Bicycling in Southern California is a great way to get around and enjoy the outdoors year-round. Yet whether you bike for your commute or for exercise, you must take caution in maneuvering alongside other motorists. In 2014, the most recent year data is available, there were 552 killed and injured bicyclists in San Diego County. Practice these bicycle safety tips and recommendations to decrease your odds of becoming a victim in a bicycle accident in SoCal.
1. Wear a Helmet
The State of California does not require persons over the age of 18 to wear bicycle helmets. Under the age of 18, a biker must wear a helmet that fulfills federal requirements. Despite not legally having to wear a bicycle helmet, experts say you should still do so to improve your personal safety. Helmet use reduces the chances of a head injury by about 50% and the risk of injury to the face, head, and neck by 33%. Head injuries are common causes of bicyclist fatalities in accidents. Wearing a helmet could save your life.
2.Avoid Bicycling at Night
Statistically, bicycle accidents are more likely to occur at night than during the day. Bicycles are already difficult to see due to their small size. At night, drivers can easily miss bicyclists and pull out in front of them. If possible, avoid biking at night altogether. If you must bike at night, make sure you have the legal equipment requirements of reflectors on the sides of your bicycle, a white headlight on the front, and a red reflector or red light on the rear. Even with lights, other drivers may misjudge your distance and cause an accident. Take extra caution around cars at nighttime.
3. Obey Roadway Laws
Many accidents occur because motorists ignore California’s roadway rules. They speed, run red lights, and text and drive. Obeying the law could drastically reduce the number of collisions every year. Bicyclists also have a responsibility to obey the law while navigating the streets and sidewalks. Improve your safety by being as predictable as possible to other drivers. Signal your intentions to turn, stay in the lane farthest to the right, use bicycle lanes when possible, and stop at all stop signs and traffic lights. Yield the right-of-way when applicable. The more you follow the rules, the less you put yourself at risk.
4. Don’t Drink and Bike
Yes, you can receive a driving under the influence (DUI) charge while operating a bicycle. California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 makes riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs against the law. The same maximum blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08% applies to bicyclists as it does motorists. Biking under the influence not only puts you at risk of legal trouble, but it also greatly increases your odds of getting into a collision.
5. Take Care of Your Bike
A bicycle requires a certain level of performance capability to safely navigate the roadway. Maintain your bicycle as you would your vehicle. Check tire pressure and the braking system regularly. Replace worn or broken bicycle parts, including the chain, handlebars, and seat. Prevent rust by covering your bicycle or storing it indoors. A poorly maintained bike can lead to the inability to remain in control of the vehicle. Being a safe rider starts with operating a safe bike.