This past summer saw two tragic incidents invloving pedestrians/cyclists and automobiles. To make matters worse, both tragedies could have been avoided by the pedestrian/cyclist taking appropriate measures for their own safety. Having been an avid cyclist for nearly 20 years, as well as completing two Ironman competitions, I understand the safety issues involved and hope to share some insight to avoid yet another tragedy.
Always obey the traffic laws when riding your bike. The law in Arkansas treats cyclists and motorists the same. Cyclist must obey all traffic signals/signs and yeild the right of way just as if they were driving their car. If riding before or near sunrise/sunset, you should always have a flashing red light. You can get one at any bike shop and they are inexpensive. One of the tragedies I spoke of involved a cyclist riding on a busy highway near major factories right before sunrise. He was not using a light of any kind and was hit by a truck. It nearly cost him his life. A simple plan could have prevented this.
1. Get a headlight. If you’re riding at night, you should absolutely use a front headlight. It’s required by law, anyway. Even for daytime riding, a bright white light that has a flashing mode can make you more visible to motorists who might otherwise Right Cross you. Look for the new LED headlights which last ten times as long on a set of batteries as old-style lights. And helmet- or head-mounted lights are the best, because then you can look directly at the driver to make sure they see your light.
A second recommendation is to avoid major highways, particularly during heavy traffic times. If you must use a major highway, use the shoulder of the road. If there is not a shoulder, simply avoid the highway….period. And above all, use a flashing red light.
The second tragedy did result in the death of an experienced runner who was struck by a car. Sad to say, but this could have been avoided by simply following a couple of simple rules. When running, and/or walking, the runner should go against traffic….or in other words, in the opposite direction. This allows you to see oncoming traffic. And if it appears that they don’t see you, be prepared to simply take a step or two to the left to get out of the way. And this method is only necessary if there is no sidewalk available. By all means, if a sidewalk is available, use it!
To conclude, use common sense safety. Use a light. Use the sidewalk. Choose the route and time of day you excercise taking into consideration the amount of traffic and available lighting, whether by sunlight or artificial light. In the early morning or in the evening, consider the impact of the rising or setting sun on the driver’s ability to see. For example, don’t ride directly into the rising sun as a driver may be blinded by the sun and not see you on the road. And last but not least, when on your bike, wear a helmet…..More on that subject to come!