Riding a bicycle in California can be a joy, with the great weather and many beautiful sights. But before you hit the road, it’s great to get organized. Here’s a bicycle safety checklist that will help you prepare gear, keep your bike safe, and, most importantly, keep you safe, especially in the Bay Area.
Before You Ride In The Bay Area
Gear up for safety
Before you even clip one toe into your pedals, there are safety precautions you should take to keep you and others out of harm’s way. First, think about what you’re wearing. You want to make yourself as visible as possible to motorists, other cyclists, and pedestrians. That means wearing a bright vest or jacket with reflective trim. For even greater visibility, you can add more reflective gear:
- Pant leg straps
You can use reflective wheel strips on your bike, too. A powerful light on the front of your bike is a must if you bike in bad weather, at night, or during low-light dawn or dusk periods. Not only will this help others see you, but it will also illuminate things in your path and let you avoid some roadway dangers (see below). Headlights, as well as reflectors on each pedal, shoe, or ankle, are required when cycling at night in California.
A proper bike helmet is another essential to protect you in the event of a fall. Even falling off your bike when you are stopped or going very slowly can result in a serious head injury without protection. Falls, especially at higher speeds, can cause traumatic brain injury and long-term physical and psychological harm.
You should wear snug-fitting riding clothing – snug enough that nothing catches on your bicycle, particularly in the chain. You don’t want anything flapping and snagging on street posts or other cyclists, either.
There are multiple safe ways to carry items when riding. Never hold anything in your hands that could impair your ability to brake or steer. Instead, use a backpack, cross-body bag, or bicycle basket or panniers.
Leave your phone and ear buds in your bag or at home when you cycle. Just like when driving a car, you want to be alert and able to hear horns, sirens, and other people around you. Biking when distracted can leave you at greater risk for accidents and incidents like “dooring” (see below).
Inspect your bike
Every time you ride, you should inspect your bike first, just like a pilot and the ground crew check over an airplane. Assess the most important elements first: the integrity and air level of your tires, your brakes, your handlebars, and the chain and its lubrication.
Carry a mini bike repair kit with the tools you need to do emergency fixes on the road. If you’re not sure how to patch a tire, for example, you can take a class or watch an online video.
Stay on top of regular bike maintenance. You may need a professional once-over every six months or year, depending on how much you ride. A bike repair specialist can catch little problems before they turn into an accident. They can tune up your brakes, replace worn cables, tighten parts, and lubricate systems to run smoothly.
Plan your route
Prior to hitting the road, you should plan your route. Bicycling isn’t like driving a car; some roads will be much more conducive to safe cycling than others. Think about factors like:
- Commuter traffic
- Vehicle speeds
- Bike lane availability
- Heavy pedestrian areas
- Road width
- Pavement condition
- Current construction
- Weather and wildfires
- Steep grades
- Places where dogs tend to be loose
- What kind of bike you own
- Your level of conditioning
Map out your route in advance and know of a few alternatives if you think traffic or construction will be a problem. You can always contact local biking groups or join a bike club to get the low-down on the safest streets.
Preventing Bicycle Theft In Oakland
Thwart thieves with these easy steps
Like most major urban areas around the US, San Francisco and the Bay Area see a fair amount of bike theft. In fact, according to the San Francisco Police Department, more bikes are stolen than iPhones, making bicycle theft a multi-million dollar problem for the city.
Sometimes, entire bikes are stolen, but thieves also take seats, wheels, and other parts that can be sold for money. Law enforcement officers recover stolen bikes quite often, but they are rarely returned to their owners because they were never registered, and their owners have no identifying information. You can avoid making that mistake by following these steps:
- Register your bike. You can use Safe Bikes, a joint venture between the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the San Francisco Police Department, or Bike Index, a nonprofit global bike registry.
- Record the serial number of your bike, so you can reclaim it if it is stolen and recovered.
- Take a photograph of your bike in case it turns up elsewhere.
Always invest in a good lock, like a steel U-lock that can accommodate both your frame and wheel, and lock your bike, even if leaving it for a moment. It just takes a second for professional thieves to make off with your property. Safely park your bike in well-lit, populated areas when possible. Encourage your employer to provide a secure place for bike commuters to leave their bicycles. And know that San Francisco city law now allows you to bring your bike into your workplace.
If, despite your good care, be sure to report a stolen bike to the police. Consider posting a notice online, such as on Craigslist. But if you are contacted, refer the information to the police. Likewise, if you find your stolen bike for sale in a bike shop, secondhand store, or flea market, don’t try to retrieve it yourself; call the police and let them handle the matter.
Rules of the Road In The Bay Area
Stay safer when riding
Statistics tell us that there are more cars on the road now in California than ever before. There are more bicyclists, too, especially since people are avoiding public transit to reduce COVID contagion and aren’t able to enjoy stationary cycling at the gym in many cases. This translates to a rise in bicycle accidents.
To stay safe, you need to follow the rules of the road below whenever you are on a bike:
- Ride in the same direction as car traffic.
- Ride where it is safest to do so. Usually, this is the bike lane or the curbside of the right lane, but be careful when riding on the right of cars turning right in front of you. You may have to move into the middle of a lane to avoid a danger. You may also ride on the left side of a street if you are preparing to make a left turn or if you are on a one-way street.
- Know the rules for riding on the sidewalk in your community. In some cases, it’s allowed at any age, and in others, it’s only permitted for younger children. Sometimes, it depends on the size of your tires. Sidewalk riding isn’t generally encouraged, but it may be necessary to remain safe, such as when a road is under construction. If sidewalk riding is not allowed and you have no alternatives, get off your bike and walk until you can ride again.
- You must yield to pedestrians. Any time you dismount your bicycle and walk it, you are a pedestrian in the eyes of the law, not a cyclist at that moment.
- Cyclists must obey the same traffic lights and stop signs that motor vehicles do. When in doubt, yield.
- Signal with your left arm before turning or stopping. It’s best to do a quick right or left shoulder check and then use hand signals. Your arm raised 90 degrees up means right turn, straight out means left turn, and 90 degrees downward means you intend to stop.
- Show other cyclists the same courtesy you want them to extend to you. If you need to pass another cyclist, use your horn or shout, “On your left,” to let them know you’re approaching along their side. Never pass on the right, only on the left.
Be ready for anything
Riding everywhere these days can present unexpected situations. While there are no guarantees of one hundred percent safety, you can try to be ready for potential dangers by thinking and planning in advance.
Every year in the Bay Area, there are hundreds of bicyclist injuries and a handful of fatalities. You don’t want to wind up as one of those statistics.
Traffic collisions with injuries and fatalities tend to involve one of five kinds of common motorist law breaking:
- Failure to obey stop signs
- Running traffic lights
- Turn restriction violations
- Failure to yield where required
Therefore, it pays to be extra vigilant when in situations where cyclists are vulnerable, such as when approaching traffic lights and stop signs or when near one-way streets. Just like with defensive driving, never assume a motorist will obey the law or make a smart decision. It’s better to slow down and wait to see what a car will do than to take it for granted that everything will be fine.
Other hazards include:
- Steep hills
- Vehicles backing out of parking spots and driveways
- Motorcycles and scooters
- Inclement weather that causes poor visibility and slippery conditions
- Road construction
- Lack of bike lanes or narrow shoulders
- Poor road maintenance
- Train and trolley tracks
- Distracted pedestrians
- Other cyclists not obeying the rules of the road
- Metal subway grates and manhole covers
- Leaves, sticks, trash, and other detritus in the road
- Animals in the road (pets, squirrels, birds, etc.)
There is yet another common Bay Area bicyclist danger, and that’s “dooring,” when a cyclist is hit by a car driver or passenger opening a door without looking, usually on narrow streets or where car door swing overlaps with bike lanes. A tiny nudge of your handlebars can send you veering into traffic, while a more forceful impact can cause you to flip over the handlebars of your bike.
Dooring is responsible for many serious cyclist injuries that can result in hospitalization, long-term care, lost wages, and even psychological complications like anxiety, depression, mood swings, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms.
You can reduce your risk of getting “doored” by paying attention to recently parked cars, slowing down in areas where parking and bike lanes are adjacent, and using your voice to alert car passengers of your presence. As part of your route planning mentioned above, try to avoid narrow roads, streets with heavy parking, busy streets at rush hour, routes with no bike lanes, and streets that are notorious for dooring accidents.
Contact Us To Speak With Some Oakland Bike Accident Attorneys
Reach out when you need help
Sometimes, despite all the care you take to bicycle safely, you run into trouble. Usually, this involves being hit by a motor vehicle or one of its doors. It may also involve being hit by another cyclist who is being careless or not following road rules. In that instance, you may wish to consult a bike accident attorney like Quirk Reed Law, who are personal injury specialists in Oakland, California.
An experienced bike accident attorney in Oakland can help you after an accident, whether you need to negotiate an insurance settlement or take your case to court. You might be entitled to compensation such as:
- Medical care
- Lost earnings
- Long-term disability
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
After a bike accident, even if you think you’re not hurt at the time, it’s wise to consult with a bike accident lawyer. Actually, deciding to store Quirk Reed’s contact information in your mobile phone is a smart move if you do a lot of biking around the Bay Area, just in case. Never admit you were at fault after an accident or let anyone talk you into taking a puny insurance settlement (or no settlement at all).
Call us at 888-858-1925 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation. Biking should be a fun form of exercise and an efficient method of transportation. But if you have had a negative experience because of a California bike accident, we want to hear from you.