The following are suggestions on avoiding an accident. Naturally, you should wear a helmet at all times to avoid more serious injury in the event that you are involved in an accident.
1. Be visible! Fashion aside, wearing a brightly colored jersey is an essential safety measure. It’s much easier for an automobile driver to miss a cyclist wearing solid grays, blacks or dark blues, all of which tend to blend with the pavement, than someone dressed in bold, bright colors. A blinking or strobing light affixed to the back of your bike is another crucial piece of safety equipment especially on cloudy or overcast days.
2. Ride defensively! Never assume vehicles on the road will obey the law and, in particular, yield the right-of-way to you.
3. Stay alert! Many of us are literally “attached” to our various devices – smart phones, MP3 players, etc. Being an alert, safe rider requires unencumbered eyes and ears. If you really must read that text message or listen to that song, take a breather and stop! Keep your eyes on the road ahead of you- it’s pretty tough to see debris, potholes, etc. when you’re watching your front tire spin. Keep your eyes open for drivers turning in front of you and remember a turn indicator isn’t necessarily the best indication of what a driver is going to do. According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) motorists failing to see a cyclist or yielding to a cyclist while making a left turn account for almost half of the bike/car crashes.
4. Plan your route. In Tucson you should be able to plan a ride using bike lanes only. If you must ride on a street without a bike lane avoid, if at all possible, those streets that have parallel or angle parking. Cars pulling out of parking spaces are especially treacherous because drivers are just not accustomed to watching for bicycles when backing up or pulling out of a space. It’s also not a good idea to ride through parking lots for the same reason. The person backing out of a grocery store parking space doesn’t expect a bicyclist behind him no matter how carefully he looked!
5. Use caution when passing on the right. Passing vehicles stopped at red lights can be tricky. You may or may not have a bike lane that carries you right up to the corner but you have to assume that the driver of the lead vehicle in particular will not know that you are on his right. When the light turns green he may very well make a right hand turn in front of you even if his turn indicator isn’t on (remember, don’t assume motorists will obey the law). If you are not in front of the lead vehicle when the light turns green do not attempt to pass it but instead slow down and stay behind it.
6. Obey the law. In Arizona you are subject to the same laws as motorists. (A.R.S. § 28-812) This means you must ride with traffic and not against it. It is against the law to ride on the sidewalk. (A.R.S. § 28-904).
7. Be courteous. A smile, a wave, a nod – all go a long way in acknowledging a driver who waits for you to pass before pulling out from a side street, etc. and may just change what had been a negative opinion of bicyclists. Clearly, there are drivers who believe that bicycles have no business being on the road but to respond to a driver’s rudeness in kind is not prudent. Your main concern is your safety and a degree of courtesy in the face of belligerence may just be what keeps you safe.
8. Avoid riding at night. If you must ride at night, Arizona law and common sense require that you have a headlight and taillight. (A.R.S. § 28-817). And for heaven’s sake don’t dress in dark colors!