Every year in the United States, tens of thousands of cyclists are injured and hundreds more are killed in bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles. May is Bicycle Safety Month, an effort from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind drivers and cyclists to put safety first. It’s also a great time for cyclists to consider the steps they can take to protect themselves from getting injured in an accident.
When riding on city streets, it is important to ride in the same direction as traffic. Going against traffic, also known as “contraflow riding,” is dangerous. It is also illegal in Pennsylvania unless a bike lane has been specifically designed for such a purpose.
Following the rules of the road is always the best bet. Obey all traffic signs and signals and stay in the bike lane unless there is an obstruction that forces temporary maneuvering. Do not ride on the sidewalk, this is dangerous for pedestrians, and keep at least a three-foot distance between your bicycle and any parked cars, especially when doors are opening. Paying attention to your surroundings allows you to react appropriately to sudden events.
In addition to paying attention, cyclists need to be seen. Make sure your bicycle has lights and reflective tape, and be sure to wear clothing that increases your visibility. Try to avoid the most common blind spots for cars, such as the rear quarter of the vehicle, when riding as well.
At the bare minimum, all bicyclists should wear a quality helmet. While this is rarely required for adults, the use of a helmet significantly reduces the risk of serious or fatal injury. Make sure the helmet you select meets U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Bicycle Helmet Standards (16 C.F.R. part 1203). This should be clearly indicated on the helmet or its packaging.
Cyclists may also wish to consider padded pants and knee and elbow pads to help protect against injury in the case of an accident.
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