May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, which promotes biking and its benefits, including saving money on gas, adding exercise, or helping preserve the environment.
Without a doubt a wonderful outdoor activity, biking needs to be done with care and attention. Fellow bikers, pedestrians, and cars occupy the streets you like to pedal through, causing some unforeseen scenarios and unfortunate events. Good sense and safety equipment are imperative to a fun and safe ride.
For the more than 786,000 cyclists (U.S. Census Bureau, May 2014), susceptibility to injury is prevalent with around 50,000 injuries reported in U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Users of the road make many mistakes, and the NHTSA outlines the top causes and what you can do as a cyclist to prevent a dangerous episode:
1. Ride out into a street/driveway/alley without looking
What you can do – Look left-right-left before entering a road
2. Turns or swerve sudden
What you can do – Ride in straight, predictable lines; look over your shoulder for traffic; and use hand signals before changing lane position
3. Ride through stop signs or red lights
What you can do – Follow the same rules of the road as motorists. Be prepared to stop quickly
4. Ride in the wrong direction
What you can do – Always ride with the flow of traffic
5. Ride while impaired
What you can do – Since a bike is also a vehicle on the road, riding drunk can be just as dangerous for you and fellow motorists
- Watch for uneven pavement, potholes, wet leaves, storm grates, or other roadway changes that could cause imbalance
- Use turn signals to alert motorists and pedestrians
- Yield to pedestrians
- Keep right when traveling slower than other traffic
- Make sure your bike and self are visible, and use reflective clothing or reflectors on the front and rear of your bike
- Wear a helmet no matter your biking skill
Unfortunately sometimes cyclists can only do so much with how many drivers are on Chicago’s roads. Motorists can cause significant damage through negligence by doing the following:
- Turning in front bikers on roads and sidewalks
- Ignoring others around them, including in parking lots, while backing up, at stop signs, or parking on the street.
- Driving too fast for conditions and not able to react in time to a biker
- Passing a biker too closely