A recent posting on the Greater Greater Washington blog about the new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue reminded us that the beginning of summer is a great time to take a moment to think about bike safety. As Salvatore Zambri, a founding partner of Regan Zambri & Long, posted earlier for the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, 600,000 people are treated annually in U.S. emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries (data from the CPSC). It is predicted that an additional nearly 1,000,000 people are treated by physicians for less serious injuries also stemming from biking mishaps.
At least three (somewhat interrelated) theories exist as to how best to manage the often tense relationship between cyclists and drivers on the road.
- The most common school of thought says that bikers should adhere to bike-specific traffic rules. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments does an excellent job of presenting this position, complete with state-by-state guidelines for the DC Metro area.
- A related position proposes that the safest approach to biking in traffic is to essentially act just like all of the motorists on the road. In other words, pretend your bike is a car, and ride as you would drive.
- At BicycleSafe.com, they take parts of both of those above, but place a much greater emphasis on active strategies to make yourself most visible to motorists, thereby decreasing your chance of being hit by a car.
No matter which biking style you personally prefer, critically important points for every cyclist to do include: wear a helmet; use lights and reflective gear, especially at night; and maintain your bike. The CPSC provides the following maintenance recommendations:
- "Regular maintenance is essential for safe riding. Refer to the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. An experienced repair technician should do complicated work.
- Align (or "true") wobbly wheels for better control. Spokes also may need adjustment.
- Replace all missing, damaged, or worn parts; for example, brake pads, chainguards, chain links, spokes, screws and bolts, handlebar grips.
- Tighten and/or adjust loose parts.
- Periodically inspect frame, fork, spindles and other components for cracking.
- Parts should be adjusted to manufacturer’s torque specifications.
- Inflate tires to recommended pressure, and replace worn tires.
- Lightly oil and clean moving parts. Keep oil off rubber.
- Keep bicycle indoors when not in use — moisture may cause rust and weaken metal parts."
Always important to remember that cyclists should not be alone in avoiding car-bike accidents on the road–motorists need to remember that they share the road with cyclists and drive vigilantly at all times.
Previous posts to the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog emphasize the need for more attention to bike safety: