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Staying Safe

1. Helmets are NOT optional
  • Biking without a helmet is analogous to driving without wearing a seatbelt. It doesn’t matter if you don’t enjoy the look or feel of a helmet; helmets save lives.
  • A recent study found that the use of bicycle helmets reduces head injury by 48%, serious head injury by 60%, traumatic brain injury by 53%, face injury by 23%, and the total number of killed or seriously injured cyclists by 34%.  Protect your life—wear a helmet.
  • Explore more about helmet safety.
2. Always ride on the road
  • It is safer for cyclists to ride on the road than on the sidewalk.
  • Drivers cannot easily see cyclists on the sidewalk, making intersection crossing dangerous.  On the sidewalk, cyclists not only endanger pedestrians who may not see or hear bikes approaching, but they also must weave between mailboxes, driveways, trashcans, and other obstacles.
  • Always ride in a straight line on the edge of the road, but not in the gutter (so as to avoid broken glass and debris).
  • Explore more about road safety.
3. Ride with traffic  Shared Road
  • Even when in a bike lane, always ride with traffic and never ride against it. Riding with traffic is safer for several reasons:
    • Statistical data indicates that you are less vulnerable to being hit from behind.
    • Drivers expect bicycles to travel with them, and not against them.
    • It allows drivers to decide when to pass, so they can slow down and do so at their comfort.
  • Explore more about traffic flow (pdf).
4. Always signal your turns
  • Just like you would in a car, always signal your intent to turn and brake. Below are the standard signals for cyclists.
    Bike Safety Signals
5. Be visible
  • Visibility is a necessity, especially at night.
  • Virginia law requires all bicycles ridden between sunset and sunrise to have a white front headlight and a red rear reflector. Reflectors do not always work though, so invest in front and back lights.
  • The rear light should always be red, and may blink or hold a steady glow.
  • Wear brightly colored clothing, or reflective clothing for nighttime rides.
  • Learn more about cycling visibility.
6. Bike defensively
  • Always be alert for drivers that may not see you and potholes and sewer grates that may throw you off balance, parked cars, and other dangers.
  • Always make eye contact with drivers and pedestrians, and don’t ride on unsafe roads.
  • Learn more about defensive cycling.
7. Make sure that your bike is ready
  • Use the ABC method to check your bike.
    • ‘A’ stands for air: always check the pressure of your tires with a gauged pump before you ride and add air if needed. Note that the optimal pressure for your tires is printed on the sidewall.
    • ‘B’ stands for brakes: squeeze your brakes together before riding to make sure that they work. If your brakes seem ineffective, do not ride until they have been fixed.
    • ‘C’ stands for cranks and chain: keep the chain lubricated (with bike chain lube only) and make sure the cranks (which connect the pedals to the front gears, or chain-rings) are tightly fitted.
  • For long rides, always carry food, water, and basic tools.
  • Visit the League of American Bicyclists site to learn more about being prepared or download the W&M Bicyclists Survival Guide (pdf).