Bicycle Safety Tips to Avoid Accidents

Close-up shot of a crashed bicycle on the ground near a car with spilled produce all over the road

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a federal study, reporting that nearly 540,000 bike riders visit the emergency room each year due to bike accidents. Of these riders, 846 died as a result of their injuries in 2019 alone. Nearly 90% of all bike-related fatalities resulted from a crash or accident with a motor vehicle. Fortunately, there are precautions cyclists can take to help keep them safe while riding and help them avoid being hit by cars and trucks while sharing Austin’s roadways.

Avoiding Collisions

A family of cyclists utilizing hand signals to alert motorists driving near or passing them

Car collisions and falls make up the vast majority of bicycle accidents. Of course, accidents with motorists make up the majority of the more serious and fatal accidents. Regardless of accident type, prevention should be every cyclist’s goal. Here are some ways you can help avoid accidents with vehicles altogether:

  1. Avoid riding during “peak” hours. Most bicyclist deaths occurred between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. when afternoon traffic is at its heaviest.
  2. Plan your route, preferably through areas with minimal vehicle traffic or at times when traffic is reduced. Stick to residential areas when possible – nearly 75% of bicyclist deaths occurred in urban areas. When possible, use roads with lower speed limits. Using bike paths that are separated from neighboring roadways is best.
  3. Find the right bike size. Riding a bicycle that is too big will make it more difficult to control. Also, ensure your bike is in working order – especially the brakes.
  4. Wear protective equipment, including a proper-fitted helmet. Bright clothing, reflective gear, and install reflectors on the front and back of your bicycle are also important. Generally speaking, take all reasonable steps to ensure maximum visibility. Finally, make sure that all loose laces or clothing are tucked in so they don’t get caught in the chain.
  5. Ride responsibly and follow the law. If you are in Austin, understanding specific bike laws in Texas can help keep you safe on the road.

Utilize Predictable and Defensive Riding Strategies

A man riding his bicycle downtown in a big cit

There is no way to absolutely guarantee your safety, but by implementing these best practices, you may reduce the probability of getting hit by a car or truck.

Defensive Riding

Remaining alert and cognizant of the traffic around you will help you anticipate what others may do even before they do it. Here are some of the best ways to ride defensively:

  1. Always ride with the flow of, and in the same direction as, traffic.
  2. Follow all street signs, signals, and road markings the same way you would while operating a vehicle.
  3. Avoid using or fidgeting with devices. That means no texting or playing with a music device. Anything that can distract you or take your eyes off the road could lead to an accident and result in a serious injury.
  4. Base your speed on current road conditions. Slow down if bad weather or low temperatures require more prudence.
  5. Be mindful of the drivers around you and, to the extent possible, pay special attention when passing a truck, bus, or any vehicle that has a large blind spot.
  6. Always assume that the other person or motorist doesn’t see you. This will help you avoid potentially dangerous circumstances.

Predictable Riding

In addition to riding defensively, riding predictably will also keep you safe while alerting motorists of your decision-making. Here’s how to incorporate predictable riding:

  1. Only ride where you are expected to be seen. Always make sure to signal and look over your shoulder before changing lanes or turning.
  2. It may seem counterintuitive, but it can be safer to avoid riding on a sidewalk. Motorists do not expect to see cyclists on the sidewalks, so they don’t always look out for cyclists when they are backing out of a driveway or turning. There are also areas in Austin where the sidewalks come to a sudden end, potentially forcing you to ride out onto the road. These areas, in particular, can be dangerous, as motorists are not expecting to see you on the road all of the sudden.
  3. Always use proper hand signals when coming to a stop, making a turn, or changing lanes.
  4. When crossing in a pedestrian lane, make sure to dismount and walk your bike across the street.

Share the Road

Austin’s cyclists and motorists should try to work together to allow everyone to share its roads safely and enjoyably. If you do find yourself in a bicycle accident caused by a motorist in the Austin, Texas area, seeking out a local Austin bicycle accident lawyer can help you recoup any losses sustained as a result of a motorist’s driving mistake. Our team at Sandoval & James is experienced and equipped to help with injuries and losses sustained during bicycle accidents. Don’t hesitate to reach out today.