Maybe you think you’re Mr. Safety: You wear a helmet, a neon yellow jacket and are adamant about indicating your turn signals. But is that really enough? Every year 19,000 cyclists are injured or killed with about 3,000 of those people seriously injured or killed. Many of those are wearing helmets, the obnoxious colored tops, and using the proper hand motions.
Props to you if you’re a bicycling commuter here in San Francisco. You likely endure a hardcore workout for at least one direction of your commute each day. But be aware that on packed, bustling streets you’re at higher risk of an accident, and if you work the standard 9-5 you’re likely traveling around times of peak accidents. Most bicycle accidents occur in urban areas and most occur between 3-5pm and 8-9am on weekdays. There are more of us on the road (both bicycles and cars) creating more congestion and more distractions.
While commuters must be sure to stay aware on their mundane daily commute, less regular bicyclists should be on high alert when first hoping on their bikes, especially in urban environments. Bicycle handling classes are available all over San Francisco and in many other cities. If you’re new to urban biking in San Francisco, or would just like a refresher, check out the Urban Bicycling Workshops. If you’re not from the San Francisco Bay Area stop into your local neighborhood bike shop. If they don’t have a class, they’ll likely know someone who does.
Tips to up your safety:
1. Always look.
In collisions involving a bicycle and another vehicle, the most common related factor reported to police is “failed to look properly”. And it’s not always the driver’s fault. In 43% of the cases it was the bicyclist that, reportedly, failed to look. If you’re on your daily commute, it’s easy to get complacent about safety with the same old routine. If you’re a cycling guru with years of experience it’s also easy to be overconfident in urban settings.
2. Assume drivers don’t see you.
As mentioned in the previous tip, 57% percent of cars involved in serious bicycle injuries reported that they failed to look. This means, to compensate for the drivers’ lack of awareness, we can take precautions. When pulling up to a stop light, instead of stopping right next to a car, stop just ahead or just behind the car so you’re not in their blind spot. When at a stop sign intersection with a car, make sure you make eye contact with the driver. If you’re unsure, wave so that you’re certain you have their attention.
3. Assume surrounding cars don’t know how to drive around bicycles.
Most of us didn’t grow up driving around bicycles, and if you’re in San Francisco there are often tons of tourists and out-of-towners having a hard enough time navigating the one-way streets and steep hills. Unfortunately, the last thing on their mind is sharing the road! Additionally, some drivers don’t understand how fast bicyclist are actually going and for all of you Lance juniors out there, they may think they have plenty of time to make that right hand turn in front of you when instead you’re rudely and dangerously cut off.
3. Avoid riding on crosswalks and sidewalks.
Cars don’t expect you to come out of a crosswalk or sidewalk going full speed. If they are expecting anyone, it’s a pedestrians on foot. The second most common contributory factor attributed to cyclists was cyclist entering the road from the pavement (including when a cyclist crosses the road at a pedestrian crossing), which was recorded in about 20% serious collisions. Best practice is to ride on the street and if you use crosswalks or sidewalks, walk your bike instead.
With night time being riskier for bicyclists, it’s wise to sport a front and rear light. Lights aren’t only beneficial for night-riding. It can be that extra little flash that makes you noticeable to oncoming drivers, and helpful during dusk hours as well.
Even while taking every precaution possible, inevitably there will still be automobile-bicycle accidents. Because, as bicyclists, we don’t have the same types of insurance as automobile drivers, it can be complicated figuring out our rights and responsibilities after an accident. If you or a loved one is in a bicycle accident resulting in serious injuries or even death, contact a trusted personal injury lawyer who has experience dealing with bicycle accidents.