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Bicycle safety checklist

Get tips on bicycle safety including road rules, potential hazards and bike safety equipment.

Bicycling can be a fun and healthy experience; however, it can also be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, almost 800 bicyclists in the U.S. were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency room visits due to bicycle-related injuries. It is important to take the proper precautions before and during cycling to stay safe.

Some of the most common reasons for accidents occur because of poor weather conditions, poor road conditions, poor bike maintenance, excessive speed, inexperience, not following road rules, and not paying attention.

Here are some important rules to keep in mind while on the road, as well as a checklist of bike safety equipment.

Follow riding rules:

  • Obey the same traffic laws as motorists. Ride with traffic not against it.
  • If with other cyclists, ride in a single file line.
  • Steer clear of major highways/roads. For extra precaution, choose roads with bike lanes or bike trails.  
  • Make sure you know the proper hand signals before turning and changing lanes. Not sure of the latest hand signals? Check out the latest Hand Signal Safety Guide provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Ride at a safe speed.
  • Ride at a safe distance from cars, usually 4 feet.
  • Don’t ride too close to the curb.
  • Do not rush through yellow lights.
  • Do not ride on sidewalks.
  • While on bike trails with other pedestrians, announce your location loudly, “Coming up on your left” or simply “on your left”.
  • Use a bell or whistle when appropriate.

Stay alert and be aware of:

  • Car doors opening
  • Cars making right turns from the left side of you
  • Cars making left turns in front of you
  • Cars pulling out of parking spaces, alleys and driveways
  • Potholes/Puddles
  • Sewer grates/man hole covers
  • Litter/Broken glass
  • Oil/Sand/Gravel
  • Pedestrians/Children/Animals
  • And everything else… Stay alert!

Safety Equipment Checklist

Before you head out, here are a few items you should take with you to help keep you safe on the roads.

  • Bicycle that fits you
  • Helmet
  • Rear red reflector visible from a distance of 500 feet
  • Yellow or white reflector on each pedal visible from a distance of 200 feet
  • Reflectors on wheels
  • Headlight visible from a distance of 300 feet
  • Reflective and bright colored clothing
  • Bike tool kit
  • Horn, bell or whistle
  • First aid kit

Once you have all your safety equipment, remember to check steering, gears, pedals and brakes to ensure proper function.

We hope these tips help keep you safe on the road. For added safety, consider bicycle insurance from Markel. Markel Bicycle Insurance provides coverage for your bike and the things that are important to you like your spare parts, cycling apparel and accessories. Markel also offers optional Bicycle Liability, Medical Payments, Vehicle Contact Protection coverages and even Roadside Assistance. With roadside assistance, you can get nationwide 24-hour emergency service with up to 35 miles of transportation per breakdown – all for only $12 a year per bicycle.