Bicycles are legally considered “vehicles” on roadways. That means bicyclists must obey the rules of the road like drivers of any other vehicle and must be treated as equal users by all other vehicles.
The best way to avoid accidents is to be prepared and be aware of other vehicles around you.
Bicycle safety tips:
Bike Safety 101
Bicycle Traffic Safety
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “In 2004, 725 pedalcyclists were killed and an additional 41,000 were injured in traffic crashes. Pedalcyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities, and pedalcyclists made up 1 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year.”
Although this number of pedalcyclists collisions seems high, “The number of Pedalcyclist fatalities in 2004 was 10 percent lower than the 802 fatalities reported in 1994.”
The City of Chico Traffic Engineering Department is focused on continuing the trend of cyclist safety improvement. Efforts to educate bicyclists in “rules of the road” are continual. Conversely, as a motorists we must respect the rights of other road users including bicyclists.
Analyses of bicycling accidents and of cyclist fatalities demonstrate that cyclists are most safe when they operate their bicycles similar to motor vehicles. Bicycle traffic laws are almost the same as those for motor vehicles. Therefore, all state laws either define bicycles as vehicles or give cyclists the rights and responsibilities of vehicle operators. Please follow these simple rules of the road when riding and driving:
Ride predictably. Motorists can not react in a safe manor to unfamiliar situations including cyclist maneuvers. Always ride where drivers expect you to ride.
Scan ahead and anticipate. Be proactive about looking for potholes, vehicles parked and waiting to proceed, or sight distance obstacles. Always ride defensively.
Abide by the California Vehicle Codes. Never ride opposite to traffic. Never ride on a sidewalk. Always know how the California Vehicle Codes apply to cycling.
Don’t stop in the blind spot. Simply stop BEHIND a car, instead of to the right of it. This makes you very visible to traffic on all sides. It’s impossible for the car behind you to avoid seeing you when you’re in front of it.
Never, ever move left without looking behind you first. Some motorists like to pass cyclists within mere inches, so moving even a tiny bit to the left unexpectedly could put you in the path of a car. Before riding on streets, practice holding a straight line while looking over your shoulder until you can do it perfectly. Most cyclists tend to move left when they look behind them, which of course can be hazardous.
Reduce your speed. When passing bicyclists, especially if the roadway is narrow, reduce speed and know your patience acknowledges respect for cyclists.
When a road is too narrow for cars and bikes to ride safely side by side, bicycles should “take the travel lane,” which means riding in or near the center of the lane.
Do NOT pass bicyclists if oncoming traffic is near. Wait as you would with any slow-moving vehicle. Your patience will only take a few seconds and can help prevent a serious crash or worse.
Children on bicycles are often unpredictable–expect the unexpected from young riders.
Before opening your car door, look for bicyclists that may be approaching.
Do not pass bicyclists if you will be making a right turn immediately afterward. Always assume bicyclists are traveling through unless they signal otherwise.
Give at least three feet of passing space between the right side of your vehicle and a bicyclist just as you would with a slow-moving motor vehicle.
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Biking Resources, Safety and Security, 2006
6 Steps to Check Bike Equipment
- Make sure your bike is the proper size. A bike that is too big or too small will be difficult to control. When you’re standing on the ground, you should have a 1-3 inch gap between you and the top bar. You’ll need more room if you’re riding a mountain bike, due to more rugged riding surfaces.
- Check to see if your bike seat is adjusted to the proper height. When you’re sitting on the seat with your foot on the down pedal, your leg should be slightly bent. This will help avoid knee strain, will allow the rider to be supported in an upright position with at least one foot on the ground, and will make restarting completed in a safe manner.
- Make sure you have a red reflector on the rear of the bike and a white or yellow reflector on each pedal. Also, have a white or yellow reflector on each side of the bike forward of the bicycle centerline. In addition, a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the bicycle centerline is necessary. Make sure the reflectors are pointed properly to reflect the headlights of cars, which are coming up behind you or approaching from the sides.
- Check the bike’s chain to make sure it’s clean and lubricated. If it’s not, clean it according to common practices or take it to a local bike shop for a check up.
- Check your brakes for even pressure. Brakes should make your back wheels skid on dry pavement, but should also release properly.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
If the brake pads are worn, replace the pads. Be sure the brake cables are oiled ogreased so you can squeeze the brake levers easily. When depressed, brake pads should mate to the wheel rim evenly. Plus, while squeezing the brake there should be at least one inch (2.5 centimeters) of clearance between the lever and the handlebars. Hand brakes work best when the wheel rims are clean and rust-free. So keep them clean!
Keep the chain cleaned and oiled, especially after riding in wet weather. Pour chain cleaner into a container and use an old toothbrush to clean the chain. Wipe it dry with a cloth, apply oil, and wipe off the excess. Always wear safety equipment such as gloves and goggles, and recycle the remnants.
Be sure all gears work properly. You must be able to shift your gears easily while riding. If they stick or slip, or if the chain falls off while you shift, have a bicycle mechanic adjust them.
Handlebars should not be crooked or loose. You shouldn’t be able to twist them back and forth when you hold the front wheel between your legs. At least two inches (5 centimeters) of handlebar stem should be inside the head tube. The handlebar maximum extension line should not be visible.
Check the front and rear lights to see if they work properly. If they don’t work like they should, check the bulb, batteries, connections, or the generator.
Pedals should be in good condition and also should spin smoothly.
Keep all reflectors clean. Replace them if they break.
Be sure the seat is level, doesn’t wobble, and is fastened tightly. Be sure that it is the right height for you too. At least two inches (5 centimeters) of the seat post should be inside the seat tube, and the seat stem maximum extension line should not be visible.
Check to see none of the spokes are loose, missing or broken. If spoke defects exist, have a bike mechanic adjust or repair them.
Check the tires often. Look for bulges, cuts, or cracks and worn spots. Check the tread. Tread depth should be evenly worn and still deep enough to channel water. Also, valve stems should be sticking straight through the wheel rim, indicating the tire tube is installed properly.
The right amount of air pressure for the tire is legible on the side of the tire. Pump this amount of air pressure in both tires by using a hand pump. A gas station air pump is too strong, and could burst the tires.
Finally, check your air pressure with an air pressure gauge. Too much air can cause a blowout, and too little air can weaken the sides of the tires, causing damage to the wheel rims when you hit a bump.
Spin the wheels. If the wheels are bent they will wobble back and forth. And if the wheels wobble, a rider won’t be able to ride in a straight line and the brakes won’t work well either. Additionally, be sure the attaching nuts or quick release levers are tight and secure.
AMC Media Corporation; From A to Z by Bike, 1995
BICYCLING HAND SIGNALS:The following is set of uniform hand signals for bicyclists. The first set of hand signals is for general traffic patterns regardless of whether other bicyclists are present or not. The second set of hand signals are for group riding or pace lines.
SLOWING OR STOPPING USING THE LEFT HAND. Palm of your hand held facing back toward traffic, other riders behind you, and out from the side of your body.
- Dog on a leash while riding a bike
- Against a tree unlocked
- Carrying a package with one hand off the handlebar
- Wearing headphones while riding
- Riding on the wrong size of the road
- Riding double on a bike
- Riding with no helmet on
- Riding with no hands on the handlebars
- Riding through a stop sign
- Passing on the right
AMC Media Corporation; From A to Z by Bike, 1995
The Traffic Engineering Division thought it would be fun to test your knowledge on bicycle safety. There are 3 quizzes below, how much do you know?
Quiz Level I
- Always ride on the left side of the street so you can see the cars coming toward you. T F
- Turning left at the intersection can be one of the most dangerous things you can do on a bike. T F
- You don’t need to lock your bike if you can see it at all times. T F
- Your right hand brake stops the rear wheel. T F
- Your left hand brake stops the front wheel. T F
- It is a good idea to ride your bicycle while wearing headphones. T F
- If you must stop quickly, squeeze both brakes at the same time. T F
- High gear is used for going uphill. T F
- You should not wear a football or hockey helmet while riding a bike. T F
- The law says you can ride your bicycle on whichever side of the street is safer. T F
- When riding your bike, you must stop at a stop sign even if there isn’t anyone around. T F
- You should signal that you are going to stop before you come to a stop sign. T F
- When crossing a sidewalk on a bike, you must always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. T F
- It’s harder for drivers to see you on a bike than it is for you to see them. T F
- If drivers look in your direction, they always see you. T F
- You need to wear a helmet only when you know you are going to ride in heavy traffic. T F
- It’s a good idea to slow down while riding on wet pavement. T F
- Always buy a bicycle that is a little too big for you so you can grow into it. T F
- When you are riding a bicycle, you have the right-of-way at intersections because you are like a pedestrian. T F
- Your bicycle is a vehicle. T F
Answers: 1-F, 2-T, 3-F, 4-T, 5-T, 6-F, 7-T, 8-F, 9-T, 10-F, 11-T, 12-T, 13-T, 14-T, 15-F, 16-F, 17-T, 18-F, 19-F, 20-T
Quiz Level II
- When two vehicles come to an intersection at the same time, which one has the right-of-way?
- Approximately how many feet (or meters) away from parked cars should you ride your bicycle?
- Approximately how many feet (or meters) from the curb should you ride your bicycle?
- Which type of clothing is better to wear at night: fluorescent or reflective?
- With the amount of energy it takes to walk a mile (or a kilometer), how many miles or kilometers can you ride?
- When following someone on a bike, always do exactly what they do so you won’t confuse the drivers around you. T F
- When the traffic light is yellow, you should speed up to make sure you get through the intersection before it turns red. T F
- Most car/bike crashes happen at intersections. T F
- A crash can’t happen to a careful rider who obeys all the rules-of-the-road. T F
- A car whose left-turn signal is flashing will always turn left. T F
1: Vehicle on right, 2: 3 feet (1 meter), 3: 2 feet (1/2 meter), 4: Reflective, 5: 5 miles (or 5 kilometers), 6-F, 7-F, 8-T, 9-F, 10-F
Quiz Level III
- If there is a line of cars moving very slowly through an intersection, you can pass on the right as long as the light is green. T F
- You should ride in the middle of the traffic lane when the road is very narrow. T F
- If you have been in an accident, the cracks in your helmet will always be visible. T F
- When it’s dark, and your batteries are dead and your headlight doesn’t work, the best thing to do is to ride home very slowly. T F
- If you wear reflective tape and a light-colored helmet, and your bike has front, rear and side reflectors, you don’t need a light at night. T F
- Put an “X” by the safety equipment you don’t have and be sure to get it right away: Helmet___ Front Light___ Rear Light___ Front Reflector___ Rear Reflector___ Reflector on Pedals___ Reflector on Spokes___ Reflective Vest___ Safety Flag___ Gloves___ Glasses or Goggles___
Answers: 1-F, 2-T, 3-F, 4-F, 5-F
AMC Media Corporation; From A to Z by Bike, 1995
Traffic signs tell bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers what to do and what to look out for. Your bicycle is a vehicle; therefore, you must obey all traffic signs.
Go only in the direction of the arrow.
Flashing Red Light
Come to a complete stop. Check that it is safe. Go when the way is clear.
Flashing Yellow Light
Slow down. Check the traffic. Go with caution.
Go if the intersection is clear.
Keep to the Right
Keep to the right.
No Left Turn
No left turns allowed.
No U-turns Allowed.
All traffic on this road must go in one direction.
Slow down. Look both ways and listen for a train. If you hear a train or see signals flashing, stop and wait for the train to pass. If there is no train, go with caution.
Stop! Never cycle through a red light.
Slow down. Watch for children.
Come to a complete stop at all stop signs.
Stop! Do not enter the intersection. The light is about to change
Wait for the other vehicle to go first.
What to Wear
It makes sense to wear something brightly colored when you’re biking. Choose a color that makes you easy to see. If you’re biking in the forest, don’t wear green!
Fluorescent green, yellow or orange are all great choices. If you’re wearing these colors, other bikers, motorists and pedestrians will be able to see you better.
Look for fabrics that are cool and lightweight. (You can really work up a sweat biking!) If it’s cool outside, dress in layers. You can peel off clothing as you start to get warmer.
For riding at night you’ll need clothing with retro-reflective materials sewn onto it. According to the California Vehicle Code (CVC), “Bicycles must be equipped with a white headlamp, attached to the bicycle or your body, visible from 300 feet to the front and from the sides. Reflectors are also required; a red rear reflector as well as white or yellow reflectors on front and back of each pedal. White or yellow reflectors on each side forward of center of bike, and red or white reflectors on each side rear of center – usually mounted on wheel spokes (If you have reflectorized tires in front and rear, you do not need side reflectors).”
Make sure the straps of your book bag, loose clothing or anything else isn’t going to catch in the wheels of the bike, and cause you to lose control.
A person under 18 years of age cannot operate a bicycle or ride as a passenger without a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the SNELL Standards for Protective Headgear. forest, don’t wear green!
What NOT to Wear While Biking
- Headphones are a no-no! You won’t be able to hear what’s going on around you.
- Clothing that’s too loose.
- Inappropriate shoes. (High-heels, Slippers, Open Toe Shoes)
- Dark Clothes
- Obey traffic signs and signals - Bicycles must follow the rules of the road like other vehicles.
- Never ride against traffic - Motorists aren’t looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. State law and common sense require that bicyclists drive like other vehicles.
- Follow lane markings - Don’t turn left from the right lane. Don’t go straight in a lane marked “right-turn only.”
- Don’t pass on the right - Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.
- Scan the road behind you - Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.
- Keep both hands ready to brake - You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed. Allow extra distance for stopping in the rain, since breaks are less efficient when wet.
- Wear a helmet and never ride with headphones - Always wear a helmet. Never wear a headphone while riding a bike.
- Dress appropriately - In rain wear form fitting waterproof clothing. Dress in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes. Wear bright colored clothing.
- Use hand signals - Hand signals tell motorists and pedestrians what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, of courtesy, and of self-protection.
- Choose the best way to turn left – There are two choices: (1) Like an auto: signal to move into the left turn lane and then turn left. (2) Like a pedestrian: ride straight to the far side crosswalk. Walk your bike across.
- Make eye contact with drivers - Assume that other drivers don’t see you until you are sure that they do. Eye contact is important with any driver which might pose a threat to your safety.
- Look out for road hazards - Watch out for parallel-slat sewer grates, gravel, ice, sand or debris. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
- Use lights at night - The law requires a white headlight visible from at least 300 feet to the front and from the sides.
- Reflectors at night - The law requires a red rear reflector as well as white or yellow reflectors on front and back of each pedal. White or yellow reflectors on each side forward of center of bike, and red or white reflectors on each side rear of center – usually mounted on wheel spokes (If you have reflectorized tires in front and rear, you do not need side reflectors.)
- Keep your bike in good repair - Adjust your bike to fit you and keep it working properly. Check brakes and tires regularly. Routine maintenance is simple and you can learn to do it yourself.