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Bike Safety: Avoiding Injuries on Your Bike Commute

To avoid accident and injury while riding a bike, it's important to take a few precautions while on the road. While they do not guarantee 100 percent safety, following them can drastically reduce a cyclists' chances of a serious accident, injury, or death. Naturally, the first of these steps is to learn how to ride with confidence, to wear the appropriate protective gear, and to obey bicycling laws. Safety doesn't stop there. Cyclists must also learn how to avoid collisions on the road. To do that, it can be helpful to know what some of the most common accidents are.

Right Cross Collisions

At some point, bicyclists encounter cars that are driving out of a driveway or exiting a parking lot on their right-hand side. If unseen by the driver, the situation can become dangerous. The key to avoiding this type of collision is to ensure that the driver sees a bike approaching and for the bicyclist to be prepared to come to a stop. Making eye contact is one way that cyclists can know that a driver has actually seen them. Cyclists can capture the attention of the driver by using a light or waving. While bikes are required to have a light for night driving, a flashing daytime light will increase one's chances of being seen by drivers. Using a bike bell, horn, waving the arms, or even yelling, if necessary, can also help alert the motorist.

Another option is to ride further out to the left than one would under normal circumstances. This can be helpful as drivers often look toward the middle of the street for oncoming traffic instead of the sidewalk or close to it. If the cyclist is unable to stop, they may be able to get out of the way before being hit. Riding in the left-half of the lane does, however, leave riders more susceptible to approaching vehicles and caution must be exercised.

Collisions With Doors

When riding past parked cars, people on their bikes are faced with the threat of suddenly opened car doors. One should never assume that a driver will check before swinging their door open to exit the vehicle. When this happens, stopping on time isn't always an option. Cyclists can improve their chances of avoiding this type of collision by cautiously riding out far enough to the left so that they are not in the door zone, which is the width of an extended car door.

Crosswalk Collisions

When motorists are making right turns, they are typically not expecting a bicyclist to cross the street from the sidewalk or crosswalk. Because it's hard for them to see when making this type of turn, the chances of someone getting hit while on their bike increases. There are many dangers that come from riding on the sidewalk, so it should be avoided whenever possible. If a person chooses to ride on the sidewalk regardless of the risks, they should slow down and be prepared to make a sudden stop.

Wrong-Way Collisions

It's illegal to ride against traffic and increases the risk of being hit by motorists. A common type of collision associated with wrong-way bicycling comes from cars turning right from a driveway or parking lot, however, head-on crashes are also a serious and often tragic result. Although they should look both ways before pulling out, drivers aren't generally looking for traffic coming from the right. The simplest and most obvious way to avoid this type of accident is to drive on the correct side of the road.

Red Light Collisions

Failure to stop at red lights and stop signs often prove deadly whether the fault lies with the motorist or the bicyclist. Collisions can also occur when a bicyclist stops to the right of a vehicle. The driver may be unable to see the rider and is not expecting a bicycle to be alongside them. If the motorist turns right when the light turns green and the cyclist rides forward, a collision is likely. To avoid this particular type of red light accident, a person should not stop their bike in a vehicle's blind spot. Instead, they should wait out the light behind the car or in a spot that's to the front-right of the vehicle where the bicycle is visible to the driver.

Right Hook Collision

When an anxious or hurried motorist needs to make a turn and crosses in front of a person who is riding their bicycle, there is a high risk that there will be a collision. While this is the type of collision that is difficult for bicycle riders to avoid, there are a few precautions that can be taken. This includes riding further to the left in the lane, taking up enough space so that drivers cannot pass and cut them off. They can also use a mirror mounted on a helmet or a handlebar mirror. Use the mirror at an intersection to check what approaching vehicles are doing. Right hook collisions are another reason for bicyclists to stay off sidewalks as they can easily be hit in this when they enter an intersection.

Right Hook Example #2

The second type of right hook collision can happen when a bicyclist attempts to pass a slow-moving vehicle on the right. While doing so, the driver begins to make an unexpected right turn into a parking lot, garage, or driveway. There are several available options to avoid a collision. One can cautiously attempt to pass the vehicle before the turn is completed, shouting "on your right!" as you pass. Ideally, individuals on the bicycle should pass the slow-moving vehicle on its left if possible, alerting the driver to their presence by using a bike horn or simply shouting "on your left!" to avoid being hit should the driver attempt to switch lanes to the left. At all times, bicyclists should be cautious of riding in blind spots. When riding behind a slowing vehicle, the cyclist will need to leave adequate braking room to avoid hitting the car from the rear should it begin to turn.

Left Cross

This is a collision in which a vehicle makes a left turn and strikes a person riding their bike. The bicyclist in this scenario is driving with traffic on the right side of the road. While the individual on the bike cannot control the actions of the driver, they can make efforts to ensure they are seen. To do that, they should wear brightly colored clothing that has reflective detailing. Their headlight should be on and they should stay off of sidewalks. Although it is important to make eye contact and catch the attention of the driver, one should be prepared stop.

Rear-End Collision Avoidance Tips

A rear-end collision is one of the most recognized types of accidents involving cars. There are two common types of rear-end collisions when it comes to bicycles. The first occurs as a result of the bicyclist taking evasive action to avoid a collision with a car that's in front of or beside them. To avoid getting hit from behind in this situation, the rider should stay aware of what is going on around them. This means looking behind before making a left move and checking one's mirror frequently. Weaving in and out of parking lanes should also be avoided. While this may seem like a quick way to maneuver through traffic, it increases the chances of being hit from behind. The use of hand signals is important, as it alerts motorists to the intentions of the bicyclist before them.

The second type of rear-end collision is a car running into the bicycle in front of it often due to poor lighting making it difficult for the rider to be seen. This makes up roughly 3.8 percent of bicycle collision accidents. One can get a rear light if they plan to go bicycling at night, dusk, or during cloudy days. While the rear light goes a long way to make the rider more visible, they should also wear clothing made of reflective materials. Planning out the best routes to ride can also potentially reduce this risk. Choose routes that are on streets with slower traffic, particularly on weekends. Practicing a few standard safety tips such as utilizing a mirror and not hugging the curb can also prevent you from being struck from behind.

General Tips

In addition to the use of lights, taking up a whole lane when necessary, avoiding busy streets, and using a mirror, there are a number of tips and safety skills that come in handy. Riders should reduce distractions by turning off their cell phones, particularly when riding in traffic-heavy areas. Signaling is one of the primary ways that a bicycle rider can alert motorists of their intentions. People should also brush up on using hand signals correctly to reduce the risk of an accident.

Another general safety tip is for bicyclists to ride in a way that would be considered safe even if motorists were unable to see them. This means, that the person on the bike is riding in such a safe manner that a driver who does not see them would not be at risk of hitting them. Although safety steps are meant to reduce accidents, one should always follow the state bicycling laws in their state. For example, people should know when it is considered legal to take up a whole lane when biking in their state, and when they should not.

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