As the summer months approach, an increasing number of bicyclists can be found on Virginia roads. With more people sharing the roads, though, the risk of being in a traffic accident is also increasing. Title 46.2 Chapter 8 of the Code of Virginia, which contains laws that cover motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, offers several safety tips for bicyclists to minimize the risk of an accident happening.
Before You Ride
- Get a bicycle that fits you. You should be able to reach the pedals and handlebars easily to ensure easy control of the bike.
- Make sure your bicycle fits your needs. Road bicycles have narrow tires and dropped handlebars that mountain bikes do not.
- Inspect your bike for proper tire air pressure, brakes, chain, and lights for defects or breakage.
Helmets are Fundamental to Bicyclist Safety
Research published in the American Journal of Surgery in 2016 found that cyclists wearing helmets are 52 percent less likely to suffer from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) than riders without helmets. Additionally, they are 44 percent less likely to die and 31 percent less likely to experience facial fractures. Despite these safety benefits, there is no statewide law that mandates bicyclists wear helmets while riding. However, the Code of Virginia allows a county, city, or town to require children 14 years old or younger to wear a helmet.
Wearing a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) approved helmet that fits snugly minimizes the risk of suffering a serious or life-threatening head injury. A helmet should be replaced every time it hits a hard surface, even if there are no visible dents: if the foam underneath the outer surface is damaged, it becomes less able to absorb future shock impacts.
On the Road
- Follow the same road laws as motorists. Travel on the right, follow traffic lights and signs and go the speed limit.
- Travel in a straight line – do not weave in and out of cars.
- “Take the lane” – to improve visibility, travel in the center of lanes when going a similar speed as other traffic, in intersections, driveways, and alleys.
- Use bike lanes whenever possible.
- Keep a five-foot distance from parked vehicles to avoid being hit by someone opening a car door.
- Walk – don’t ride – your bicycle across crosswalks.
- Use hand signals to indicate that you plan on taking a turn.
As a cycling enthusiast myself, I understand the dangers, especially at this time of year when more cyclists hit the roads and trails. Please be careful out there!
Tom Curcio has devoted his career to representing people seriously injured or killed in car, pedestrian, bicycle, and truck crashes, and by dangerous dogs, unsafe products, and premises. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to so they may rebuild their lives with dignity. Tom is the co-author of the book Evidence For The Trial Lawyer, and a much sought-after speaker on personal injury, trial practice, evidence, and professionalism. Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.