Although we may have to endure another April snowstorm or two, the flowers will be blooming shortly and better weather is on the way. With the emergence of spring also comes the emergence of the bicycling season, as thousands of cyclists dust off their bikes and repopulate the crowded commutes all around the state.
There is no doubt that cycling is an efficient, healthy and environmentally-friendly way to get around, especially in the busy hubs of Boston, Cambridge and the surrounding metropolises. Unfortunately, what makes a big city ideal for cycling is also what makes these places the most dangerous to ride a bicycle.
Tight streets overpopulated with vehicles driven by impatient, often-distracted drivers is a recipe for disaster for any cyclist. Crashes involving one party on a bicycle and the other party in a car will never fare well for the cyclist. Proper awareness, attention to the rules of the road and hyper vigilance of surrounding commuters is essential to staying safe while cycling.
Motorists, too, must be aware of cyclists. Motorists must observe and obey bike lanes, not crowd them or obstruct them or otherwise use them in an inappropriate way. Many cities are implementing strategies to make cycling easier and safer, and all of these strategies hinge on the notion that car drivers and cyclists must share the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,376 pedestrians and 818 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2015.The following safety tips should be employed to ensure safety as cyclists head back onto the roadways.
Cycling safety tips
- Make sure your bike is prepared for a commute
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated
- Make sure your brakes are working and that your reflectors are in good shape
- Adjust your seat height and positioning so it is comfortable to both sit and stand
- When possible, avoid riding at night
- If you must ride while it’s dark, wear reflective tape, bands or bright colored clothes
- Visibility is your best method to avoid accidents
- Always maintain control with at least one hand on the handlebars at all times
- Avoid road hazards such as construction or precariously small, highly-trafficked streets when possible
- Follow all traffic rules
- If you are riding on the street, obey all signs and traffic lights as if you were in a car
- You must alert other commuters of left and right turns with hand signals
- If riding on the sidewalk, you must alert pedestrians that you are passing by with a bell or a verbal call
- In some areas, cycling on the sidewalk is prohibited
- Never cross the street unless at a pedestrian crossing
- Emerging from in-between parked cars is dangerous and gives motorists little time to react
- Do not ride sporadically or weave in and out of traffic
- Maintain straight lines and be predictable
- Keep an eye out for parked cars. Crashes often occur when a motorist opens their door without looking behind them. Give enough space between yourself and parked cars to avoid this.
- Avoid listening to music while riding. Being able to hear oncoming traffic or a car horn may save your life.