It’s spring — the time of year when people dust off their bikes and get them back out on the road. And it’s also the time of year when new cyclists decide it’s a good time to begin a new sport.
But, as you can imagine, in a crash between a bike and a car, the bicyclist is far more likely to be injured. In 2015, the CDC recorded 1,000 cyclist deaths and almost 467,000 bicycle-related injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association says most bicycle deaths occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m , in urban areas. The overwhelming majority of the cyclists were male (88 percent), and those males were often between 21 and 24 years old.
So what can you do to minimize your chances of a crash, especially a fatal one? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to avoid becoming a statistic. Much of the ways you stay safe on the road are within your control — even if you can’t control the drivers around you.
Wear A Helmet
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute, in a vast majority of bicycle deaths, the most serious injuries are to the head. “Helmet use,” they say, “has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent, and the odds of head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent.”
During the past years, at most, 17 percent of fatally injured cyclists were wearing helmets. Basically, wearing a helmet is the top protective factor in a crash. If you don’t want to die, you wear one — even if you think it’s too hot outside, even if you think it looks dumb, even if you think it messes up your hair. You wear the helmet. Period.
Follow The Rules Of The Road
Your bike is a vehicle, and as such, should behave like a vehicle: complete with signaling turns, stopping at lights, and checking before changing lanes. More importantly than keeping you from a traffic ticket, it’s how other vehicles — i.e., cars — will expect you to behave. When your behavior is predictable, they’re less likely to hit you, because they know where you’ll be and when. No sudden swerves or unpredictable movements. Bike the way you would drive: cautiously and defensely. “A large percentage of crashes can be avoided,” the NHSTA says, “if motorists and cyclists would follow the rules of the road and watch out for each other.”
Keep Your Bike In Top Condition
Make sure your bike is always properly serviced, the same way you always check your car: assure that your brakes are in peak condition, that your tires are properly filled, that the other mechanical parts are working the way they need to work — every single time you ride. Get your bike regularly serviced by a professional who knows what he or she is doing to assure that it stays roadworthy.
Consider Wet Weather
Sustrans, a UK-based bike organization, reminds riders that when it’s wet out, your speed may mean that the road is slippery, and it take longer to stop. The possibility of skidding is also ever-present on wet-roads, as is hydroplaning. So ride with caution, or better yet, save your ride for a drier day.
[More of a runner than a biker? Check out these tips.]
Make Yourself Visible
Riding at night? Make sure your bike has lights and properly situated reflectors. And no matter what time of day you ride, you should consider bright colors: there’s a reason cyclists tend to dress in Day-Glo. They aren’t trying to revive 1986; they’re trying to make sure cars and trucks can see them against the landscape.
Don’t Carry Much Cash
There’s more to consider than general cycling safety tips. You’re far more susceptible than car drivers when it comes to being approached, so only carry as little cash as you might need for your ride. If it’s just for exercise, you shouldn’t need any money at all.
Consider Other Personal Items
If you’re planning on a long ride, and you’re thinking of stopping in a town, cards are better than cash. Consider carrying a small amount of personal items in a fanny pack, including pepper spray — in case you take a break and you’re caught in a bad situation with either man or beast.