|According to the Associated Press: "A car collides into cyclists participating in a race in Mexico's northern city of Matamoros, Sunday June 1, 2008. At least one person was killed and 14 injured when a driver slammed into a bicycle race."|
In light of the recent hit and run to fellow cyclist Michael Bitton in Baton Rouge this past week I have decided to blog on bike safety in hopes that by educating fellow cyclists and motorists on bike etiquette and law that we may be able to spare a life in the future.
There has always been tension between motorists and cyclists when it comes to sharing the road. Living in a city where there are limited places to ride due to poor road conditions, heavy traffic, and a lack of emphasis placed on bike paths and cyclist's rights, it makes it very difficult for those who enjoy cycling to have a place that they can train safely. There are a relatively small number of training routes that are utilized by cyclists on a regular basis in the city. Alligator Bayou, River Road, and LSU are the most common areas for cyclists to train. Unfortunately these areas all have a history of bad accidents involving cyclists who are hit by motor vehicles. Louisiana recorded 985 traffic deaths in 2007 alone, and 22 of those were cycling related. That makes Louisiana the second most dangerous state for bicycling behind only Florida. Much of this tragedy could be avoided if only motorists would drive the speed limit and attend to what is going on around them, and cyclists would follow the rules of the road and make themselves visible.
In 2009, the Colin Goodier Protection Act was put in place in Louisiana. This Law requires all vehicles to stay three feet away from cyclists. It also protects cyclists from harassment and abuse. If a motorist is caught breaking this law they are subject to a $250 fine.
What can we as cyclists do to make ourselves safer on the road? Well, to start with we can make ourselves more visible. It is required by law from dusk to dawn to have a flashing white light on the front of the bike and a red light in the rear. Some riders choose to wear brightly colored clothing and may choose to take safety even farther with vests such as "The Speed-Vest".
“The SPEED-VEST is a bicycle safety device and advocacy tool which displays the wearer’s current speed on their back in easy-to-read lighted numerals. It improves rider conspicuity while legitimizing bicycle speeds on the roadway. Originally conceived by Brady Clark and engineered by Mykle Hansen, it just won the Hub Bike Shop’sBike Gadget Contest in Minneapolis, MN”.
Another example of flashy, yet effective safety clothing...
Or you can go for an LED vest...
Or reflective wear...
Or just try to wear something that will bring attention to yourself...
In addition to safety clothing, please remember to wear your helmet. It is the only thing you have between your brain and the asphalt.
Always ride with someone. There are so many examples of riders being hit by cars, chased by dogs, or injured by some unforseen circumstance, that it is just not wise to ride alone. If you are riding with a group and are "dropped" be sure and have a plan so that you can meet back up and regroup, or ride in opposing directions so that you will meet up to join back onto the pace line when it comes around.
Remember to use hand signals to inform motorists of your intentions...
so you don't end up in a wreck.
If you are the unfortunate victim of an accident, it is wise to always have identification on you or your bike, as well as a cell phone. One option that many riders choose to use is an ID bracelet with their name, address, and emergency contact information. Some of these bracelets can also connect medical responders to a website that will list out your medical history, allergies, and medications.
One of the most difficult things for new riders to learn is how to ride in a group or paceline. Being in tight quarters with riders of mixed experience levels can be very dangerous. This is were many accidents happen. There are general guidelines for safely riding in a group:
For anyone interested in additional information on local cycling, 225 Magazine wrote a nice article on cycling in the city that touches on the challenges that cyclists have with motorists.