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Take bicycle safety by the handlebars

Aug. 6, 2018

Photo of someone riding their bike down the street.
A bike is such a fun way to get around. And when the weather’s nice, it’s practical, too: no paying for parking, and you get exercise and fresh air. But reports of recent crashes involving cyclists — some of them fatal — might make you think twice before putting your feet on the pedals. In 2017 alone, preliminary numbers show 801 bike-involved crashes, which caused 57 serious injuries and six deaths.

And although, as a cyclist, you have no control over what drivers do, you do have control over your own behavior. Bicycle riders in Minnesota are required to obey all traffic laws, and doing so can help you stay safe. For example, signal all your turns so that drivers know what to expect. And obey all traffic control signs and signals – remember, you’re not as easily visible to drivers as you would be in a car, so if, for example, you run a red light, a vehicle with a green light may not see you in time.

No matter where you’re riding, always stay to the right of faster-moving traffic (you’re allowed to move to the center of the lane to avoid hazards such as debris or drainage grates). And if you’re riding with someone else, it’s okay to ride side-by-side if you’re not impeding traffic.

Obeying traffic laws isn’t all there is to bike safety, of course. It’s a good idea to wear a bike helmet, and lights and reflectors are required when you’re riding at night. For added safety, try keeping a flashing light on when you’re riding during the day – it will make you that much more noticeable to cars.

Bicycle safety is a two-way street. When you’re driving, it’s important to keep an eye out for cyclists, especially in intersections and when you enter or leave alleys and driveways. If you’re driving on a road with a bike lane, always check it carefully when preparing for a turn, and give approaching bicyclists the right of way. When passing someone on a bike, you’re required to give them three feet of space.

In the crashes that involved cyclists in 2017, riders were at fault half the time and drivers were at fault the other half. But if both drivers and cyclists are careful and obey traffic laws, they can share the road safely and successfully. So grab that helmet and hop on your bike while it’s still summer!