Riding a bicycle is fun, inexpensive (no costly gas purchases to worry about or plan for) and a great way to enjoy the scenery, commute to work, get exercise or just unwind. Unfortunately, it can also be fraught with hazards in Washington State and around the nation.
Collisions between bikes and motor vehicles are all too common and can result in serious injuries to a bicyclist and even death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 846 people on bikes died in collisions with vehicles in 2019.
Some of the statistics hint at the reasons for bicycle-vehicle accidents. The NHTSA states that most deaths of bicyclists occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., which is between dusk and evening when a bike rider can be much harder to see. In addition, in 2017, three-quarters of bicyclist deaths were in urban locations. Therefore, in cities, where traffic is often heaviest, a bicyclist’s chances of being injured or worse clearly go up.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) notes that safety, if you are riding a bike, hinges on being prepared and noticing the traffic that’s near you. As the NHTSA put it, “driving defensively and predictably” might save your life. The WSDOT has lots of safety tips for bicyclists. Some of them may seem obvious, but are well worth repeating.
Safety suggestions for bike riders
- Ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic, not against it.
- Know what is happening on the road in back of you. Either look over your shoulder from time to time if you can do it safely or try using a rear-view mirror.
- A helmet might be your most crucial piece of equipment. Always wear it.
- Don’t ride your bike while wearing headphones.
- Wear clothing that helps drivers to see you, especially at night.
Bicycling is a wonderful pastime and method of transportation for all ages. Its dangers can be mitigated by making smart decisions and always keeping safety uppermost in mind. If you do have an accident while biking, you may want to know what next steps would be in your best interest.