Biking to work has a lot of positives – it improves your fitness, reduces vehicle-related pollution and eliminates traffic from California’s overly congested roadways. However, biking during popular commuter times puts you at an increased risk for being hit by a motor vehicle driver. Are you doing everything that you can to keep yourself out of harm’s way?
Are you familiar with California’s bicycle laws?
Bikers have a similar set of laws as motor vehicle drivers, designed to keep roadways safe. These biking standards make your behavior more predictable to drivers, so they can anticipate your actions, and keep you out of an accident. You can find a full list of California’s bike laws on the California Department of Motor Vehicle's website.
Below are a few commonly forgotten biking laws that should be top of mind during your commute:
- You need to make a full stop at all red lights and stop signs. Bikers sometimes think that red lights are just for cars. This is not so. Bikers are responsible for making a full stop in both situations.
- If it is dark out, you must have a light. Just like motor vehicle drivers, you need to use a headlight if it is dark outside. You must attach a white headlight to your bike or to yourself.
- You may not wear headphones. Many commuters enjoy listening to music while they drive to work. However, bicyclists need to be able to listen for signs of danger in their surrounding environment. Therefore, it is illegal to wear earplugs or headsets that cover both ears.
How can you make your commute safer?
- Find bike-friendly routes. Keep in mind that bikers are not allowed to ride on freeways or toll bridges, unless specifically permitted by the California Department of Transportation. The California Bicycle Coalition has a number of great resources for finding safe, bike-friendly routes.
- Communicate with others around you. Vehicles are able to easily signal with turn signals. You have the same responsibility to communicate with other bikers, drivers and pedestrians. You must use the correct arm signals for right turns, left turns and slowing down. You can visit the California DMV website if you need to revisit these hand signals, and when to use them.
- Make yourself visible. Bikes are smaller, and easier to miss, than cars. Give yourself the best chance of being seen by wearing bright clothes and reflective gear. This is especially important if you are riding during times of poor visibility such as during rain storms, early in the morning or late in the evening.
- Do not use your cell phone while biking. Surprisingly, unlike motor vehicle drivers, you are allowed to use a handheld phone while biking. However, using a cell phone may increase your risk of injury and should be avoided. If you are in an area where you can safely pull over and stop, it is advisable to do so.
What should you do if you are hit by a driver?
If you are hit by a driver, immediately call the police. File an accident report, and take down the driver’s name and insurance information. Take pictures of the vehicle, license plate and your bike.
Seek medical attention, and document all injuries. You may want to consider contacting an attorney who will make sure that your best interests are represented.
Continue to enjoy your bike ride to-and-from the office. Just remain aware of the circumstances around you, and do everything within your power to keep yourself, and those around you, safe on the way.