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How to stay safe as a bicyclist in California

Going green has encouraged many people to begin riding bicycles as an environmentally friendly way to commute to work. Unfortunately, traditional motorists are still adjusting to sharing the road with their two-wheeled companions. Bicyclists face varied and unique challenges and must have a higher level of due diligence. What are some common dangers bicyclists face and specific defensive driving techniques one can use to stay safe?

Common dangers bicyclists face

Many studies have been conducted trying to define the common dangers bicyclists face. Here are the three most common:

  • Weather conditions: Driving a truck or car comes includes the luxury of having four protective walls, a roof, a windshield and a seat belt. Bicycles, on the other hand, are exposed to all types of weather conditions which can put the bicyclist at risk.
  • Road hazards: Road hazards are numerous:
    • water, motor oil or ice on the road
    • potholes, grooves and ruts
    • objects/debris that fall from other vehicles
  • Visibility to other drivers: Countless times have vehicle drivers commented after crashing into a bicyclist, “I never saw them.” Because bicycles are so thin when viewed in a mirror, they are sometimes not seen or recognized by drivers.

Defensive driving techniques

The overwhelming majority of accidents between a motor vehicle and a bicycle have demonstrated that the driver of the vehicle had violated the cyclists’ rights. Here are some defensive driving techniques that every bicyclist should be aware of:

  • Helmets: In California, all bicyclists 18 years old or younger are required to wear a helmet. Bike passengers age 5 or under are also legally required to wear a helmet. The federal consumer product safety commission (CPSC) sets safety standards for bicycle helmets. Be sure to look for ASTM F1447, F18981; Snell B-90A, B-95, N-942; CPSC when purchasing a bicycle helmet.
  • High visibility: Clothing that is considered “high visibility” and/or reflective tape should be worn by bicyclists to combat the problem of not being seen by motorists.
  • Recording devices: Using a recording device such as a GoPro can be useful as evidence in the unfortunate case of an accident.
  • Blind spots: Riding in a vehicle’s “blind spots” should be avoided. When passing it is even more crucial to be aware of blind spots.
  • Hand signals: Properly using hand signals when turning or stopping adds an element of safety by making bicyclists more visible to motorists.

Accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles often result in serious injuries and sizable liabilities. Bicycle accident cases regularly come down to who was negligent. Proving negligence can be complex and requires in-depth analysis. For this reason, legal counsel that is experienced with motor vehicle/bicycle accidents is best qualified to evaluate the merits of a case.