Learning about bicycle safety in Arizona is important because bicycle accidents happen every day. As personal injury lawyers, this is a fact we know all too well. While we are passionate about helping accident victims and their families recover the financial compensation they deserve, in an ideal world there would be no bicycle accidents at all.
Sadly, in many cases there is nothing that bicycle riders can do to protect themselves. Drivers and pedestrians make poor decisions, components on their bikes fail, or they crash due to other factors that are beyond their control. But, while riders may not be able to protect themselves entirely, there are steps they can take to help reduce their risk of suffering serious injuries in a collision or fall.
How can you help keep yourself (or your children) safe when riding bicycles in Arizona? This article provides 10 safety tips for adult riders and 10 additional safety tips for parents.
Here 10 ways you can reduce your risk of being seriously injured in a bicycle accident in Arizona:
Regardless of where you are riding or how far you are going, it is always a good idea to wear a helmet. While wearing a helmet is your choice (Arizona law does not require bicycle helmets), we encourage you to make the right choice with your safety in mind.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a helmet can reduce your risk of sustaining a head injury by 20 to 55 percent. How much a helmet protects you depends a lot on its quality. So, we encourage you to buy a good quality bike helmet if you don’t have one already, and we encourage you to wear it every time you ride.
Use hand signals when stopping or turning. Not only is this required (unless it is unsafe to take your hand off of the handlebars), but it also lets the drivers around you know what you are doing. Judging the speed of a bicycle is much more difficult than judging the speed of a car, truck, or SUV. Signaling gets drivers’ attention, tells them that they need to be careful, and (hopefully) causes them to give you the space you need to stay safe.
Under Arizona law, bicycle riders are required to use headlights and have rear reflectors at night. But, even during the day, it is important to make yourself as visible to passing motorists as possible. With this in mind, it is a good idea to always wear brightly-colored clothes—and to wear reflective clothes if possible.
Making yourself visible also means thinking about where you are riding. If you are riding on the road, for example, you should stay out of drivers’ blind spots whenever possible. If you are waiting to turn at an intersection, try to make sure you aren’t obscured from drivers’ view by road signs or trees.
As the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) explains in its bicycle safety tips, cyclists should always ride predictably, and always with the flow of traffic. Among other things, this means “travel[ing] in a straight line without swerving into other traffic lanes.” If drivers can predict where you are going, they can exercise caution to avoid hitting you or putting you in a dangerous situation.
Riding with the flow of traffic means riding on the right-hand side of the road, with cars traveling in your direction approaching from the rear. This is where drivers expect (or should expect) to see cyclists, so this makes it the safest place to ride.
When riding your bicycle, you should always follow the rules of the road. In Arizona, bicycle riders are “subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver [of a motor vehicle]”—except for a handful of special rules that apply specifically to cyclists.
Not only is following the rules of the road legally required in Arizona, but it also helps with predictability. By stopping at red lights and stop signs, yielding when necessary, and signaling your intentions, you can avoid putting yourself in many potentially dangerous situations.
Along with following the rules of the road, all cyclists should also follow Arizona’s bicycle laws. These include the state’s laws regarding lights and reflectors, riding position, carrying objects and passengers, and using bike lanes when they are available. For the most part, these laws are intended to help keep riders safe; and, in the event that you get seriously injured in a bicycle accident, being able to show that you were following the law can help with your claim for just compensation.
Any time you go cycling, it is important to choose the safest place to ride. As noted above, Arizona law requires cyclists to use bike lanes and bike paths when they are available; and, when they aren’t available, cyclists must typically stay on the right side of the road.
But, while these are the general rules, there are exceptions. For example, if a bike lane is full of parked cars, staying in the road could be safer than constantly popping in and out. Likewise, if you need to make a left-hand turn on the road, it is typically safest to make your turn from the middle or left-hand side of the road.
Before merging with traffic or getting over to make a left-hand turn, you should always check over your shoulder. This is true even if you have mirrors on your handlebars or helmet—these mirrors have blind spots just like the mirrors on cars, trucks, and SUVs. Look first; and, if you need to slow down and wait, signal with your hand so that the oncoming driver knows what you are doing.
One of the best ways you can protect yourself when riding your bicycle is simply to make good decisions. Err on the side of caution, and avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations unnecessarily. Among other things, all bicycle riders in Arizona should:
While you should make good decisions, you should not assume that drivers will do the same. Unfortunately, many drivers will not. The vast majority of bicycle accidents on the road result from drivers’ poor decision-making behind the wheel. Take accountability for your own safety (as much as you can); and, when in doubt, be safe. Even if it means disrupting your ride, it is always best to prioritize your safety while cycling.
As a parent, here are some additional steps you can take to help make sure your children stay as safe as possible while riding their bikes:
As important as bike helmets are for adults, they are even more important for children. Children’s brains and skulls are still developing, and this makes them even more susceptible to being damaged due to impact.
So, make sure your child wears his or her helmet on every bike ride. Work on making it a habit, and consider keeping your child’s helmet on his or her handlebars so it’s there ready to go. Letting your child pick out his or her own helmet can be helpful as well—just make sure you provide good quality options to choose from.
Proper bike fit is important for both comfort and bike safety. As your child grows, even an inch or two can make a big difference for how they fit on their bike. If a child’s seat is too high, they won’t be able to comfortably reach the ground. If a child’s seat is too low, this can make it more difficult to maintain balance and ride in a straight line.
A good rule of thumb for kids is to make sure they can put both feet flat on the ground when sitting on their bike. This means that their seat height should be about equal to their inseam.
As your children get older, exploring on their own will be an important part of coming of age. But, while they are still novice bike riders, it is a good idea to go riding together. Watch your child, provide constructive tips and advice, and help them start to feel more confident on their bike.
Even if you are just taking an afternoon bike ride through the neighborhood, you should always ride on the right-hand side of the road. As we mentioned above, it’s the law, and it’s also generally the safest place to be. Even if you are riding on the sidewalk (which is permitted in some areas but not others), you should stay to the right so you are less likely to encounter pedestrians.
When riding bikes with your child, it is important to think about your positioning in relation to your child. Generally, you will want to be either behind your child and slightly to the left (so that you are closer to the road but your child is still visible), or else directly next to your child on his or her left-hand side. If you are riding with a large group, the children should typically be in front riding in pairs, while you keep an eye out for oncoming cars from the rear.
Children should learn the basic rules of safe bike riding from an early age. The more they know themselves, the less they will have to rely on you for guidance on the road. For example, some of the first rules children should learn include:
Once children are able to ride their bikes comfortably, it is a good idea to teach them the basic hand signals as well. The hand signals for stopping and turning are:
Another great way to teach your children bicycle safety in Arizona is to set a good example. This means following all of the rules yourself every time you ride. For example, even if you can look ahead and see that no cars are coming, still stop and look both ways at every stop sign. Wear your helmet, ride on the right-hand side of the road, and use hand signals when preparing to stop or turn.
Like anything else, it will take your kids some time to internalize everything they need to know to stay safe on their bikes. When your children falter—which they will—give them gentle reminders. Keep bike riding fun, and soon enough they will learn to safely enjoy their time behind the handlebars.
In this same vein, when your children make safe decisions while riding their bikes, let them know. Give them a high five for putting on their helmet without being asked; and, after a good ride, congratulate them on a job well done. This type of encouragement will go a long way toward instilling safe riding habits as well.
Finally, given that everyone makes mistakes, it is a good idea to avoid riding bikes with your children in high-traffic areas and during times when there are lots of cars on the road. If your neighborhood gets busy after work, for example, consider waiting until after dinner to go on your ride. As a parent, the more risks you can help your children avoid, the less likely they will be to suffer significant injuries.
The personal injury lawyers at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm help cyclists and families seek just compensation after bicycle accidents in Arizona. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your legal rights, call 480-634-7480 or contact us online for a free consultation.