As promised, more tips for avoiding bike accidents. It boils down to common sense. Here are four of my personal rules that I consciously try to follow to attempt to stack the odds in my favor as I venture out on the roads, either commuting or on a training ride on my bicycle.
- Pick a safe route. Over the years, I have been able to select routes to and from my home to my office downtown that provide, for the most part, predictability, low traffic volume, and wide shoulders. Avoid high-speed roads, unless you are given wide, well designated bike paths or shoulders.
- Be visible. I know- bikers are famously garish in their outfits. I like to think that my biking gear is meant to make me more visible, and hopefully, more noticeable. I also believe that drivers tend to see me more when I have my strobe flashing white light on the handlebars and my red flashing light on my seat post. Many cars only see what they expect to see. Those lights, even during the day, increase my chances drivers will see me before they make their turn in front of me.
- Be predictable. Always follow the law. In Utah and most other states, that means to ride as far as practicable to the right of the roadway. Take an even line. Try not to surprise cars with sudden moves. Stop at red lights and stop signs. Signal before turning. Ride single file, unless the bike lane or the shoulder area can safely accommodate more than one bike at a time. Drivers will begin to trust cyclist as they consistently conform to the laws of the road.
- Pay attention while you bike. Don’t wear headphones or listen to your MP3/iPods while riding. You need to give yourself a chance to hear and see all that is going on around you- both in front, to the side, and to your rear. An old pro once told me I should always keep scanning the road in front of me, and know what is 3 to 6 feet in front of my bike at all times. Anticipate debris, chuck holes and other obstacles in front of your tires, and cross-streets, intersections, dogs, pedestrians and cars (moving and parked) in the block ahead of you. If you follow this rule, you can safely adjust your path, avoid traps, and hopefully, steer clear of the avoidable accidents.
There is no guarantee that you will remain unscathed out there on the road. However, if you follow these rules, and other common sense rules of the road, you increase your chances that you can continue this great mode of transportation, aerobic exercise, and enjoyment. One other thing: As you act responsibly, if you are in an accident, chances are you will be able to avoid having comparative fault allocated against you, should you choose to seek to enforce your civil rights by seeking damages for any unwelcome injuries caused by the negligence of others.