May is National Bike Month and bicycling has certainly seen a recent resurgence. During the COVID-19 quarantine, the beaches in Florida were closed, along with gyms – so many people have turned to a pastime favorite to stay in shape or get back in shape: bicycle riding.
Stores all over Florida, and the country, have seen a boom in bicycle sales and some are even sold out. There has been a certain uptick in seeing whole families riding bikes. A byproduct of the quarantine that has provided a silver lining. People are embracing health, wellness, active family time, togetherness and safety.
Bicyclists and shop owners say people are thinking more about their health and looking for safe ways to be together. It’s all about family and getting back to the basics.
Bicycling is also a cost-effective mode of transportation as well as way to reduce air pollution.
In general, roads are getting safer due to reduced traffic while businesses and schools are closed. It is very important however to think about safety on the roads now and as automobile traffic begins to pick back up with the loosening of restrictions. It is extremely important to not only have the proper protective equipment – helmet, lights, bright colored clothing, etc., but it is also about how cyclists interact with motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and bicycling.com reminds us to keep in mind the following guidelines when riding a bicycle to reduce the risk of accidents and avoid injuries.
BE VISIBLE – Use protective equipment such as a helmet, a white front light, and a red rear light. Don’t forget to use reflectors on the bicycle, helmet, and clothes.
GO STRAIGHT – Plan a safe route. Choose roads with less traffic and slower speeds. Always ride in a straight a line as possible so drivers can sense how far left they have to go to get past you safely. Don’t weave in and out of traffic.
DON’T GET DOORED – Avoid getting clotheslined by a car door! On a road line with parked cars, take up more of the lane. Assume that the person in car does not know you are coming and will open the car door. Look over your left shoulder to check that traffic is clear and give the car a wide berth. Also, look at wheels and be prepared to take defensive maneuvers if the car’s wheels are turned and they pull out in front of you. The driver may honk at you…but at least they saw you.
USE COMMON SENSE – Do not use your cell phone or listen to music during your trip. It requires that your vision and attention stay focused on the road.
SIGNAL A WARNING – Before passing a pedestrian announce yourself with “on your left” or “passing on your left” or using a bell so they can be aware of your presence. It is also important to use your ears in vehicle traffic, since many engine sounds can tip you off to any danger, with possibly the exception of hybrid engines that don’t make much noise. When a potential dangerous encounter occurs, a scream is instant and can get a driver’s attention.
STAY TO THE RIGHT AND BE PREPARED FOR AN EMERGENCY MOVE – Drive in the same direction as traffic. If the driver passes you and immediately begins to turn right, you have two choice: a panic stop or instant turn. If you must panic stop, then shift your butt to the right of your saddle, straighten your arms as you lower your chest, and squeeze both brakes firmly. Never squeeze just the front brake or you’ll pitch forward. Or you can avoid the collisions by making a right turn with the car. If possible, brake before the turn, not during it. Keep your right pedal up so it won’t hit the curb. Be fair and take your fair share of the lane to avoid being overtaken by a car.
READ THE LIGHTS – Obey road signs and drive predictably. Stay clear of traffic by staying ahead of it, however, don’t gain ground at red lights by passing a lane of cars on the right. It’s illegal and you can get “doored” from either side.
KEEP PEDALING & RIDE ASSERTIVELY – If you have the right of way in an intersection, don’t coast through or drivers may assume they can cut in front of you. Keep pedaling, but be prepared to stop.
Drivers should also keep in mind the following key points when sharing the public roads with other cyclists.
BE COURTEOUS – Give way to cyclists in the same way you would with another vehicle on the road.
RIGHT ON RED – Avoid hitting a cyclist when you turn right on red. Observe to your right and behind you to make sure there are no cyclists nearby.
OBEY SPEED LIMITS – Reduce speed if road conditions are hazardous and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
PASSING – Do not pass a cyclist too closely. Pass a cyclist only when it is safe if you need to cross into the adjacent lane.
Sharing the road is mandatory, so it is important to to have a sense of safety and security for both cyclists and drivers. Practice the guidelines above to keep roads free of accidents. Remember that sharing the streets is about promoting mutual understanding and above all avoiding accidents and injuries.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. OUR AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a bicycle accident, it is important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.
Association for Psychological Science. (n.d.). Bicyclists beware: The psychology of car-bike crash risks. Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/motr/bicyclist-beware-cars-view-less-risk-in-crashes-with-bikes.html
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (2016) Crash and Citation Reports & Statistics [Statistics]. Retrieved from https://www.flhsmv.gov/resources/crash-citation-reports/
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (n.d.). Bicycle safety. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety
333 Secrets of the Lifetime Rider. https://www.bicycling.com