Bicycle Safety

posted by on Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yet another Iowa bicycle/car accident has resulted in a fatality. This morning, KCCI News Channel 8 reported that an 83 year old Cedar Falls man died after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle.

As gas prices continue to climb, the popularity of bicycling will continue to rise correspondingly especially in these warmer months. While riding a bike is obviously good exercise and a way to save money, it is not without its hazards. Bicyclists are much more difficult to see for drivers of motor vehicles and riding a bike in highly trafficked areas requires the rider to be extra alert and cautious of his/her surroundings. It is important for a bicyclist to understand that a person riding a bike on the road in the State of Iowa is subject to all of the rights and responsibilities of the driver of a motor vehicle. In other words, bicyclists are subject to the rules of the road. see Iowa Code section 321.234 (http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=IowaCode&ga=82. (on a side note, this rule also applies to person's riding an animal or animal drawing a vehicle). A violation of the rules of the road by a bicyclist is not only a citeable offense, it may also limit or prevent recovery in the event that the violation is found to be the cause of the accident.

In an effort to promote bicycle safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published a list of "Safe Riding Tips." They are as follows:

1. Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet. "Protect your brain, save your life." As inconvenient and "goofy" as bicycle helmets may be, they do save lives.

2. Adjust your bicycle to fit. According to NHTSA when standing over your bicycle there should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the bar if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if using a mountain bike.

3. Check your Equipment.

4. See and Be Seen. Make sure you can be seen by others, especially motorist. If riding at dusk or dawn or in the dark, ensure that the proper reflective garments are worn and that your bike is equipped with adequate reflectors and lighting.

5. Control Your Bicycle. This should go without saying.

6. Watch for and Avoid Road Hazards. In Iowa, our roads are not always in the most pristine shape, especially in the spring following the harsh winter weather and melt. Be alert and on a lookout for potholes, cracks, and other hazards that may suddenly appear.

7. Avoid Riding at Night. Nighttime is obviously the most hazardous time to be on the road on a bicycle. It is hard enough for motorists to see a bicyclist in broad daylight, if at all possible avoid night riding.

All in all, biking is a wonderful mode of transportation that provides exercise, entertainment and a little cushion to the wallet that many of us should do more. However, keep in mind that when riding a bike on the road we are required to obey the rules of the road, and a little extra caution can make the difference between a serious if not deadly accident and arriving home safe. Be safe, stay aware, and arrive home safely.