By Megan Hart
While it’s important for drivers to learn how to share the road with bicyclists, it’s also important for bicyclists to utilize the proper safety equipment so that they are easily noticeable by drivers. In honor of National Bike Month, we’ve compiled a list of cycling accessories that can help protect you when you’re in the saddle, whether you’re a serious cyclist or a novice rider.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), accidents involving cars and bicyclists have been on the rise since 2009. Nearly 800 cyclists were killed in crashes with cars in 2017 alone. For these reasons, it’s important to take all possible precautions while biking, especially when you’re sharing the road with motor vehicles.
Protect Your Head this National Bike Month
Bike helmets can reduce the risk of fatal head injury among cyclists by up to 65%, aaccording to a 2016 study of more than 64,000 bikers from around the world. Furthermore, an analysis of statistics from recent years shows that fewer than 18% of bicyclists who were killed in crashes were wearing helmets, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Currently, more than 20 states have laws in place that require kids to wear bike helmets. Several countries, including Australia and Argentina, take things a step further by requiring all bikers to wear helmets.
How to Pick the Right Helmet
There are thousands of bike helmets on the market. The right choice for you depends on your budget and the type of riding you do: road, mountain or recreational cycling. More than anything, you should focus on the fit. Here’s how:
To measure your head, wrap a string around its widest point. According to REI, it’ll be about an inch above your eyebrows. Then measure the string and choose a helmet that matches that size.
Your helmet should fit snug and it should cover most of your forehead. According to the NHTSA, you should be able to fit just one or two fingers horizontally between your eyebrows and your helmet. Next, adjust your side straps so they meet below and slightly in front of your ears. Finally, when you’re riding, you should always buckle your chin strap. If you can slide more than a finger or two under the strap, it’s not tight enough.
Invest in a helmet with multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) if you do a lot of riding. MIPS helmets include a thin foam layer that rotates as needed to absorb more of the impact in the event of a crash.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to choosing the look of your helmet. According to the NHTSA, bikers are more likely to actually wear their helmets if they’re comfortable and attractive … but if you’re serious about safety, going with a brightly colored helmet can make your more visible to drivers.
The Importance of Standing Out
Bike lights are vital to riders’ safety. A study from Denmark, considered one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world, showed that crashes resulting in injuries were reduced by 19% when bikers used a permanent running light. This may be due to a phenomenon called "inattentional blindness,” meaning, drivers can see cyclists without really noticing they’re there.
The importance of owning bike lights can’t be overstated. According to the IIHS, the highest percentage of fatal bicycle crashes – 38% – take place between 6 p.m. and midnight, when darkness makes it more difficult for drivers to see bikers.
If you're riding with traffic, you should have a steady-beam, white light on the front of your bike and a blinking red light on the back. You shouldn't just use them at night, either. A mounted bike light at any time of day can improve cyclist safety. If your goal is to go green, consider investing in rechargeable lights to reduce waste.
You can also make yourself more visible to drivers, particularly at night, by adding reflectors to your bike. Reflectors can't replace lights; rather, they reflect light back to its source. Install them on front- and back-facing surfaces, like the back of your pedals, your handlebars or your seat post so that drivers approaching from ahead and behind can see you more clearly.
It's also a good idea to wear brightly colored clothing while riding.
Bells and Baskets Are for All Riders
Don’t forget! Bells are a helpful tool for avoiding crashes, though many bikers ditch their bell around the same time they lose their training wheels. But they are PERFECT for signaling to pedestrians that you’re coming up behind them, especially on busy trails. Some cyclists think bells are lame, but a few bike accessory companies are bucking the stereotype. Knog Oi is particularly well known for it’s affordable bells that don’t look like bells at all. A basket, rear rack, or saddlebag can also come in handy by allowing you to keep your hands on your handlebars, except when signaling of course.
Shop to Be Safe
May’s National Bike Month is the perfect time to head out for some shopping, and get the bike safety accessories you need to share the road safely with drivers.
Though drivers aren’t off the hook for their share of the responsibility of keeping our roads safe.... Our Safe Driving Resource Center offers advice and helpful pointers that’ll make sharing the road with bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians safer and stress-free. Check it out!