Bike Safety

Safety First!

Getting there may be half the fun, but getting there safely ensures that you enjoy both halves of your biking trip.  Switching-Gears offers these safety and etiquette tips for your consideration whether you’re a beginning biker or a seasoned cyclist.

Getting Ready to Go

  1. Look Your Bike Over
    Check your brakes and wheels.  Are your brakes working properly?  Make sure that “quick release” wheels are properly secured.  Are your tires inflated properly?  A quick check with a gauge will let you know.
  2. Protect Your Head
    Cyclists aren’t required to wear a helmet in Ohio, but wearing one couldn’t hurt.  (At least it wouldn’t hurt as much as head trauma.)  Switching-Gears recommends putting helmets on children if they are travelling with you on your bike trip.Always wear a helmet!
  3. Secure Precious Cargo
    If you have a child’s seat attached to your bike or a trailer to haul them in, make sure that they are attached to your bike properly and securely.  If children are trailer passengers, make sure that they are wearing their safety belts and harnesses too.
  4. Assure Bicycle Readiness
    Is your bicycle properly adjusted?  Is your seat in a comfortable position?
  5. Remember the Goodies
    If you’re planning on a lengthy bike trek, you might want to take along drinks and light snacks, like water, trail mix or energy bars.  Excessive thirst and hunger can ruin your good time.

On the Go

  1. Stay Visible
    If drivers can see you, they are less likely to hit you.  Wear bright clothing, even during the daytime.  Use lights and reflectors when biking at night or in low-light conditions.Wear bright clothing, use lights and reflectors all of the time.
  2. Stay Alert
    Keep a watchful eye for obstacles in your path.
  3. Go with the Flow
    Bike in the direction of traffic.  You’re using a vehicle to travel too!
  4. Obey all Traffic Laws and Lights
  5. Weaving is for Looms!
    Don’t weave in and out of traffic.  The more predictably you ride, the safer you are.  Be aware of traffic around you.
  6. Look, Signal and Look Again
    Use hand signals to let drivers and other cyclists know where you’re going.  Look and make eye contact when you can.  Don’t assume that drivers will stop.
  7. Don’t get Distracted
    Don’t listen to music or talk on the phone while riding.  How can you pay attention to where you’re going if you’re paying attention to your hand-held device?
  8. Stay Hydrated
    Remember to drink plenty of water, juice or sports drinks, especially on hot days.  Take a water bottle or wear a camel pack.  If you’re planning a long journey, we suggest that you take periodic breaks.  If you’re drinking from a bottle, try to find a convenient, safe spot away from traffic to take a swig.

Street Smarts

If you plan on riding your bike on a city street, here are some safety tips especially for you.

  1. Obey Traffic Signals & Signs
    As a vehicle, bicycles must obey all the rules of the road.  Cyclists have the same privileges and duties as other vehicles.
  2. Ride to the Right in a Straight Line
    Ride as far to the right as practicable, but stay far enough away from the curb to avoid hazards.  Ride in a straight line at least three feet away from the curb to allow room for moving around road hazards.  Watch for cars entering from driveways.
  3. Crossing Railroad Tracks
    Cross railroad tracks at a right angle to avoid getting your front wheel caught.  Slow down and look behind you for traffic.  Change your lane position if necessary to line up to cross the tracks at a right angle.  Return to your original lane position after crossing the tracks.Approach, cross at 90° angle and then continue in your lane.
  4. Passing Moving or Stopped Cars or Bicycles
    Three feet of clearance is required when passing moving or stopped cars or bicycles.  Motorists passing bicycles also have to give three feet of clearance.
  5. Making Left Turns
    • Look back for traffic, hand signal and then move when safe.
    • Ride straight through the intersection, dismount at the opposite corner and walk your bike across the street.
  6. Riding Two Abreast
    Riding two-abreast is permitted as long as other traffic is not impeded.  Ride single file when other traffic is present.
  7. Passing Buses
    Pass busses on the left.  Bus drivers have blind spots to their right and rear.  Passing on the right could get you squeezed against the curb if the bus pulls over.  Be prepared to stop for pedestrians who may cross the street in front of the bus.
  8. Pay Attention to Motorists Making Right-Hand Turns
    Be alert for drivers speeding up and then slowing down as they pass you.  Do not pass cars on the right near intersections because you will be in the driver’s blind spot.  Do not rely on other drivers’ turn signals.
  9. Always Ride with Traffic
    Riding against traffic is unpredictable.  Drivers turning at intersections, exiting driveways or leaving parking spaces are not expecting wrong-way cyclists.Traffic Lane Diagram
  10. Beware of Car Doors
    Ride at least three feet from parked cars to avoid being hit by a suddenly opened car door.
  11. Changing Lanes
    To change lanes, look behind you for traffic and signal first.  Traffic in the lane you want to move into has the right of way.  Look back and wait for an opening in traffic before moving over.
  12. Scan the Road Ahead
    At intersections, watch for turning cars and pedestrians.  When mid-block, watch for cars pulling out of driveways, alleys and parking spaces.  Make eye contact with other drivers when possible.  Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  13. Be Careful at Intersections
    Proceed carefully, make sure you are visible, and signal your intentions.  Watch cars at intersections carefully.  Make eye contact with drivers if possible.  Be visible.  Ride further out in the lane as you approach intersections.  Be prepared to stop or make an emergency turn if necessary.  Vehicles making turns can be particularly dangerous.
  14. Communicate with other Drivers
    Make eye contact if possible, use hand signals to indicate your turns and lane changes.  The graphic below shows how to make a hand signal.

Trail Tips

The Greater Akron area is home to many bike trails.  These trails are used by a variety of people including bicycle commuters, recreational cyclists, families, and hikers.

Here are a few basic tips to make your trip on our trails a safe one.

  1. Keep to the Right Side of the Path, Except to Pass
    This applies to cyclists traveling side-by-side too.
  2. Faster Users Should Yield to Slower Users.
  3. Always Travel at a Safe Speed
    Please show regard for others.  Faster users may want to consider alternate routes.
  4. Pass Others on the Left by Slowing Down
    Please give an audible warning such as calling out, “Passing” and then waiting for a reaction before making your move.
  5. Move Off to the Side of the Main Trail When Stopping.
  6. Be Careful When Crossing Streets and Driveways
    Watch for traffic and make sure other drivers are aware of the path and your presence.

Bikes and Tykes

Teaching your children to ride a bike promotes good health and fitness habits which they can carry with them for life.  Children need a lot of training and practice to learn how to ride safely.  Perhaps the best way to teach your children safe cycling skills is to ride with them.  Give them chances to lead when appropriate so that they get used to making decisions on their own.  Children learn by watching others, so be sure that you ride your bike responsibly and wear a helmet.

Here are a few tips for safe cycling with children.

  1. Children Should Always Wear a Helmet.
  2. Although Sidewalks are Preferred by Many Young Cyclists and Their Parents, They do Present a Host of Hazards
    If your children ride on sidewalks, teach them to be cautious when riding past shrubs, fences and buildings that create blind spots at driveways and intersections for both cyclists and motorists.  Teach them not to enter the intersection unless waved on by the driver and to look for other traffic that might turn across their path first.  Children should warn others before passing them by saying “Excuse me” or “Passing.”  Teach them that pedestrians always have the right of way on sidewalks and in crosswalks.
  3. Children Often Fail to Stop First and Look for Traffic
    They do not understand that traffic on the street has the right of way over those entering the street.  Teach them to always stop before entering the street, and to look left, right and left again for traffic.  Because children have limited peripheral vision, emphasize that they have to turn their heads when looking for traffic.
  4. Wrong-Way Riding is a Major Contributing Cause of Bike Crashes for Children
    Teach them to ride on the right side of the street, in the same direction as other traffic.  Children should ride about three feet from the edge of the road or from the edge of parked cars.
  5. Children Need a Lot of Training and Practice to Learn How to Ride Safely
    Perhaps the best way to teach your children safe cycling skills is to ride with them.  When appropriate, let them lead, so they get used to making decisions on their own.  Remember, children learn by watching others, so be sure that you always bike responsibly and wear a helmet.
  6. Teach your Children Not to Swerve
    Children often make left turns, or swerve left around parked cars or other hazards, without looking behind them first to see if there are cars close behind them.  Teach your children to do this by having them ride a straight line and look over their left shoulder when you call out their name.  When they look back, they should shout out how many fingers you are holding up.
  7. Purchase the Right Size Bicycle for Your Child
    On a properly sized bicycle, your child should be able to stand over the top bar with his/her feet flat on the ground and an inch or two of clearance over the bar.  They should be able to reach and squeeze the brake levers comfortably.  A child who cannot reach the ground or the brake levers will be less likely to stop when required and the bicycle will be harder to control.
  8. Check Your Child’s Bicycle Frequently
    Children are tough on bicycles, so their bikes should be inspected regularly.  Take your child’s bike to a shop and ask them to show you and your child how to check their bicycle to make sure it works properly.

What Do You Think?

Did we overlook anything?  If you have any safety tip suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them with us at switchinggears@akronohio.gov.