Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.See all posts »
I was fortunate to be invited to participate as moderator at the Stanford Trauma Bike Safety Summit, which was held at Stanford University Medical Center on November 9, 2011. It was an informative and spirited gathering, assembled by invitation to address the causes of preventable bicycle crashes as well as plans for solutions to reduce them through focused efforts in education, enforcement, engineering, and evaluation.
The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition distributed a handout with the headline “Be visible, predictable, alert and safe” to inform participants about techniques for cycling safety. The following are tips adapted from that document that are worthwhile for cyclists to remember while biking—whether on paved roads or on trails and terrain off the beaten track:
- Obey traffic laws. Cyclists fare best when they act like and are treated as drivers of vehicles. Where applicable, ride with traffic.
- Wear a helmet that is fitted properly.
- Carry identification with you for every ride.
- Use lights as night. At a minimum (in the state of California), use a front lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet, a rear red reflector visible from a distance of 500 feet, and a white or yellow reflector on each pedal or on the bicyclist’s shoes or ankles visible from a distance of 200 feet.
- Try to ride in a straight line; don’t weave.
- Do not wear earplugs in both ears or a headset that covers both ears.
- Use hand signals to communicate your intentions to other road users.
- Increase your visibility by wearing light or brightly colored clothing.
- When riding in a group of cyclists, the leader should set a good example.
Motorists can contribute to safety by slowing down when passing cyclists, allowing at least 3 to 5 feet of passing space, being extra cautious on all counts when on narrow roads, yielding to cyclists who are making oncoming left hand turns, never opening a car door without checking for approaching cyclists, and refraining from blasting a horn at a cyclist (which might startle and cause a crash).
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