Safe cycling can often be the difference between life and death. All it takes is one distracted motorist to change your life forever. Every time you hop onto your bicycle, you are taking a bigger risk than when you step into your car.
With those sobering thoughts in mind, let’s talk about bicycle safety.
How is bicycling dangerous?
The CDC recently collected statistics on bicycle safety, and they provide an important reminder of just how dangerous our favorite hobby can be.
Although cyclists account for 1% of all trips taken in the United States, they have a much higher risk of injury and death due to crashes than their motor vehicle counterparts.
- 800 cyclists in 2010 were killed in America and an additional 515,000 went to the emergency room to treat bicycle related injuries.
- Bicycle related injuries can lead to a lifetime of medical issues and costs.
- Cyclists between the ages of 15 and 24 and those older than 45 have a higher rate of injury than cyclists in other age groups.
- Male cyclists have a higher rate of being killed or injured while riding a bike than females.
- 60% of all bicycle-related injuries that result in a trip to the emergency room can be attributed to people between the ages of 5 and 24.
- Most cyclists’ deaths happen at non-intersection locations in cities.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also regularly collects statistics on bicyclist injuries. They discovered on their 2013 fact sheet that cyclists deaths accounted for around 2% of motor vehicle fatalities as well as 2% of all motor vehicle injuries. 2013 was also marked as the third consecutive year of increase in cyclist fatalities. 2013’s cyclist traffic fatalities was 19% higher than 2010’s fatalities and 1% higher than 2012’s.
When it comes to cycling safely there are a few key takeaways:
- Cyclists are less likely to be injured in rural areas compared to urban areas.
- Most (about 56%) of bicycle-related fatalities occurred between 3pm and midnight. So, if you plan on cycling in low light conditions it’s important to have the proper reflective gear.
Alcohol and Cycling
As with cars, riding a bike under the influence of alcohol is illegal in all 50 states and can result in a DUI, injury, and even death.
In 2013, about one in four cyclists that were killed had alcohol in their bloodstream, 24% of them had a blood alcohol content of .01 or higher, and 20% had a BAC of .08 or higher. Unfortunately, 34% of bicyclist-involved incidents with motor vehicles involved alcohol in either the cyclist, the driver, or both.
As with driving, if you’ve been drinking, it’s best to find a ride home or wait until it’s safe for you to ride.
Bicycle Safety Tips to Help Prevent Injury and Death
There are many things you can do to safely ride your bicycle or, if you’re a motorist, share the road.
Safety Tips for Cyclists
Wear a Helmet
Helmets have a stigma for not being “cool”, but wearing a helmet can be the protection needed to prevent a serious brain injury or even death. When wearing a helmet, ensure that it’s properly fitted and snug against your head.
How to make sure a helmet is properly fitted:
- Check with your eyes! Put the helmet on and look up. If you can see the bottom rim of your helmet then it should be good! As an added measure, make sure your helmet’s rim is around one or two finger widths above your eyebrows.
- Next you should check your ears. Does the helmet form a V under your ears when buckled? If the answer is yes, then you should make sure your straps are snug but not too tight so that they’re uncomfortable.
- The last check is the mouth check. To do this, you need to open your mouth as wide as you can to see if the helmet is snug against your head. If you can easily open your mouth without resistance from the straps, you may want to tighten it.
If you’re looking to buy a helmet, keep an eye out for symbols and stickers signifying the helmet has been certified by major organizations. Common certifications are CPSC and ASTM.
If you need help with buying a helmet, check out this guide from the CPSC or go into your local bike shop for recommendations based on the biking activities you participate in.
Sharing the Road
Since cyclists are considered vehicle operators, they’re required to share the road with motor vehicles. Cyclists are required by law to drive on the right side of the road and obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. It is illegal for cyclists to use sidewalks!
Cycling in traffic can be a dangerous ordeal so it’s important that other drivers can clearly see you. You can do this by:
- Wearing brightly colored and/or reflective clothing. If you don’t have bright or reflective clothing then apply reflective tape to the front and back of your clothes.
- For low-light and no-light riding, be sure to have a headlamp attached to your helmet and/or a flashlight attached to the front and back of your bike.
- Use the appropriate hand signals at least 100 feet before you change your direction, slow down or stop to make sure drivers and other cyclists know what you’re doing.
Safety Tips for Driving Around Cyclists
One of the biggest dangers to cyclists is motor vehicles. If you’re behind the wheel of a car around cyclists there are a few things you can do to ensure that you and the cyclists remain safe.
- Keep a safe distance from cyclists! If you need to pass cyclists, make sure you have 3 feet between your vehicle and the cyclists. Do not pass them unless you can ensure you can do it safely.
- Respect bike lanes by not driving, parking, or idling in them.
- Never text and drive, especially when you’re sharing the road with people on bikes!
Oklahoma’s Bicycle Laws and Regulations
Oklahoma has a number of laws surrounding the safe use of bicycles. The Oklahoma Bicycle Society does a good write-up of our state’s bicycle laws. That write-up includes the exact wording of the law as well as a generalized interpretation of the law.
Some of the most important laws to follow when bicycling in Oklahoma include:
- The state of Oklahoma does not require cyclists to wear helmets however, cities are allowed to pass their own helmet laws. Oklahoma City exercised its right and in 1999 it was passed into law that all cyclists are required to wear helmets on city streets and properties.
- All traffic laws (including signage) apply to cyclists.
- Cyclists are required to ride as close to the right side of the road as possible. The only exceptions to this rule are turning or passing someone.
- All cyclists must make hand signals to indicate they’re turning, slowing, or stopping.
- Only one person may be on a bike at a time unless it was built to hold multiple riders.
The above are just a few laws cyclists must follow. Before getting on a bike, it’s important to research and make sure that you’re following all the laws of the road, which were created to keep you and those around you safe.
What To Do If You’re Injured While Riding a Bicycle
Cyclists are often injured through no fault of their own. You could be wearing all of the right visibility equipment and obeying Oklahoma’s traffic laws perfectly – only to encounter a drunk driver, distracted motorist, or even a manufacturer’s defect on your bike.
If you’re injured while riding your bike, make sure you document as much as you can and contact us at Warhawk to find out what your legal options are.