Jeff, in a hurry, maneuvered his bicycle to the right of the cars stopped at the stop sign, and glided into the intersection. It was something he had done so many times. Like many cyclists, he had the attitude that stop signs were really meant for cars, not bikes. The first car at the stop sign blocked his view to the left, so he did not see the car coming until just before it hit him. Similarly, the teen driving the car had no chance to see Jeff before he sailed into the intersection.
Jeff was critically injured.
Losing (Safety) Consciousness
When does it happen, this loss of safely consciousness? When you first learned to ride a bike, your probably followed all the rules. You stopped at stop signs, looked both ways, were cautious of driveways, yielded right of way to pedestrians, and kept your bike in good condition. Then, perhaps one day you started paying less attention to stop signs, or forgot to signal a turn, or to wear light colors when cycling after dark.
Often, a person can “get away” with these mistakes for quite awhile. That only reinforces the bad habits. But carelessness costs about 1,000 lives each year, most between ages 15 and 24. Most of these bike accidents–like Jeff’s–happen at intersections. Boys are involved in more bike accidents than girls, and the cause frequently involves a cyclist failing to yield the right of way. In fact, the cyclist is responsible for these accidents more than half the time.
Another factor in cycling accidents can be improper bike maintenance. Twenty percent of cycles involved in accidents have mechanical defects that contribute to the accidents.
Take the Test
If you, or a member of your family, ride bikes–and people of all ages are doing so in increasing numbers these days–it might be a good idea to test your bicycle safety. This quiz may catch some of your unsafe habits and remind you of the rules of the road. Just answer “true” or “false.”
1. If a seat is at the proper height, your leg, thigh, and heel on the lower pedal should from a straight line.
2. Bikes used at night must have a headlight visible for 300 feet and a reflector visible for 100 feet on the rear.
3. Side reflectors on wheels are required and should be amber or colorless on the front and red on the rear.
4. Bicycles should be walked across heavily traveled intersections.
5. Bicycle drivers should give hand signals before making a turn.
6. When riding on a sidewalk, the proper way to cross a driveway or alley is to stop and look before crossing.
7. The best way to make a left turn is to move to the center of the street before turning.
8. Cyclists should ride on the left side of the street.
9. It is safe to ride alongside friends.
10. Wet leaves are particularly dangerous, because the bike will slide on them.
11. If there are packages to be carried, it is safe to carry them with one hand if you steer with the other.
12. If you are stopped at a stop sign next to a car and the car is turning right, the car has the right of way.
13. To minimize the effects of head injury, cyclists should wear lightweight bicycle helmets.
14. When riding, you should watch well ahead of the bike for hazards such as sewer gratings and potholes.
15. State three special dangers on residential streets that have cars parked along the sides.
Studying the Answers
1. True–this “rule of thumb” may be slightly different for highrise bikes, but riding a bike that is too big is very hazardous.
2. False–Headlights are required but must project a beam 500 feet ahead. Rear red reflectors must be visible for 300 feet.
3. True–This addition to bike safety equipment was made to improve the bike’s visibility from the side at night.
4. True–At intersections, a cyclist should stop at the curb on the right and permit cars, especially those turning right, to go first. The safest way to cross busy intersections is to walk the bike across.
5. True–Hand signals are required by law and should be given at least half a block before the turn. Then place both hands on the handlebars to execute the turn.
6. True–When riding on a sidewalk (which may be illegal in some communities), you have less time to avoid a car coming out of a driveway or alley than you would have riding on the street. Thus, you must stop and look before crossing.
7. False–To make left turns, stay to the right. Enter the intersection, check traffic behind you, and if clear, turn left. Don’t get caught in the middle of the road.
8. False–Cyclists ride on the right side.
9. False–Ride single-file. Two or more cyclists abreast is dangerous, because if one cyclist swerves or loses control it can force another cyclist into the path of a car.
10. True–Wet leaves and wet pavement reduce traction, so reduce speed, make wider and slower turns, and anticipate stopping. Your stopping distance on leaves will be lengthened.
11. False–Packages should be carried on a special bicycle luggage carrier or in a basket. You need both hands on the handle-bars, and it’s dangerous to have packages dangling near your feet or the wheel.
12. True–Vehicle drivers making right turns have a difficult time seeing a bike slipping up on the right side. If the cyclist fails to yield to a car turning right, he can be hit in the intersection.
13. True–Even the safest cyclist can have an accident. Arms and legs are most frequently injured in cycling accidents, but an injury to the head is far more dangerous. Helmets are the only protection riders have for the head.
14. True–Sewer grates often trap tires and cause serious falls. Keep eyes ahead and your head up, paying attention to traffic and the road surface.
15. Three hazards of residential streets are
–people opening car doors in front of you
–children running out between cars
–cars pulling out of parking spaces.