Bike rider on busy city street

Bicycle Safety Tips for Staying Safe on the Road

Bicyclists are more likely than car drivers to get seriously injured or even die, even though bike rides make up only 1% of all trips in the U.S., according to the CDC. Fortunately, by practicing bicycle safety, a cyclist can minimize their risk. Choosing the right bicycle to fit your riding style and body type, finding a bicycle helmet that will properly protect you in the case of a crash, and wearing protective equipment such as a reflective vest or installing rearview mirrors are all great ways to enhance safety before you set out on your next ride.

The Importance of Bike Safety

Bike riding is a fun activity, but there is some level of risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 846 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2019. The CDC also found that there were almost 600,000 emergency room visits for bicycle-related traumatic brain injuries between 2009 and 2018. Understanding and adopting basic safety measures like wearing a helmet can greatly reduce your likelihood of injury from riding a bike.

10 Best Bicycle Safety Tips

When it comes to staying safe while riding a bike, a lot of the responsibility lies with you, the rider. Here are 10 ways you can improve your bike safety.

1. Always Wear a Helmet

A helmet is one way to ensure that your head is as protected as possible while riding on the street. Many injuries related to car-bicycle accidents result in head injuries. These injuries can either be prevented or lightened by wearing proper protection.

2. Follow the Rules of the Road

Bicyclists must follow all the same road rules as motorists, including obeying traffic lights and posted signage. There may even be biker-only signage posted on trails such as stop signs that you need to follow. Please remember that it is prohibited to ride on the sidewalk in many cities.

3. Dress in Bright Colors

Make yourself easy to see – the easier you are to spot on the road, the easier it is for cars to avoid you while driving.

4. Don’t Use Phones or Wear Headphones

You need to be able to hear what’s going on around you when you’re riding your bike. Listening to music or talking on the phone can prevent you from hearing a car that’s coming up behind you or even just be an unnecessary distraction.

5. Know and Use Hand Signals

Bikes don’t come with brake lights or turn signals, so hand signals are how you tell other vehicles on the road when you’re coming to a stop or need to make a turn. Learn these signals and use them when you’re riding for a safer bike riding experience.

  • Left turn: To signal that you wish to make a left turn, stick your left arm straight out to the left. Make sure you do this well in advance of your turn.
  • Right turn: To signal that you wish to make a right turn, stick your right arm straight out to the right. Make sure you do this well in advance of your turn.
  • Stop: To signal that you wish to stop, stick your left arm out to the left and bend your elbow so your hand is facing down. Keep your palm open. Make sure you do this well in advance of when you need to stop.

6. Choose the Right Size Bike

Riding an appropriately-sized bike is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to bike safety. If your bike is too big or too small, you will have less control over it, which could result in you being unable to stop an accident from happening. Most manufacturers will have a sizing chart to help you choose the best bike for your size based on your height and inseam. Different types of bikes will be sized differently, so don’t just assume your bike size is universal.

7. Keep Your Bike Maintained

Before every ride, you should do a quick check of a few things to help prevent any unwanted malfunctions. Just remember your ABCs:

  • Air: Are your tires inflated properly? 
  • Brakes: Are your brakes in working order?
  • Chain: Is your chain clean and lubricated?

8. Go With the Flow of Traffic

Always bike in the direction of traffic. It is illegal to ride against traffic in the U.S. This is for your safety. If you are riding against traffic, you cannot see road signs and traffic signals. You are also much more likely to be seen by traffic if you are riding in the same direction they are moving.

9. Never Ride While Impaired

You wouldn’t drive a car drunk, so it stands to reason that you shouldn’t ride a bike drunk either. Depending on how your state defines the term vehicle, you may be issued a DUI if you are pulled over while riding a bike under the influence. In other states, you risk a public intoxication charge. Beyond the legal ramifications, biking under the influence is not safe. According to the CDC, 37% of bicyclists deaths involved alcohol use by either the bicyclist or driver of the motor vehicle involved in the accident.

10. Refresh Your Cycling Skills

Whether you’re just learning how to ride a bike or have been riding for years, practicing bike riding is a great way to stay safe on your bike. Before setting out on the road, make sure you’re comfortable riding at high speeds, braking quickly, shifting gears, and traversing different elevations.

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Whether you’re biking for fun, for competition, to commute, or to help the environment, you’re in good company. Statista reports that the number of cyclists in the U.S. increased from 43 million to 47.5 million between 2014 and 2017, and that number is still increasing. But the U.S. has nothing on Denmark, whose capital city Copenhagen boasts more bicycles than people and cars. Even though the number of bicyclists is increasing, the number of bike accidents is falling. Unfortunately, the percentage of these accidents that are fatal is increasing. To keep yourself and your family safe on your bikes, don’t forget to practice good bicycle safety. Life360 works to keep you safe on the road.