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Road Cycling Safety Tips and Other guidance that can save your life!

Last updated on February 24, 2020

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Image of road ahead while riding on a Bicycle.


Road Cycling Safety Tips

Bicycle safety is a very important part of riding a bicycle. People ride bikes for many reasons including recreation and relaxation, for exercise, muscle toning, and weight loss, charity bike-a-thons, wine tours, bicycle races and many more!

While riding your bike is a very rewarding experience, you MUST know and use proper bicycle safety rules.

The following paragraphs will discuss bicycle safety, as well as how it applies to different aspects of bicycle riding.

#1 Wear a helmet

Image of biker with helmet and bike

Protecting your head is so very important when you are riding a bike. It is very easy to injure your head or brain if you are involved in a bicycle accident, fall off of your bike, or lose your balance while riding. By wearing a protective helmet, you are taking steps in the right direction to guard your head and brain from possible injury due to accident.

Some examples of when a protective helmet is absolutely necessary include:

  • when a child rides a bike
  • when an inexperienced cyclist rides a bike
  • bike-a-thons
  • bike races
  • mountain biking.

Basically whenever you ride a bicycle is a good rule of thumb.  Knowing you are protected can boost your confidence level, and make your bike riding experience more enjoyable.

Deaths of Cyclists

Statistics from The Bicycle Safety Institute confirm that deaths from cycling are on the rise. In 2018, 857 bicyclists died on roads in the United States.  That is an increase of 6.3% and also 2.1% of all traffic fatalities during the year.  This was the highest number of deaths since 1990 when deaths reached 855. Of note, 61% of bicyclists killed in 2018 were not wearing helmets. Helmet use was unknown for 24 %.

Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveal that a “typical” bicyclist killed on roads in the United States would be a sober male over 16 not wearing a helmet and riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car.

Every year around 2 % of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. Although child bicyclist deaths have declined over the y`ears, deaths among bicyclists age 20 and older have tripled since 1975.  In a majority of deaths of a bicyclist, the most serious injuries are to the head – thus the high importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Since 1975, many more male cyclists died than female cyclists. (female cyclists deaths have declined 3 times more than male deaths since 1975).  Maybe that tells us that male cyclists tend to NOT wear safety helmets (my opinion).

So, be smart and…..

WEAR A PROTECTIVE HELMET!

Choosing a bicycle helmet

When fitting your helmet, think “Snug”, “level” and “Stable.  Make sure the helmet is comfortably touching your head all the way around.  It should be level and stable so as to resist even violent shakes and hard blows and still stay in place.  Pick one that fits as low on your head as possible so the sides of your head are covered and the strap should be snug but comfortable.  Mountain biking helmets sometimes have a chin guard to protect the mouth, chin, and jaws.

Foam thickness

Dr. Terry Smith, Senior Scientist at Dynamic Research, and Daniel Pomerening of South West Research Institute collaborated on this paper explaining the complexities of foam thickness, but a mock-up with these parameters show a helmet too, large, heavy and high on the head.  As of now, as far as concussions, there is no recognized minimum level of g’s and currently, no bike helmet standard is currently testing for low-velocity impact performance or for rotational force.

#2 – Avoid Crashes

There are basically two types of Crashes 1) falls, and 2) collisions with cars.  The collision with a car is, of course, the most serious.  There are some things to be aware of that can decrease the risk of crashes.

  1. Regardless of the season, bicyclist deaths occurred most often between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  2. Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (75%) compared to rural areas (25%) in 2017.
  3. Bicyclist deaths were 8 times higher for males than females in 2017.
  4. Alcohol was involved in 37% of all fatal bicyclist crashes in 2018

Things to do to help avoid a crash:

Be Prepared

  • Make sure your bike is fitted to you so that you can more easily control it.
  • Make sure your bike works, including the brakes.
  • Wear protective equipment, like a bike helmet, bright clothing during the day and reflective gear and lights in the evening and nighttime
  • Make sure you have a white light in front and a red light in the back.
  • Ride one person per seat. Never ride 2 to a one-person bike.
  • Carry all extra items, (.e., wallet, phone, water, camera, etc) in your clothing, or in bags strapped to your bike.
  • Be sure to tie and then tuck in your shoelaces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain or wheels.
  • Plan your route—and choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.
  • Know driving hand signals and use them when turning or stopping.
  • Obey cycling laws,
  • Obey street signs, signals, and road markings, just like when you are driving a car.
  • Ride with the flow of traffic behind you, not facing the traffic.  Know the laws for your city.
  • Watch pedestrians, especially when you pass.  Pas on the left and let them know you are there by saying “on the left” loudly enough for then to hear you or use your bell and say “left”.
  • Assume you are invisible to every car on the road.
  • Go slow and look for traffic (left-right-left and behind) when crossing a street from a sidewalk; be prepared to stop and follow the pedestrian signals.
  • Be sure and look ahead for hazards or situations that may cause you to fall, like toys, pebbles, potholes, grates, train tracks so you can avoid them.
  • Be sure to look for cars turning in front of you or out of driveways.
  • Just like when driving your car, no texting, listening to music or using anything that distracts you by taking your eyes and ears or your mind off the road and traffic around you.
  • Avoid riding at night or twilight and make sure your bike as lights if you do.  Wear reflective clothing always.
  • There is no place for anger or rage when riding a bike.  Be polite and thank drivers for giving you access.  A nod, slight wave of your hand or a mouthed “thanks” is great.

Protective Gear Suggestions

Protective gear for cyclists include  the following:

  • helmets
  • lights for both front and back of bike
  • light-colored and reflective clothing
  • a horn or bell for your bike
  • bike mirrors so you can see whats coming up behind you.;
  • gloves to reduce blisters and warm hands
  • pads for elbows and knees if you mountain bike or are new to biking
  • Sunglasses will help you see your surrounds when you are riding facing the sun.

Remember, its important to stay aware of your surroundings and the vehicles approaching and passing you.  Use your mirrors and be sure and stop and look at each intersection.  Also remember to ride on the right side of the path, road or trail and pass on the left after giving warnings.

Helmets

Gloves and Pads

Clothing

Bike lights and mirrors

Cycling glasses

#3 Ensure Your Bike is Working – Keep Up with Your Bike Maintenance

It’s actually quite easy to do routine maintenance on your own bike. And having the right tools for the job can mean the difference between enjoying an all-day ride and having to pack your bike up and head back home when something goes awry. So, what tools do you need to take along for the ride?

Bike Survival Kit

A basic bike survival kit should include:
Tire patch kit
Pump
Chain tool
Screwdriver
Spare tube
Wrenches in various sizes

A more extensive bike survival kit would include:
Chain cleaners
Solvents specifically designed for bike chains
Lubrication

Things to Check for Before You Hit the Road on Your Bike

  • Brakes: Ensuring your brakes are working well is vitally important. Make sure you check your pads often to prevent rim damage and to ensure that your bike actually stops when it is supposed to. Adjusting the tension is also important.
  • Chain: degrease the chain and re-lube it. Clean rear sprockets with a brush tool.
  • Gears: Check derailleur gear action and cables. Degrease chain and re-lube. Clean rear sprockets with brush tool.
  • Pedals: Make sure the axle spins freely. Check bottom bracket axles for looseness.
  • Steering: Make sure the handlebar and stem is tight.
  • Frame: Check for damage. Make sure the seat is adjusted appropriately for your height.
  • Wheels: Make sure spokes and nipples are tightened and wheels are trued.
  • Check tire pressure and condition. If your suspension fork is quick release, make sure they are tightly fastened, and don’t forget to check tire pressure.

Bike repair kits

Books

More cool training:  Ebooks and training Plans

 

For Drivers – to avoid crashes with Bikes

Maybe you are cyclist, but you are also probably a driver too.  Here’s some tips for you when you are driving:

  • Share the road with cyclists.  Stop the road rage – it helps no one and can be very dangers.  Be polite to riders and other drivers.
  • Look for cyclists on the road when opening a car door or pulling into the road from parking spots or driveways.
  • Yield to cyclists when you are at intersections and do what the signs say, especiallyw hen turning left or right.
  • When turning right on read, be sure and look behind you for cyclists approaching you on the right.
  • Don’t text or use your phone – it can become distracted and not see cyclists.
  • Remember cyclists have a right to the road also.  Leave at least three feet between your vehicle and the cyclist when passing or driving beside a bike lane with riders.  See the Safely passing bicylists chart

Arkansas State Statute on passing bicylists:  Exercise due care and pass to the left at a safe distance of not less than three (3) feet and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle.

Downloads (pdfs)

Bike Basics:  AAA’s guide to a great ride.

Bike Safety

So your child wants to bike?

 

Comments

Thanks for reading my post,  I hope you have learned some things to help keep you safe when cycling.  I love to get questions and comments.  Please leave yours below and share this post with others who you think would benefit. -Shirley

NOTE:  This post contains affiliate links, which, if clicked on and an item purchased, I receive a small commission.

24 Comments

  1. CTCT

    Thank you for this useful topic. Recently, my son buys a new bicycle and looking for some protective gear. Of course, he asks me to find because I need to pay for this for his Christmas gift.

    Luckily I landed on your site. You not only provide different gears and list the safety tips to me. Your post is useful to me and my son. It saves me a lot of time. At least, I don’t need to do further research online. I will bookmark your site and share it with all my friends. I believe your post can helps many people. Please keep sharing with us.

    • adminadmin

      Thanks CT for visiting my site and reading my blog post. I’m glad you found this article helpful as I certainly intended it to provide great safety advice. Thanks again for your kind comments. -Shirley

  2. PentrentalPentrental

    As one who has had a few mishaps on the bicycle when I was younger I know first-hand the importance of cycling safety gear. It can be easy to forget a helmet especially for shorter trips but this is one of the most important pieces of equipment and this is a great reminder here. 857 bicyclist deaths in 2018 is pretty alarming especially due to the percentage increase. It makes sense that 61% were not wearing helmets. These are some excellent product links, and I have saved your post to check them out each further. Thanks for the great awareness and references!

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Pentrental, thanks so much for visiting my mall site and your comments on my post.  As I was researching information to create this article I too was very surprised to learn about the over 850 deaths in 2018.  Also, that more men tend to not use helmets and are more likely to have fatal injuries in a crash.  I know I’m going to always wear my helmet when I’m riding my recumbent trike (I sit pretty low on it and maybe harder for vehicle drivers to see me.  I do use a flag that is several feet over my head to help drivers notice me.  I forgot to mention that in my article but flags are good ideas too.  Thank again for your comment. -Shirley

  3. Feji benFeji ben

    I must say that cycling accidents have become rampant incidents in recent times as many fail to follow the rules and regulation of cycling,which is to make sure you are fully kited and avoid overspending in busy roads, but I think is your article is just another loaded pack of information that would help us all.

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Hi Feji ben, thanks for visiting my site and reading my blog post.  I must say that since researching for this article, I’ve become passionate about encouraging my friends to all wear helmets when biking.  I didn’t realize there were so many deaths from bike crashes.  Maybe you too can become an advocate for helmet use.  Thanks again for your comments -Shirley

  4. coraliecoralie

    This post full of safety tips while cycling is so important.  What a great informative read.  Anyone that is an active cyclists should read this article.  I have always believed strongly in safety anytime we are doing anything active. A helmet is a must wear item.  Protecting our heads from a fall can absolutely safe your life.

    I biked a lot when I was a kid, and because I was tall I realized the importance of a proper fitting bike.  That is the key to a comfortable ride in my opinion.

    I really enjoyed reading your post and best of luck to you.

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Thanks, Coralie for reading my blog post and your kind comments.  I biked as a kid too and now in my 60’s I’m back biking, but now I ride a recumbent trike with pedal assist so I can get up and down the hills here in the Ozarks.  I’m loving cycling.  My husband too is into biking and he now has 3 different bikes and like you, he realizes that fitting yourself to your bike is important for comfort.  Thanks again for your comments and have a great holiday season.  -Shirley

  5. DanijelDanijel

    Hello, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I enjoy cycling and unfortunately, I did not respect this advice so far but I will definitely pay closer attention to it. I don’t have a habit to wear a helmet although I have one. It is a disaster for how many people die because of not taking a precaution.

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Danijel, thanks so much for visiting my mall site and reading my blog post.  I’m glad you found it useful.  I pray you will definitely start using your helmet.  The statistics do show that more men forego helmets and they also have more fatal injuries.  Thanks again and happy safe cycling  -Shirley

  6. TysonTyson

    Hey there, as a long-time cyclist myself I can definitely say that safety is numero uno in my books. When I was a kid, neither me or my friends wore helmets anywhere we went. We had all kinds of bike accidents, and though we’re all still alive, a lot of lost blood and even consciousness could have been prevented with things like helmets and pads.

    I see you have a lot of choices for Amazon on here, is there any brands that you swear by for safety regardless of price? I broke my helmet recently in a move and will need a new one for when the snow melts.

    Thank you!

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Hi Tyson, thanks for reading my post and your comments.  Sorry you and your friends had so many accidents when you were young.  My sisters and I also rode a lot when we were kids and never even thought of using a helmet.  But we also never got on city streets and were not into racing each other – riding in just our yard and neighbor’s yards.  I ride a recumbent trike now and I always use a helmet since I’m riding on the trails, streets, and Greenways in NW Arkansas.  As for a replacement helmet, all the product links I chose were highly rated.  If you do mountain biking and races, you might want one of the helmets that protect your chin and jaws too. Thanks again for your comment and happy cycling! -Shirley

  7. PhilPhil

    You give some very detailed good advice on bicycle safety.  I was surprised to learn that 857 bicyclists died on roads in the United States in 2018

    I bet a lot were in Miami, when I lived there in 2018 I heard about so many deaths of bicycle  riders.

    IMO I think the drivers in MIAMI are CRAZY, and I would put most of the blame on them, but I was also surprised to learn that over a third of the deaths, the bicyclists were drinking alcohol, wow.  

    So wearing a helmet will help to reduce all those deaths, makes sense, but I love all the tips you give bicyclists to help avoid these accidents.  

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Hi there Phil, thanks for visiting my website and reading my article.  I was surprised also about the number of deaths of cyclists in 2018.  And that many never wore helmets and were drinking.  Drinking and driving anything is not good, nor healthy for anyone.  I’m glad I’m not in Miami if they are such bad drivers.  Here in NW arkansas cycling is becoming more and more popular.  The buildup of new trails on the Greenway is growing rapidly too.  I’m glad to report, most cyclists I see are wearing helmets and that’s good.  Thanks again for your comments and have a great day. -shirley

  8. StrahinjaStrahinja

    I had a big fall from a bicycle when I was 13. This experience really taught me well about safety on the road. I have damaged my knee really bad and I was unable to go to school for almost 2 months. I can agree with you that riding a bicycle is not a joke and if you drive into real traffic, you need to know the traffic rules as well as wearing a helmet (always). Protective pads are also really good if you tend to go really fast.

    Thank you for this informative article.

    Strahinja.

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Strahinja, thanks for reading my blog post and your comment.  I’m sorry you got hurt on your bike but unfortunately we learn new lessons when something like that occurs.  You for sure now know to wear protective equipment to avoid serious injury. Cycling can be fun though if you take the proper precautions.  Have a great day and thanks again for your comment. -Shirley

  9. Mugalu MansoorMugalu Mansoor

    Thanks very much admin for sharing with us this wonderful, let me call it an alerting article about the road cycling  safety tips and other guidance that can help us save our lives because starting from now am starting to follow some of these tips which I haven’t been following,. Thanks very much in advance

    • Shirley DawsonShirley Dawson

      Hi Mugalu, thanks for visiting my mall site and reading my post.  I’m glad to read your comment and I hope you learned something new about cycling safety.  Please share my blot post with your friends who like to cycle also. -Thanks and have a great day –Shirley

  10. I agree that wearing a bicycle helmet is a basic safety requirement, irregardless of the distance we cycle. Most of the male friends around me usually do not wear helmet unless they intent to ride for long distances or along rough terrains.

    I really appreciate that the article includes a checklist of items to check before cycling. I think this is especially important and should be done on a regular basis. This checklist is very useful to me as an amateur cyclist as I really do not have the slightest idea of how to maintain my bicycle.

    Even though I do not drive, I am really grateful that the article also touch on what drivers on the road should take note of. I am really impressed with this as I strongly believe that not all accidents are due to the negligence of the cyclist.

    • adminadmin

      Lynn, thanks for visiting my site and your comment. I’m sorry your male relatives choose not to wear their helmets. Statistics say more male and female cyclists get hurt and even die in bike crashes. I hope you share this post with some of them and they realize they are putting themselves at more risk. My own husband and his friends always wear their helmets and I’m proud of them. Thanks again for your comment. –
      shirley

  11. The entire “safety gear suggestions” is missing. It has the headings, but the content is missing. I also noticed an instance where it should have said 2011, but it said 201.

    • adminadmin

      Emily, thanks for visiting my site and your comments on my post. I have worked on the areas you commented on and fixed that date reference. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. Have a great day -Shirley

  12. Very Informative! As a previous broke rider, I wish this inform was introduced to be before I got my license to prepare me for the danger of riding. Out here in Cali, Lane splitting is legal so that creates a lot of unnecessary accidents due to careless riders and distracted drivers. This information should be mandatory to all riders before they are licensed.

    • adminadmin

      Sergio, thanks for reading my post and your comment. I too wish safety information for bikers and cyclists was more available to both drivers and cyclists. Did you have an accident on your bike? -Shirley

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