Bicycling is an attractive activity for many reasons. Many Americans have opted for bicycling to work instead of driving to get more exercise and to reduce carbon emissions. Others simply bike for leisure or exercise in their spare time. Whatever your reasons are for bicycling, it’s vital to consider the dangers of sharing the road with cars and other vehicles and use good judgment while cycling.
Bicycles are Vehicles
It’s important for cyclists to remember that bicycles are vehicles, and following the rules of the road is a necessary responsibility to avoid a bicycle accident or other serious injuries. Just as motor vehicle drivers have an expectation to share the road with cyclists, cyclists must do their part to remain safe on roads. This means following posted traffic signals, signaling when they intend to make turns, and making themselves as visible as possible to surrounding motorists. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you wouldn’t engage in a particular action in a car, it’s probably wise to avoid doing it on a bicycle.
While riding a bicycle in California, you may still “take the lane” if you are riding slower than surrounding traffic, but it is crucial to signal appropriately before doing so. However, always opt for riding in a designated bicycle lane if one is available. Never ride against the flow of traffic.
Avoid Aggressive Drivers
Some drivers engage in dangerous maneuvers, and some do so out of frustration that stems from sharing the road with cyclists. If you encounter such a driver, it’s best to pull off the road safely or turn to find an alternate route. Never risk engaging with an aggressive driver or attempt to maneuver around a car.
Be Wary of Road Conditions
Traveling on a bicycle through an area that is under construction is more dangerous than traveling through such an area in a car. Take extra care to follow posted signs and stay visible to other drivers. When biking in inclement weather, use extra caution and wear appropriate clothing and protective equipment. When riding at night, make sure your bicycle has reflectors and wear reflective clothing if possible. Bicycles are also more vulnerable to road hazards like potholes and debris. While it’s important to avoid these obstacles, it’s also important to avoid suddenly swerving to avoid them, startling other drivers.
Wear a Helmet
Although California law only requires bicyclists under the age of 18 to wear helmets, it is wise for riders of all ages to wear them on the road. Department of Transportation-approved helmets significantly reduce the risk of head injury and death in the event of an accident.
Use Good Judgment
Never ride a bicycle on the road after using drugs or consuming alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to receive a DUI charge for riding a bicycle under the influence. Additionally, doing so greatly increases the risk of an accident. Other risky behaviors include using cell phones while riding or wearing earphones. While it may be enjoyable to listen to music while bicycling, doing so impairs your ability to hear hazards around you and violates California state law. Cell phone use is technically legal while riding a bicycle, but it is still very dangerous.
While it may be tempting to ride on sidewalks, refer to your local laws to determine whether or not this is legal or advisable. Riding on sidewalks may allow a bicyclist to bypass road traffic, but it is also potentially dangerous for pedestrians using the sidewalk.
Keep these tips in mind while bicycling in California to limit your risk of injury. If an injury does occur while riding, address your medical issues immediately and reach out to a reputable personal injury attorney to help build a lawsuit and recover compensation for your damages.