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Bicycle Safety Reminders

August 11 2020 | Blog
  • Bicycles are a great source of enjoyment and an environmentally friendly alternative to cars. Read this blog to discover simple ways to increase your safety during your regular bike commute or recreational ride.

    Bicycle commuting is on the rise. According to a report by the League of American Bicyclists, from 2000 to 2016, the number of people who commute by bike increased nationwide by 51 percent. In 2016, the last year for which complete data is available, there were 863,979 bike commuters in the US. Additionally, millions more cycle regularly for recreational purposes around 12.4 percent of Americans cycled on a regular basis.

    Whether you cycle to work, use a bike for exercise, or simply enjoy an occasional ride along a scenic route, the appeal of riding a bicycle is self-evident. It promotes health, helps to both decrease and avoid traffic congestion, and is good for the environment. Like many other aerobic exercises, cycling is also conducive to better mental health. This is one reason why the League of American Bicyclists encourages to include biking as often as possible in one’s weekly routines to help combat pandemic-related stress and anxiety.

    Since cycling is rising in the largest urban areas in both Kentucky and Tennessee, we would like to take this opportunity to review some of the most important safety reminders for cyclists. This article will help you and your family take full advantage of the many benefits of biking while staying out of harm’s way.

    How Dangerous Can Biking Be?

    Despite its benefits, biking in urban areas also entails some inherent risks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that in 2018, there were as many as 857 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in the United States. What’s more, the NHTSA informs that from 2008 to 2017, the average age of cyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes has increased from 41 to 47. Clearly, then, although cycling is healthy and green, it may not always be safe. 

    Unfortunately, other reports show that both Tennessee and Kentucky score low on being friendly to cyclists or overall cycling safety. In the yearly Bicycle Friendly State ranking published by the League of American Bicyclists, Kentucky ranked 43 in 2019. Even though Tennessee was rated higher (25th place) in the bike-friendliness ranking, it scored poorly when it comes to overall safety with 22 fatalities per 10 thousand bike commuters, only 8 states merited a lower safety score.

    What You Can Do

    Of course, certain risks associated with cycling – and especially bike commuting in densely populated urban areas with high traffic – cannot be completely eliminated. Still, a conscious, well-informed cyclist can do much to minimize such risks. You can also take action to help reduce the severity and scope of injuries if an accident should happen.

    One of the easiest ways to increase personal safety while cycling is wearing a helmet. Yet, it’s also one of the most often violated safety tips – perhaps because doing so isn’t universally required by state law. 

    In Tennessee, bicycle operators are required by law to wear a helmet only if they are under 16 years of age. Likewise, in Kentucky, there isn’t a universal law requiring cyclists to wear a helmet, although certain relevant restrictions are imposed by local or municipal governments. For example, in Louisville, all cyclists under 18 are obliged to wear a helmet if riding in any Metro Park.

    Still, there is outstanding evidence that wearing a helmet is a vital safety measure that should be employed whether or not it is demanded by laws. For example, by comparing the results of more than 40 separate studies, a team of researchers established that bicycle helmet use can reduce the risks of a serious head injury by nearly 70 percent and a fatal head injury by 65 percent. The researchers also concluded that helmets can help prevent face injury.

    While fundamental, wearing a helmet is only one safety suggestion that regular cyclists may employ to reduce the risk. Here are a few others:

    1. Keep your bicycle well-maintained; regularly check tire pressure, breaks, and lights
    2. Use lights when cycling before the sunset or after dusk for better visibility on the road
    3. Use hand signals to communicate the intention to change direction
    4. Wear high-visibility clothes
    5. Go in the direction of the traffic, stay in the right lane, and avoid lane splitting

    Cyclists should also remember that state laws may pose specific requirements regarding the use of bicycle lights. In Tennessee, bicycles are required to have a front white light visible from 500 feet and either a red reflector or a lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet. Similar laws apply in Kentucky.

    Still, despite all the safety precautions, a cyclist may get into an accident due to carelessness or distraction on the part of other road users, most notably car drivers. When that happens and the cyclist sustains injuries, a personal injury attorney may suggest appropriate legal remedies to be taken by the injured party with the view of obtaining financial compensation for the resulting financial losses.

     

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