Biking is a great form of exercise and a greener mode of transportation, but comes with safety risks that can't be ignored. In 2015, 818 cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles, that's more than two people every day, killed in a bicycling accident, up 12.2% from 2014. 45,000 cyclists reported their injuries in 2015, though it's believed that the majority of bicycling accidents aren't reported. Staying safe while biking is an important responsibility, one that cyclists and drivers share. When you ride your bike on Illinois roadways, you're expected to follow the same traffic laws, signs and signals as motor vehicles. To reduce your personal injury risk while riding a bike, keep these important bike lane safety tips in mind.
Use Hand Signals
Typically, cyclists who are using a bike lane are in some sort of auto traffic. Just as motorists use blinkers, it’s important that you use hand signals to communicate with drivers while riding a bike. There are four primary hand signals that cyclists should be using to protect themselves from an accident and increase the safety of not only other drivers, but pedestrians as well. These include signaling:
- Right Turns: Extend your left arm out, making a 90° angle at your elbow, with your forearm and palm facing up towards the sky
- Alternative Right Turns: Extend your right arm out with a flat palm
- Left Turns: Extend your left arm out with a flat palm
- Stopping or Slowing: Extend your right or left arm out, making a 90° angle at your elbow, with your forearm and palm facing the ground
Ride in a Single File Line - In the Same Direction as Traffic
Another safety measure that helps to better protect drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians is riding in a single file line. Bike lanes, especially in urban environments, can be heavily used by cyclists. If you encounter bike traffic during your ride, be sure to use a single file formation in the designated biking lane. By Illinois law, motorists must allow at least three feet of space between their vehicle and cyclists. Riding in a single file line ensures that you can properly use hand signals to indicate your movements, stay out of the way of vehicles, and keep the flow of traffic moving properly.
Be Courteous of Other Road Users
Safety of all road users should be everyone’s main priority when driving, biking, or walking. Roads are a joint responsibility of all users and you should be aware of the basic cyclist road safety rules, including:
- Proper pavement markings
- Traffic signals and signs
- Parking laws
- Traveling with the flow of traffic
- Yielding to pedestrians
- Right of way laws
- Ride as close to the right edge of the road as you can
- Signaling turns
- Keeping your distance behind vehicles
Wear a Helmet
Don’t let the use of a bike lane give you a false perception of safety as a cyclist. The CDC reports that millions of Americans ride bicycles, but less than half wear helmets. Helmet use is essential for drastically reducing your risk of personal injury while riding a bike. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites that helmets are "the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities from bicycle crashes".
Use High Visibility Gear While Riding Your Bike
Although bike lanes should be clearly marked on roadways, pedestrians and motorists may not see you, especially at night. No matter the time of day, using high visibility gear and accessories while riding your bike will help significantly reduce the risk of personal injury to yourself and others. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) recommends cyclists use these forms of active lighting and rider visibility accessories:
- Florescent clothing to increase the distance that motorists and pedestrians can see you from
- Reflective clothing for visibility at night
- Multiple forms of active lights, including: rear red lights, front white lights, and other light forms that may be available to cyclists (i.e. wheel spoke lighting)
Staying safe on the road is a responsibility shared by all, but cyclists can take extra precautions to avoid personal injury. Always follow these bike lane safety tips, wear high visibility clothing and a helmet, use proper hand signals and follow all traffic laws to stay safe. When accidents do happen, we encourage you to take the necessary steps to report the accident and seek the advice of legal professionals. The team at Peter Higgins Law has years of experience with personal injury law and has worked with countless cyclists to help them recover the damages they are owed. We would be happy to speak with you about your potential case. Contact us today to for a free consultation.