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People ride bicycles for different reasons. Whether it is a hobby you enjoy with family, a great way to exercise, or how you commute to work, cycling has many advantages. However, it is not always the safest mode of transportation. Knowing how to stay safe while sharing Houston streets with other vehicles is key to avoiding serious injuries.
If you or your family is going to be exploring Houston on two wheels this summer, consider these tips:
According to Houston’s Bicycle Ordinance, all children must wear a helmet when riding, so protective gear is especially important if you are cycling with children. While it may not be illegal for adults to ride without a helmet, we recommend everyone wear a helmet every time. Wearing a helmet is the best way to protect yourself in case of an accident.
Your helmet will also protect you from more than just accidents with cars. Imagine hitting a pothole or road debris that causes you to crash. Your helmet can prevent a traumatic brain injury in this type of crash, as well. There are many ways accidents occur on bicycles, so wearing a properly fitted helmet is the best way to prepare for anything that comes your way.
Just like traffic laws for motor vehicles, there are rules of the road for cyclists. Cyclists have the same right to the road as motorists, but they also have the same responsibility to ride in a safe and careful manner. You must obey all traffic signals and applicable laws, and simply not knowing them is not a good defense to claims of negligence. Ensure you and your children understand how all traffic laws apply to cyclists before you set out on a ride.
Always ride with traffic, never against it. Remember it is illegal to ride on sidewalks in Houston’s business district. Try to use a marked bike lane or purpose-built path when possible. When riding on the street, use the right lane unless turning left. If necessary, you can take the full right lane to ensure visibility. If you have concerns over learning to ride safely or teaching your children to ride according to the law, the City of Houston even offers online safety courses for area cyclists.
Visibility plays a key role in keeping you safe when you cycle. Wear bright clothing when you ride. Some people even opt to ride in a reflective vest or other clothing.
Do not ride in the early morning, at dusk, or after dark without a front white headlight and red tail light, and reflectors on your wheels. You may also want to consider adding a horn or bell to help you notify others of your presence.
This will not help much with motorists, but it can prevent accidents with pedestrians and other cyclists.
Being aware of the traffic around you is your best defense in avoiding an accident. For this reason, it is important to limit your distractions as much as possible on the bike.
Listening to music with headphones can be enough to prevent you from hearing an approaching vehicle. If you need to send a text or call someone while riding, find a safe place to stop. Anything that takes even one hand off the handlebars could prove deadly.
And remember that biking while drunk or under the influence of drugs is not only illegal but extremely dangerous.
If you are going to bike, ensure you are alert and ready to make evasive maneuvers to avoid an accident.
It is easy to assume you know what a motorist is going to do, or how they will react, but this kind of assumption is a dangerous one. You cannot assume a driver will stop simply because there is a stop sign, or that a turn signal means they will move into the left lane. This kind of assumption in a car might lead to a minor fender bender, but on a bike, it can be much more serious.
Instead, look at the driver and make eye contact before crossing in front of them when possible. Ensure they understand your intentions by always using the appropriate hand signals.
Ride in a straight line as often as possible, and double check before changing lanes or turning.
Watch for opening car doors when riding on a road with street parking. These drivers may not always check the bike lane before getting out of the car.
Also watch carefully for drains, debris, and other hazards.
Mechanical issues with your bike can cause accidents, as well. Before you ride, check for proper tire inflation and ensure your brakes work properly. Carry a small tool kit, tire patch, and other supplies in case of an emergency on longer rides. If your bike has quick release levers, double check them before each ride.
At the Law Offices of Hilda L. Sibrian, P.C., we have seen far too many people with devastating injuries from preventable Houston bicycle crashes. While careless actions on the part of the motorist cause many accidents, you can — and should — take action to reduce your risk.
If you do suffer injuries in this type of crash, we are available 24/7 and have bilingual staff ready to help you. Contact us today: 713-863-1515.