Bicycling can be a healthy, economical, environmentally-friendly and enjoyable mode of transportation and recreation. The New York Bicycling Coalition is the premier resource for bicycling information in New York State. The coalition works on a number of projects that include safety and education programming and the promotion of national programs.
As fun as they are, however, bikes can also be dangerous.
Bicyclists are required to follow the same laws and rules of the road as motorists. They must learn to share the road responsibly. This includes riding on the right side of the road as well as obeying traffic signs and signals. Riding on the left side of the road, facing traffic is a common action on the part of the bicyclist that can cause a crash.
Bicyclists must also wear helmets. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute provides in-depth information on selecting and wearing helmets for riders of all ages.
Other actions or "missing actions" on the part of the bicyclist that can cause crashes are:
- entering a road from a driveway or other entrance point without slowing or stopping for traffic,
- riding into an intersection without obeying stop or yield signs or traffic signals,
- riding on sidewalks where this is prohibited,
- weaving in and out of the street,
- crossing driveways without observing traffic,
- riding at night without lights,
- turning without signaling or looking for traffic, and
- attempting to pass a motorist at a roadway junction.
To help avoid a crash and be a responsible cyclist you should be predictable, be seen, be careful and be smart.
- Drive your bicycle with traffic, not against it.
- Ride as close to the right side of the road as you safely can. Use the shoulder or the bike lane rather than the road whenever it is safe to do so.
- Use hand signals when about to make a turn.
- Obey traffic signs and signals.
- Don't cling to other vehicles.
Bicyclists are more likely to be seen by other motorists if they behave like motorists. They need to be where other motorists are expected to be and doing what other motorists are expected to do. Therefore, don't ride the wrong way on a one-way street, or on the wrong side of the road, and don't disregard stop and yield signs.
A motorist may be looking your way and still not see you on your bicycle. Don't assume a motorist has seen you. Establish eye contact or adjust your activity in anticipation that they are unaware of your presence.
- When it comes to a collision, most operators of vehicles sharing the road with bicyclists are protected by a cocoon of metal while bicyclists are not.
- Use a headlight and taillight when driving at night. Use front and rear reflectors, spoke reflectors and pedal reflectors.
- Wear light colored clothing and add reflective material to increase your visibility at night.
- Use your horn, bell, and/or voice to communicate your presence to other motorists sharing the road with you.
- Whenever possible, avoid road construction, congested two-way streets, and complicated intersections.
- Keep your bicycle's tires, brakes and safety equipment in good working order.
- Know your limitations and your bicycle's limitations!
- Bicycle tires are narrow and can get caught in ruts, sewer grates, and/or debris on the road. Your brakes, especially when wet or worn, may not stop you in the distance you expect.
- Look behind you and all around. The more you observe other vehicles and pedestrians around you the safer you will be.
Be smart - wear a helmet!
Remember, though, that a helmet only works if it is buckled and fits properly. Whether as a passenger or as an operator; anyone between the ages of one and fourteen must wear an approved helmet.
Remember that operating any vehicle on a road is serious business. Do not ride a bicycle while wearing earphones. You will not be able to hear approaching traffic.
Young children in the 10 - 14 year old age group are at the highest risk. Bicyclist death rates per 100,000 people are highest in this age group. It's important to understand that young children:
- have a field of vision 1/3rd narrower than adults,
- are unable to determine the directions of sounds,
- cannot accurately judge speed or distance of moving vehicles,
- overestimate their own abilities,
- are easily distracted, and
- tend to focus on one thing at a time.