In the Northern hemisphere the days are becoming longer and warmer. Trees are growing buds, and leaves turning green; birds are singing songs, and nests are being built. It is springtime, a time when many of us now yearn to be outside, whether it is to walk, to run, or to ride a bicycle. As we start enjoying the warmer weather, it is also a perfect time to remember about being safe, in particular about bicycle safety.
Bicycle Safety Month
May is National Bicycle Safety Month, when there is a increased effort to raise awareness about bicycle safety.
- Did you know that in 2011, 677 “pedal cyclists”  were killed and an additional 48,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, and that this is a nine percent increase over 2010? 
- Did you know that the average age of the pedalcyclists killed was 43 and that 23% of had a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater? 
While most of us started riding a bicycle at a young age, it is no longer just a child’s activity. Adults of all ages are taking to the road on bicycles –as a form of exercise, for transportation, or just for pure enjoyment. But even as adults we sometimes forget or ignore the simple rules of the road and what can be done to protect others and ourselves.
Bicyclists have Rights and Responsibilities
Many times when driving in the Washington DC area, I see bicyclists on the road in front of me, or riding along the George Washington Parkway trail. I see cars come up behind bicyclists and pass too close. I see bicyclists not being alert or failing to stop at stop signs. I see both bicyclists and drivers not being smart on how they interact together.
First and foremost, it is important for both bicyclists and drivers to remember that bicycles are considered vehicles on the road. Bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as any car or truck. That means drivers must respect bicyclists’ right to be on the road, and bicyclists must follow the rules of the road. Here are some suggestions for both drivers and bicyclists.
Six Tips for drivers:
- Remember that a bicyclist is extremely vulnerable to your car.
- When passing a bicyclist, slow down and give plenty of space, typically keep 3 feet between you and the bicycle. In many states a 3-foot minimum is the law.
- When turning left or right, look in your rear-and side-view mirrors to look for any bicyclists besides your car or coming up from behind.
- Look for bicyclists before opening a car door or pulling out from a parking space.
- Be aware of children riding bicycles. A child riding in the street may suddenly swerve in front of you or a child on the sidewalk may suddenly ride out in front of you.
- Remember that at times bicyclists will be in the middle of the road because of hazards on the road. Broken glass, construction barricades, parked cars, piles of dirt or leaves are all things that you don’t have to worry about, but they will make bicyclists get into the middle of a lane.
Six Tips for bicyclists:
- Always wear a helmet – no matter your age. Nine out of 10 cyclists killed in 2008 were not wearing a helmet.
- Increase your visibility by wearing fluorescent or brightly colored clothing
- At night use a front light and a red reflector or flashing rear light with retro-reflective tape or markings.
- Go with the flow of traffic.
- When riding with others, ride single file.
- Use hand signals when turning to let drivers know your intentions.
Two Tips for Both
- Don’t drink and ride/drive
- Don’t text and drive/ride
It’s Time to Share the Road
When driving, remember that a bicyclist is not “in your way” she is an equal partner on the road. There is nothing happening at home or work that is worth risking the life of another person. Keep your eyes open, and slow down around bicycles.
When on a bicycle, remember that the driver cannot read your mind, let him know what you are going to do. Pretend you are invisible – because to the driver you might be – and act based on that presumption.
Road safety requires that we work together and share the road. Working together we can ensure that both drivers and bicyclists make it to their destination safely.
 The term Pedalcyclists includes bicyclists and riders of two-wheel non-motorized vehicles and tricycles.  Bicyclists and Other Cyclists, Traffic Safety Facts 2011 Data, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 811 743, April 2013.  Bicyclists and Other Cyclists, Traffic Safety Facts 2011 Data, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 811 743, April 2013.