California is full of bicyclers. The state’s warm weather makes biking both an enjoyable hobby, a way to get exercise and a smart, affordable method of transportation.
Like many states, California roads often have lanes that are specifically designed for bicyclers to use. The idea behind bicycle lanes is to provide bicyclers with their own space on the road and avoid crashing into other vehicles.
However, some research shows that bicycle lanes might not make bicyclers any safer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 938 cyclists were killed on the roads in 2020, which was a 9% increase from 2019 and the highest number since 1987.
Some problems with bicycle lanes
Some reasons bicycle lanes may not be safer is because the lanes typically do not prevent other vehicles from having to use them when making turns to get into places such as parking lots or making turns at intersections.
Many times, the vehicle driver has no other choice but to drive into the bicycle lane to safely get to where they are going.
Additionally, bicycle lanes are sometimes narrow and drivers may have difficulty seeing bicyclers. Bicycle lanes are also at times unprotected from the main roadway, leaving no barrier between bicyclers and drivers needing to turn into the bicycle lanes.
There are some ways to prevent or reduce the risk of bicycle accidents if you are riding in a bicycle lane.
Wear bright clothing and gear
Staying visible to drivers is key. Drivers not seeing bicyclers is a common cause of bicycle accidents.
Wear appropriate biking gear and clothing that makes you more visible. Your clothing should be bright or fluorescent. This goes for every area of your body. Your helmet, jersey, leg and ankle equipment should be bright enough for drivers to see.
Bicycle lights should be used both during the day and at night. A bright white light in front and a flashing red light in back makes it hard for drivers to miss seeing you.
Use hand signals for every move you make to let drivers know what you are doing. Make the signal clear and in plenty of time for the driver to see you and what you are going to do next.
Choose the right place to ride in the bicycle lane
The place you ride in the bicycle lane could also reduce or prevent a bicycle accident. Riding in the center of the lane or the side of the lane closest to the road makes it easier for drivers to see you.
If you ride farthest from the road, there is a greater chance that drivers will not see you or will drive closer toward you. Riding closer to the road can signal to drivers that you need some space and encourage them to give you more room.
Never assume that a driver sees you. Even if a driver appears to slow down or stop, do not automatically assume it is because they see you. It could be for something else.
Communicate with drivers to let them know you are there if they do not see you. Do this in whatever manner is safe and effective.
Remember that you have the same rights as drivers
Finally, California drivers should be educated in the proper way to handle bicyclers on the roads. Bicyclers have the same rights as drivers while on the roads and drivers must treat them with the same courtesy they would extend to other vehicles.