By Catherine Powell
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
May is National Bike Month. That means it’s time to save some gas by putting pedal power to the test. May 5 was Bike to School Day and May 17-23 is Bike to Work Week. That means whether you choose to participate or not, you’re likely to see a lot more bicycles on the road than usual in the next two weeks. To help you make the most of two-wheel human-powered transportation, I thought I’d give you ten helpful tips to make bicycling better.
- Is it time for a tune-up – If it’s been six months or more since you last brought your bike out of the garage, chances are it needs a little TLC. Things like tire pressure and gear shifters need to be checked and tweaked to make sure they are roadworthy. If you plan on cycling at night, you’ll need to charge or replace the batteries on both the headlight and taillight. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to test those brakes either.
- How far is too far? – While you might be gung-ho to hit the road, if it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. While there are supervised rides offered by cycling clubs, I wouldn’t recommend going more than 5 miles on your first tour. This is a good shakedown cruise that won’t leave you nursing sore muscles over the weekend.
- Dress for success. – As any motorcycle owner will tell you, people in cars act as though bikes are invisible. That’s why serious bicyclists wear colorful outfits that could put an eye out at fifty paces. They know that the more garish the jersey, the more likely that motorists will see them. Colors like candy apple red and canary yellow are all but impossible to miss. Avoid muted colors for anything other than cycling shorts.
- Stay alert when you drive during the month of May. – Be prepared to share the road with bicyclists. While it’s true that some roads sport bicycle lanes, many do not. If you see a cyclist ahead, give them a wise berth when you pass. If you see bikes stopped at an intersection, make sure you understand their intentions. While some cyclists know how to use hand signals, others do not. If a bicyclist is preparing to cross an intersection, don’t cut them off if you’re making a right-hand turn. If bikes are in your lane and you can’t pass due to oncoming traffic, don’t tailgate them. When in doubt slow down and yield the right of way.
- Look before you leap. – Another road hazard to bicyclists are car doors. Since bikes are forced to hug the shoulder of the road, you need to look twice before you open the driver’s door. Cyclists can be seriously injured if a driver of a parked car opens the door as they’re trying to pass. It isn’t unusual for a cyclist who hits a car door to be propelled off the bike to either bounce off the door or flip over it.
- Just because you ride a bike doesn’t mean you can ignore traffic regulations. – That means you need to obey traffic lights and stop signs just like any other driver. You also need to stay to the right side of the road to give passing traffic a way to go around you.
- Wear a bike helmet – There are only two kinds of bicyclists; Those that have fallen off their bikes and those that will fall off their bikes. I know a lot of cyclists don’t like to wear them but the statistics show that if you end up in a situation where you either fall off or are knocked off your bicycle, the difference between a case of road rash or winding up in the ER with a head injury usually comes down to whether you wear a helmet or not.
- Don’t Hotdog – Every time I see a cyclist riding with their hands off the handlebars or doing a wheelie down the street, I fell a cold chill run down my spine. Since bikes don’t come with seatbelts, hotdogging while riding on a busy street is like tempting fate. Should a car, a cat or a pedestrian suddenly dart onto the road ahead of you, you’ll soon realize that being a bike acrobat should only be done on a closed course and not the open road.
- Have your driver’s license and insurance card with you when you ride. – Should you get stopped by the police, having no identification is one sure way to wind up spending the night in jail. Also, should you be involved in an accident, the EMTs will need your driver’s license and insurance card to make sure you get admitted to the hospital and your next of kin are notified.
- What to do if you’re involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. – Even though you don’t need a license plate on your bicycle, if it and you are involved in a traffic accident with anything other than another bicycle, you’ll have to do many of the same things you would were you driving your car. First and foremost, make sure you get well away from traffic. The last thing you want to do is survive an accident only to get clipped by a passing car or truck. If you’re injured, call 911 or have the driver of any motor vehicle involved in the accident call for an ambulance if you are unable. Also make sure you or the other driver calls the police right away. Should you need to take the matter to court, a police report is going to be vital to helping you get compensated for your injuries. Just as when driving a car, make sure you get the name, license, and insurance carrier of any drivers involved in the accident. If possible, get statements from witnesses. Contact your insurance agent to report the accident and document everything from your injuries and treatment to the cost of hospitalization, rehabilitation, and medication. Last but not least, preserve and photograph the condition of the clothing that you were wearing when you were hit. Your attorney will need all the above if you are going to win in court.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/