bike safety

Focus! Distracted Drivers and Your Safety

In 2015 alone, an estimated 818 cyclists were tragically killed in road traffic incidents. Arguably, of those motorists, distracted drivers have become a bigger threat due to the variety of distractions offered these days, primarily by smartphones and their ilk.

It seems like the most utterly basic and straightforward considerations as a cyclist, but safety really is the key to unlocking all of the incredible holistic benefits of being in the saddle and in the community. There are a number of considerations to bear in mind when you’re riding, but with a particular nod to road safety, there are a few things beyond the periphery that need paying attention to.

@omarlopez1

@omarlopez1

Distracted Drivers

The best driver in the world can be driving at the right speed, be in the right lane, and be keeping an eye out for the signals you’re providing to give them guidance on your behavior, but it can all be undermined by the presence of a distracted mind.

The most obvious form of distracted driving is texting, which is ubiquitous and dangerous. The US Department of Transportation have produced a helpful example; texting or sending a message could take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, which, at 55 mph, equates to the length of a football field.

Impacts

Whilst road safety for cyclists has improved year-on-year since 2008, the risk is still there, as outlined above. But what are the risks of distracted drivers and how can they be mitigated? In 2014, it was found that distracted driving contributed to 3,179 deaths nationwide (not just cyclists).

What Can Be Done?

Distracted driving is listed as a primary safety concern of many drivers globally. As such, focus has come down on it in recent years and we’ve begun to see the starts of change from a top-down perspective in ways you might not expect. Following a distracted driver accident in California Apple has been sued in a class-action lawsuit seeking to address their non-use of a service designed to prevent drivers using their phone and driving.

As a single cyclist, however, there are a few options you can take. Really, it’s just about being more mindful - taking stock of the drivers around you and their behavior. Treat a driver on their phone, or eating, or glued to the stereo, as if they were unsafe. It might be momentary; it might not.

Distracted drivers are a menace to cyclists and other motorists alike and can present quite a scary proposition on the roads. Luckily, the law is hoping to do something about it, and in the meanwhile, you can too, to make sure you’re safe and secure before you take off on a soul-fulfilling ride.

Have any tips for staying safe on the road? Share them below!

Bike Safety: On and Off Road

Cycling is an easy and fun way to exercise every day. It can get you fit, save you money, it’s great for the environment and reduces congestion. It's also a wonderful way to enjoy some of America's most beautiful parkland and green spaces.

As a cyclist, you deserve respect on the road just like all other road users, but it's up to you to make sure you are as safe as possible.

Safety Gear

Regularly check that your bike is in good condition. This means checking that the brakes work, tires are properly inflated and the chain runs smoothly. Whether cycling on or off road, wearing a helmet helps to prevent head injuries and is a safety essential every time you ride. At night or when visibility is bad, always use reflectors and a front white light and red rear light.

Off-Road Cycling

When cycling off-road, for instance in a scenic national park, be sure to choose the correct route which doesn't mean sidewalks. Dedicated off-road routes and trails can be found all across the U.S. Some paths can be restricted to cyclists, so using dedicated routes means this won't be an issue.

When off-road, you must be considerate to others. Always give way to walkers and horses and take extra care when passing wildlife as animals can become easily startled.

Road Cycling

Even when you are on a bike, you must obey the traffic signals and always stop at stop signs.

Don't automatically use the same routes you take when driving. It's generally better and safer to take different streets that have fewer and slower vehicles. Cyclists have a right to be on the road, but if you get to know the local routes, you will discover that you can ride through neighborhoods and avoid busy streets.

In 2014, cyclists accounted for 2% of traffic deaths and 2% of all crash-related injuries. But you're less likely to get hit when motorists know what you are about to do. Let them know you're about to turn by signaling with your arm. Before signaling left, check your mirror, or look behind you in case a car is passing closely by.

When you're riding alongside other traffic, the fewer distractions the better. Riding with headphones increases your chance of having an accident, just like texting or talking on your phone. You also need to have your hands free in case you need to brake suddenly.

It's sometimes safer to ride a little bit to the left, rather than close to the right curb. Cars ahead of you at intersections will be able to see you better and this also stops cars from passing you too closely on narrow roads.

Share your tips for bike safety below!