Riding a bicycle is great way to get around Coronado. It’s cheap, convenient, and you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space.
You do, however, have to take precautions and follow the rules of the road, which is something cyclists don’t always do.
Sargent David Craig, traffic officer with the Coronado Police Department and an avid cyclist, sees many such cyclists around town. “They don’t stop at intersections. They don’t look back to see if a car is coming before they change directions. They make turns without signaling.”
Unbeknownst to many cyclists, there are hand signals that cyclists should use to signal their intentions to others before making a turn. Extending the left arm straight out indicates a left turn, while bending the same left arm into an “L” shape signals a right hand turn. “I haven’t seen anyone use them in years,” Craig said.
Cyclists aren't the only ones on the road who sometimes fail to follow the rules of the road. There are some drivers that fail to stop at intersections. Others exceed the speed limit or make illegal turns. Many fail to notice cyclists, even when there’s one right in front of them.
“A car came up from behind and made a right turn directly in front of me. I had to brake hard to avoid hitting him,” Craig said.
Inattention on the part of the cyclists or drivers can be deadly. There were 677 bicycle fatalities in the United States in 2011; the last year data was available, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. This represents 2% of all accidents. Of the 677, 9% were under the age of 14.
Cyclists are not always at fault. A Canadian study of bike accidents in Toronto claimed cyclists were only responsible 10% of the time.
Nonetheless, cyclists need to be more alert and more cautious, simply because they are more vulnerable.
Surrounded by tons of steel, the driver nearly always survives a collision with a bicycle. The same cannot be said for cyclists with only his body and, if he’s smart, a helmet for protection.
“The most important thing you can do is wear a helmet,” Craig said.
“The law requires people under 18 to wear a helmet, but adults should wear them as well, if only to serve as a role model for their children.”
Even if the car isn’t going fast enough to kill, cyclists are still at risk for serious injury “When they get hit they have to deal with a machine. They can’t put their hands out to break the fall and protect their head.”
He related a story about a nine or ten-year-old girl who made a left turn in font of car. Her helmet was scraped and dented, but because she was wearing he help there was not a scrape on her face of a dent in her skull.
“Even when I’m just tooling around, I wear a helmet,” Craig said.
If you are interested in other safe cycling tips contact visit San Diego County Bicycle Coalition website. The California Department of Motor Vehicles also has bicycle safety guidelines and laws on their website; you can read those laws here.
Photo credit: Becky Barb
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