Be Safe While Bicycling

80 million Americans enjoy bicycling as a dynamic form of exercise. In spite of increased awareness of bicycle safety, cycling injuries account for 500,000 emergency room visits a year. Here are a few tips and rules to ensure the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists:

Wear a helmet. Helmets can prevent head injuries, the primary cause of death and disabling injuries resulting from cycling accidents.
Know your local laws. Follow all traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles. Obey lane markings, traffic signs and speed limits. Be aware that county and town ordinances can vary.
Be visible. Cyclists must take responsibility for being visible to motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Wear bright-colored clothing - fluorescent colors are particularly good.
Keep to the right and always ride with traffic. Motorists are not looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. Also, you can endanger oncoming cyclists.
Ride a well-equipped bike. For safety and efficiency, outfit your bike with bells, rear-view mirrors, racks or baskets, lights, and reflectors on the front and rear. A flashing red light is an especially good rear reflector. Attach reflectors to pedals and wheels as well. Wheel reflectors can include retroreflective spokes, cranks and wheel rims. Use a bright, white headlight, preferably one that makes you visible to drivers 500 feet away.
Get a light. If you must ride at night and on rainy days, wear light-colored clothing with reflective triangular patches and wristbands.
Avoid road hazards. Watch out for streetcar and railroad tracks. Cross them perpendicularly. Watch out for parallel-slat sewer gates, manhole covers, litter, oily pavements, gravel, potholes and road kill.
Look back before you pass or merge. Signal in advance of a turn and use appropriate hand signals. A helmet or bicycle mirror is especially helpful.
Yield to pedestrians and other vehicles when appropriate. Always pass slowly and carefully. Remember that pedestrians have the right of way - anticipate their reactions.
Don't weave between parked cars. Don't ride out to the curb between parked cars, unless they are far apart. Motorists may not see you when you move back into traffic.
Make eye contact with auto drivers. Assume they don't see you.
Buy a bike lock. Using it correctly will prevent theft. U-shaped locks with less than four inches of space between the legs of the U are best. If the U portion of the lock is completely filled with the wheels and frame, the lock has less of a chance of being broken.
Use bike racks properly. If there aren't any bike racks, lock your bike to tall signposts and ironwork. Do not lock your bikes to handrails or trees. Trees are often wounded by bike frames and locks.
Be alert. Continually check the road for potential hazards. Never wear headphones, they hinder your ability to hear in traffic.
Share the road. When you ride, consider yourself the driver of a vehicle and take your legitimate place in the bike lane. Be confident and assertive, yet courteous to motorists and pedestrians.
Communicate when riding in a group. Develop easy-to-understand verbal signals that increase safety and avoid collisions and near misses.
Be careful when descending and turning. Do not push the speed to the point of fear and tension. Relax and concentrate on the road surface ahead. Avoid passing on descent, as it is difficult and dangerous. Prepare well in advance of a corner, and apply your brakes before entering the turn - never use your brakes in a corner.
Never impede another cyclist's path. If you find yourself ahead of someone, allow plenty of room for passing, at the earliest and safest moment.
Keep both hands ready to brake. You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed. Also, allow extra time for braking when there is wet road conditions.