Motorists sharing the road with bicyclists is very important, especially when commuting on busy city streets or near freeway interchanges.
Cyclists often complain that motorists don't regard them as vehicles, even though under the law they are considered the same as a motorized machine.
But cyclists also have responsibilities in the realm of road traffic. While motorists are often reminded that cyclists have rights, many also complain that cyclists don't follow the rules of the road and act more like pedestrians than vehicles.
Either way, safety should be a top priority. Motorists never find themselves thrown on the ground when in a collision with a bicyclist. It is always the other way around.
Here are some ideas for cyclists to follow, so they can be proactive in their own safety.
*Cyclists must obey traffic laws. Do you think that riding on the sidewalk is safer than riding in the street? Cycling on the sidewalk means having to dodge pedestrians, pets, garbage cans, parking meters and signs. Bicycles are considered vehicles and cyclists should obey the same traffic laws as motorists. Travel on the right side of the road with traffic, and do not ride on the sidewalk. Obey all stop signs, traffic lights and lane markings. Use proper hand signals before making any lane changes or turns.
*Choose a route that is safe for cyclists. When considering your route, don't think like a motorist. Think like a cyclist. Pick the most pleasant route. Consult Google Earth or Bikely.com to research your trip. Look for bike route maps are various government agencies. Talk to a professional at your local bike shop or bike club to find out what routes are the safest. If you are biking in a large city, many have implemented bike lanes specific for bicycle commuters. Be aware of other users on bike paths, such as folks with strollers or dogs. Announce that you are passing on the left when overtaking someone on the bike path.
*Maintenance and repair make for a safer commute. Make sure all parts are in good repair, and check your brakes, tires and gears often. Have a bike expert teach you the basics so that you can continue routine maintenance. Your bicycle should be equipped with reflectors and lights. The most common repair you will encounter as a bike commuter will be a flat tire. You should also monitor brake wear. Many bicycle shops, community colleges, adult education programs or bicycle organizations offer workshops or classes in bike repair. Replace your chain every 2,000 miles or so. Clean and oil your chain frequently, especially after riding in the rain, and replace it regularly.
*Parking your bike securely. Where do you leave your bike once you get to where you are going? More than half of the one million bikes stolen every year weren't locked. Find a solid object, a street sign or post and secure your bike onto it with a good lock (or more than one, to further discourage theft). Make sure that the pole has something on top that will prevent your bike from being slid over it. The safest object to lock your bike onto is a bike rack. When bicycling to work you could also ask your supervisor for a storage area where they'll let you leave your bike for the day.
*Safety equipment. Safety equipment begins with the helmet. Wearing an approved helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury by up to 85 percent in the event of an accident. Modern helmets protect better and are well ventilated.
*Try to avoid riding your bike at night. However, if you must commute in the dark, you will need effective lighting and reflective equipment. Most states require some kind of front illumination, and it is safer to have a headlight and rear flashers. There are a variety of inexpensive flashers available. Additionally, your clothing should be bright and have reflective strips.
It is also important to carry small repair and first aid kits with you. For the minor repairs you might expect with everyday bike commuting carry a patch kit, a spare inner tube, an air pump and a multitool.
Information for this article supplied by Ken Bower, vice president and general manager for Allied Barton Security Services, an industry leader in providing highly trained security personnel who utilize bicycles in their work.