Driving a bicycle is fun, is good exercise and doesn't pollute the air. But, driving a bicycle can be very dangerous. Each year, about 150 Delaware bicycle drivers are injured in bicycle accidents and 2-3 bicycle drivers are killed. Driving a bicycle safely requires skill, adherence to Delaware Bicycles Laws and safe, defensive driving practices.
Remember, bicycles are vehicles, just like cars, trucks and buses, and you are a driver. All vehicle drivers, including bicycle drivers, follow the same rules of the road. A safe bicycle driver always drives on the right side of the road, obeys all traffic signs and signals, and uses hand signals to let other drivers know when he's going to stop or turn.
Bicycles are smaller and harder to see than other vehicles. Help other drivers see you by wearing bright and fluorescent colors and by using a bicycle safety flag. A bicycle safety flag is the single best thing to increase your visibility. A bicycle flag costs only a few dollars and attaches to every type of bicycle.
Avoid driving your bicycle at night! It's very hard to see you at night. The bicycle/ car accident rate is twenty time higher at night. If you must drive at night your bicycle must have a front white light visible for at least 500 feet and a rear reflector that can be seen for at least 600 feet. You must also have white or yellow reflectors on the wheels and pedals. Make sure all your reflectors are in place and are tight and clean. In addition, the bicycle driver should wear white clothing, plus a reflective vest or other reflective clothing.
Being a visible bicycle driver will help a car driver see you, but you must also be predictable so they know what you're going to do. You can be predictable by driving on the right side of the road, obeying all traffic signs and signals and by using hand signals to indicate stops and turns.
Drive with the traffic on the right hand side of the road, not against it. Bicycle drivers should not drive on roads with a posted speed limit greater than 50 mph, but may drive on the shoulder. Bicycle drivers should drive on the paved shoulders or in the bike lanes. If there is no paved shoulder or bike lane, bicycle drivers must drive as far on the right-most portion of the right side as is practical. Do not weave in and out of parked cars and watch out for street drains, loose gravel, pot holes, opening car doors, dogs and other hazards.
It's important to use hand signals to let other drivers know when you're going to slow down, stop or make a turn. Give hand signals at least 100 feet before stopping or turning to allow car and truck drivers enough time to avoid hitting you. Practice your hand signals in a safe area until you can do them with ease.
Traffic only works if all people interpret the laws and messages the same. Sign, signals, and pavement markings tell us what to do. If you fail to follow some, you may get hurt. If you fail to follow others, you will get hurt. To make it easier to follow signs, traffic engineers repeat the message three times, by color, by shape, and by words or the symbol used.
Every driver is required to obey all traffic signs and signals. At a traffic light a bicycle driver should signal and stop when the light is red. When the light turns green scan before you start. Scanning means looking left, right and left again to make sure no cars are coming. The yellow light means caution and warns the light will soon change to red. For bicycle drivers, yellow should mean the same as red - STOP!
Being alert means paying attention to what you're doing. Driving a bicycle is serious business. Watch out for cars and trucks, loose gravel, street drains, opening car doors, dogs and other hazards.
At intersections and before entering a street ALWAYS SCAN. Look left, right and left again. Make sure you see cars and trucks because they may not see you. Know what's around you at all times.
All vehicle drivers, including bicycle drivers, should drive defensively. Watch out for the other guy! Bicycles are difficult to see so stay out of the way of cars and trucks. Car and truck drivers will sometimes go through a red light or not stop at a stop sign. You may have right of way, but being right won't help much if you get hit by a two-ton car going fifty miles an hour. Drive defensively for your safety.
Be Equipped: Wear a Helmet - It's Our Law!
If all bicycle drivers wore helmets there would be fewer bicycle drivers killed in accidents. Three out of four bicycles fatalities are due to head injuries. A good bicycle helmet can prevent or reduce the seriousness of these injuries.
New bicycle helmets are light, provide good air circulation, fit a wide range of head sizes and cost as little as $20. When buying a helmet look for one that meets performance standards by the American Natural Standards Institute and /or the Snell Memorial Foundation.
If you break your arm, the doctor will put it in a cast and in six to ten weeks you'll be as good as new. If you break you head you may be permanently injured or killed. A good helmet can save your life.