternative to driving a car or taking public transportation. If you or a family member are hurt, contact Oakland personal injury lawyers at Winer, Mckenna & Burritt will fight for you and get you the compensation you need.