Bicycles can be a wonderful form of transportation. They work exercise into your daily routine, allow you to see things you wouldn’t notice from a car, cut down on idling in rush hour traffic, and help reduce your carbon footprint.

For many, cycling is the primary form of commuting. Unfortunately, bicycles aren’t always safe on the road, even in cities with good bicycle infrastructure. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 857 cyclists were killed on the roads in 2018. In a collision between a car and a bike, the cyclist has a significantly higher risk of sustaining serious injuries regardless of whether the cyclist had the right-of-way.

Never let your guard down on a bicycle

Motorists and cyclists follow similar rules of the road, but cyclists can’t count on every motorist to share the road in a safe and law-abiding manner. That’s why it’s critical for cyclists to take extra precautions to stay safe when peddling in traffic.

The following are some guidelines for safer, mindful cycling:

  1. Use hand signals. Cars have the advantage of turn signals built into the front and rear of a car, but a cyclist must learn and use hand signals to indicate turns. This helps prevent cars from stopping abruptly or turning into a bike lane.
  2. Use your allotted space wisely. When approaching a parked car, you should give three to five feet of clearance in case a driver suddenly opens a door. However, it’s critical to look behind you first to make sure it’s clear and safe to pass.
  3. Take streets with less traffic whenever possible. In some cities, it’s necessary to cross or ride along a busier street for a brief stretch. In most cases, however, there’s always a route that is more clear of traffic. Even if it takes a bit longer, it’s worth avoiding the risk of a serious collision with a driver who wasn’t paying attention or who disregards bicycle safety.
  4. Always ride defensively. Follow all of the road signs, stops, and markings on the road that a motorist obeys. Assume others will not stop for you, and watch carefully before making any decisions to cross an intersection, merge, or make a turn. Ride with the flow of traffic.
  5. Wear a helmet. You may have heard this lecture a thousand times since childhood, but considering that many adult cyclists still bike without a helmet, it’s worth repeating. A helmet can save your life in a collision and prevent more serious head injuries.

Following these basic tips can increase the likelihood you’ll make it to your destination safely. Avoiding a serious accident with a motorist is always the number one priority on a bike.