Safety Tips for Bicyclists and Motorists
Each year in Utah, people are killed and hundreds possibly thousands more are injured in bicycle collisions. Some bicycle related crashes are connected to the bicyclists' behavior, while others are due to motorists' lack of attention.
- Bicycle riders on public roads have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and are subject to the same rules and regulations. Refer to the Utah Driver Handbook to become familiar with these rules.
- Motorists must look carefully for bicyclists before turning right, merging into bicycle lanes, and opening doors next to moving traffic. Respect the right-of-way of bicyclist because they are entitled to share the road with you.
FOUR BASIC SAFETY TIPS
Most bicyclists are aware of basic safety. However, these basics are not enough to keep them safe. The basics for safe bicycling are to:
- Maintain control of your bicycle.
- Protect yourself - Reduce the risk of head injury by always wearing a helmet.
- Be visible, alert, and communicate your intentions.
- Ride with traffic.
Maintain Control of Your Bicycle
There are many things you can do to control your bicycle, even in an emergency. First, ensure your bicycle is the right size and properly adjusted to fit you. A properly fitted bicycle is easier to control, more comfortable, and causes less fatigue. A bicycle shop can help you choose the correct size bicycle. Ensure your bicycle is in good working order by inspecting it regularly.
Even a simple fall can cause a life threatening head injury. The brain is fragile and often does not heal the way that broken bones can. The damage can stay with you for life. Wear your helmet correctly!
Be Visible and Alert
Even if you obey all traffic laws, there is always a risk of being hit by a motorist who is not obeying the laws, or who simply does not see you. Ride carefully - Vehicles waiting at stop signs, in driveways, or parking spaces may suddenly pull out in front of you. Watch for vehicles that have just passed you and may turn right, as well as vehicles across the street that may turn left in front of you. Be prepared to stop or take evasive action. Signal before making turns or changing lanes to warn traffic around you. To signal a left turn, look behind you, over your left shoulder, and then extend your left arm out. To signal a right turn, hold your left arm up with your elbow bent (you may also hold your right arm straight and point to the right). You do not have to keep your arm extended while completing the maneuver - Always have at least one hand on the handlebars to maintain control. To signal that you are slowing or stopping, extend your left arm down.
Using lights and reflectors at night is the law. Increase your visibility by wearing light or bright colored clothes, such as yellow or lime green. Red appears black in fading light and is not a good choice for riding in the evening. Mirrors provide opportunities for increased awareness of your surroundings, but use mirrors only as an aid. Always look over your shoulder to make sure the lane is clear before turning or changing lanes. Make sure your brakes are in good working order.
Ride With Traffic
Ride in the same direction as the traffic. This will make you more visible to drivers entering roads or changing lanes because they will know where to look for possible conflicts. On a one-way street, you may ride on the left as long as you are riding with traffic.
How Far to the Right?
Ride on the right, but not so far that you might hit the curb. You could lose your balance and fall into traffic. Do not ride too far to the right:
- When avoiding parked vehicles or road hazards - be aware of door zones.
- When a traffic lane is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.
- When making a left turn so that vehicles going straight do not collide into you.
- To avoid conflicts with right-turning vehicles.
Keep your eyes on the road ahead. Avoid running over potholes, gravel, broken glass, drainage grates, puddles you can't see through, or other unsafe road conditions. Look over your shoulder to avoid swerving suddenly into traffic. When possible, signal before changing lanes.
Bicyclists should ride far enough away from parked vehicles to avoid being hit by an opening door. Red area is considered the door zone.
When to Take the Traffic Lane
If there is no shoulder or bicycle lane and the traffic lane is narrow, ride closer to the center of the lane. This will prevent motorists from passing you when there is not enough room. You should also use the traffic lane when you are traveling at the same speed as the traffic around you. This will keep you out of motorists' blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic.
Motorists Passing Bicyclists
Be patient when passing a bicyclist. Slow down and pass only when it is safe. Do not squeeze the bicyclist off the road. If road conditions and space permit, allow clearance of at least three feet when passing a bicyclist.
Obey Traffic Signs and Signals
Bicyclists must obey STOP signs and red signal lights. It's a good idea to stop for yellow lights too—rushing through a yellow light may not leave you enough time to make it across the intersection before the light changes.
There are two proper methods for making a left turn on a bicycle:
1. Using Traffic Lanes
As you approach the intersection, look over your left shoulder for traffic. If clear, signal your turn and move over to the left side of the lane, or into the left or center turn lane. Position yourself so that vehicles going straight cannot pass you on your left while you are making your left hand turn. Yield to oncoming traffic before turning. If you are riding in a bicycle lane, or on a multi-lane road, you need to look and signal each time you change lanes. Never make a left turn from the right side of the road, even if you're in a bicycle lane.
2. Using Crosswalks
Approach the intersection staying on the right. Stop and either cross as a pedestrian in the crosswalk, or make a 90 degree left turn and proceed as if you were coming from the right. If there is a signal light, wait for the green or WALK signal before crossing. Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
10 ways motorists can improve bicycle safety
- Respect bicyclists as legal road users with the same rights and responsibilities as motorists.
- Obey the posted speed limit, and don't drive too fast for conditions.
- Come to a complete stop at each stop sign and red light.
- Pass bicyclists only when you can maintain at least 3 feet between the bicycle and the vehicle.
- Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the bicycle in front of you.
- Use low-beam headlights when driving in low-visibility conditions.
- Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists in and entering crosswalks.
- Obey "no turn on red" signs.
- If you plan to turn right or pull into a parking space shortly ahead of a bicycle in front of you, do not pass.
- Signal all turns and lane changes 100 feet in advance.
How to Ride in Bike Lanes
- Bikes are not required to travel in bike lanes when preparing for turns
- Never ride within three feet of parked cars; beware of the door zone
- Avoid bike lanes that you think are poorly designed or unsafe; alert your local government
- Avoid riding in lanes that position you on the right side of a right turn lane
- Bike lanes should stop before an intersection to allow for bikes to make left turns
- Always signal as you move out of a bike lane into another traffic lane
- Report obstructions and poor maintenance to your local government
- Avoid riding immediately adjacent to curbs where trash collects
- If debris forces you out of the bike lane, signal your move out into traffic
- Never ride within three feet of parked cars
- Watch for brake lights, front wheels, signals and driver movements
- Position yourself in the field of vision of a motorist pulling out of a parking space
- Avoid riding in lanes that position you on the right side of a right turning motorist
- Move out of the right turn lane if you are not turning right
- Ride in the rightmost lane that goes in the direction that you are travelling
- Move out of the bike lane well in advance of the intersection; signal every move
- Position yourself in the rightmost left-turning lane
- Reposition yourself after executing the turn; remain clear of parked cars