10 Bicycle Safety Tips to Avoid Deadly Accidents

Get key safety tips every cyclist should know to avoid bicycle-car accidents. And see what to do if you’re still hurt by a negligent driver.

An increasing number of adults enjoy bicycling for health, sport, and basic transportation. More bicyclists traveling on American roadways means an increased risk of traffic accidents, especially in busy urban areas.

Every day in the United States, at least two cyclists die in traffic accidents involving motor vehicles.

Cyclists have very little physical protection when they collide with a moving car or truck. The best defense against severe, potentially fatal injuries is to avoid bicycle-car accidents as best you can. Bike safety on the road depends on good equipment and a knowledgeable rider.

Top 10 Common Sense Bicycle Safety Tips:

  1. Learn About Road Safety
  2. Wear a Road-Safe Helmet and Gear
  3. Maintain Your Lights and Tires
  4. Use a Rear-View Mirror
  5. Don’t Drink and Ride a Bike
  6. Stay Alert to Your Surroundings
  7. Be Wary of Intersections
  8. Stop and Look Before Proceeding
  9. Take the Lane in Traffic
  10. Follow the Rules of the Road

Bonus: What if I Still Get in an Accident?

Tip 1: Learn About Road Safety

Find and take a class on bicycle traffic skills to learn road safety and accident-avoidance maneuvers. Practice using the bike you’ll be riding in traffic.

Bicyclists should be using a safe, well-maintained bicycle and appropriate safety equipment. No matter if you are riding a multi-speed bike, a coaster-brake bike (where you back-pedal to stop), or an adult tricycle, get familiar with your bike, especially the braking system, before riding on the road.

Tip 2: Wear a Road-Safe Helmet and Gear

Wear a safety-rated bicycle helmet at all times. Be sure your helmet fits properly, including the chin strap. Many states require a bike helmet for cyclists of all ages to reduce the risk of a serious head injury.

Wear reflective clothing for street riding, even in the daytime. Many cyclists wear a lightweight reflective vest in bright colors made of breathable material.

The most common excuse given by motorists after a crash is, “I didn’t see the bicycle!”  Yes, other drivers should watch out, but you enhance your safety by being as noticeable as possible.

Tip 3: Maintain Your Lights and Tires

Have working front headlights and rear flashing red lights so motor vehicle operators can see you, in addition to standard reflectors. Many states require white front and red rear lights for bike riding after dark.

Be sure tires are properly inflated to prevent sliding and poor braking.

Tip 4: Use a Rear-View Mirror

You want motorists to see you, and it’s equally important for you to see what’s going on around you. Mount a rear-view mirror on your handlebars so you can see what’s coming up behind you. You won’t always be able to hear other bicyclists or electric-powered motor vehicles.

As many as 40 percent of cyclist fatalities are caused by cars rear-ending a bicycle. Use your mirror to look behind you before changing lanes or turning, and make sure motorists can see you.

Tip 5: Don’t Drink and Ride a Bike

Never ride your bike while intoxicated, or under the influence of medications or illicit drugs. You not only risk serious harm to yourself and others, but you’re also subject to arrest, heavy fines, and impoundment of your bicycle.

Tip 6: Stay Alert to Your Surroundings

Don’t get distracted by electronic devices. Don’t use a smart watch or cell phone to talk or text while cycling. You’re safer if you can hear what’s going on around you, so most states prohibit wearing earbuds while on the road.

Keep an eye out for potential dangers. For example, if you must ride near a line of parked cars, try to notice if a car is occupied in case the occupant opens the car door in your path.

Tip 7: Be Wary of  Intersections

Serious bike-car accidents happen at intersections. Don’t count on making “eye contact” with the oncoming driver. You can avoid potential collisions by slowing down and watching for cars making a left turn.

If a car just passed you, be mindful it might make a right turn into your path.

Be alert for drivers who may run through stop signs or traffic signals, even if you have the right of way.

Tip 8: Stop and Look Before Proceeding

Before entering a roadway from a driveway, parking area, or side street, be sure to stop and look for oncoming traffic or cars trying to enter the roadway from the other side of the street.

No matter when you ride your bicycle, or how heavy the traffic is on the road, “defensive biking” skills can help you avoid bicycle-car accidents and lower your risk of injuries.

Tip 9: Take the Lane in Traffic

Use designated bike lanes, when available. When there is no bike lane, you have the same right to use traffic lanes as cars, but be careful.

Bicyclists should generally stay to the right side of the lane so long as there is room to share the lane with a passing car. If the lane is not wide enough or is narrowed by parked cars, grates, potholes, or other hazards, cyclists are safer traveling in the middle of the lane.

Also take the lane when preparing to turn, so motorists behind you can clearly see your signals.

Tip 10: Follow the Rules of the Road

Most states require cyclists to follow the same rules of the road as motorists. Violating traffic laws can result in the same citations and penalties for cyclists as any other vehicle operator.

Depending on where you live, there can be additional state and local laws regulating bicycle travel on public roads. You can find your local bike laws online, at your local courthouse, or your public library.

Each state has its own traffic laws, usually including these common rules:

  • Ride your bicycle with, not against, the flow of traffic
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals
  • Stay off sidewalks
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Don’t carry anything that impairs your ability to brake, turn, or stop the bicycle
  • Stay off interstate highways
  • Properly use hand signals before turning or changing lanes

Knowing your local bicycle law is not just important for safety but will serve you well if you’re injured in a bicycle-car accident. If you’re unable to avoid a collision, you’ll be better able to prove the driver’s fault if you understand the law.

Bonus: What if I Still Get in an Accident?

Despite taking every precaution to avoid a bicycle-car accident, you might still become the victim of a negligent motorist.

If you’re injured in a traffic accident while riding your bike, you have the right to seek fair injury compensation from the at-fault driver, just as if you’d been injured in your car.

Most injury claims are paid through the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. A fair injury settlement includes payment for all your damages, including the cost to repair or replace your bike and other damaged property.

When you file an injury claim, the insurance company won’t pay you a dime unless you can prove their insured did something wrong or failed to act like any reasonable driver would in the same circumstances.

There are several ways you or your attorney can show that the car driver is liable, meaning financially responsible, for your damages from the accident.

If you were fortunate enough to survive a bicycle-car accident with minor injuries, you could probably negotiate a fair injury settlement directly with the insurance adjuster.

Serious injury cases require an experienced personal injury attorney to make the insurance company pay the amount of compensation you deserve. You don’t need money to consult with a reputable attorney. Most attorneys don’t charge accident victims for their initial consultation.

Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Find out what a good attorney can do for you.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>