When Sonya Larson started biking to her job as a conference director in Boston three years ago, she was excited to get fresh air and exercise while saving money on her commute. But before she started pedaling, she spent hours online watching videos about common causes of bike crashes — and how to avoid them.
"If a driver cuts off another car, they might get a scrape," Larson says. "But if that happens to you on a bike, the outcome could be worse."
Indeed: Around 800 bicyclists are killed each year in crashes with motor vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Follow these tips to stay safe on two wheels:
Don’t leave home without a helmet, a light, and reflective clothing.
Do Your Homework
Pop quiz: What’s the difference between a left cross and a right hook? They aren’t boxing moves but common types of bike crashes. A left cross happens when a car heading the opposite direction makes a left turn and doesn’t see the cyclist; a right hook is when a car driving the same direction cuts off a cyclist in a right-hand turn. Study tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about accident causes and prevention.
Don’t Drink and Bike
This should go without saying, but don’t bike to work if you’re planning on attending happy hour. Nearly one in five cyclists killed in accidents have blood alcohol concentrations above the legal limit.
Plan Your Route
The fastest path to work isn’t always the safest. Look for routes with bike lines, reliable surfaces, and slow to moderate vehicle traffic. If possible, select a route with a dedicated bike path, even if it adds a few minutes to your commute. Think of it as extra exercise!
As commuting on two wheels increases in popularity, drivers must share the roads. Remember to recognize and stay out of bike lanes, pass cyclists slowly with caution, yield — they have the right of way — and be aware of any oncoming bikers before opening your car door.