According to a study conducted by the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) and the American Communities Survey (ACS), only one percent of Americans use a bicycle as a mode of transportation, versus 83 percent of Americans who travel by car, truck or van. Although that number sounds small, one percent of America’s population is approximately three million people and growing.

Biking can provide all types of benefits, not only for your health, but for the environment as well. While there are many advantages to using a bike as a form of transportation, it’s very important to take the proper precautions before you ride.

Where can you ride?

Bikers have the freedom to ride almost everywhere, with a few exceptions. Each state has its own specific restrictions. However, in general, here are rules that should always be obeyed:

  1. Always wear a helmet. This is the safest way to protect your head in case of an accident

  2. When biking on the street, always bike with the flow of traffic, not against traffic

  3. Obey all traffic lights and signs just as you would in a motor vehicle

  4. Stay visible at night by wearing fluorescent colors or installing a bike light on the front and back of your bike

  5. If you are turning right or left, use hand signals to let drivers know

  6. Do not weave in and out of traffic – stay to the side of the road

  7. Avoid anything that causes a distraction while riding (phone, music, etc.)

  8. Don’t ride on the sidewalk – most cities have restrictions against bikers riding on the sidewalk. Check with your city’s municipal code to see what the specific laws are

  9. Always watch for parked cars, doors opening and cars entering or exiting driveways

  10. BE ALERT – assure that motorists can see you at all times

*Drivers, this one’s for you: Allow at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist on the road.

In a bicycle accident? Here’s what to do:

  1. Notify the police immediately – even if you think you are not injured, it’s essential that a police report is filed

  2. Don’t admit fault. Even if you think it was your fault, do not apologize

  3. Obtain the driver’s information – license number, insurance information, phone number, address, etc.

  4. Be sure to swap information with any witnesses if there were any

  5. Take photos of your surroundings at the time of the crash (road conditions, weather, time it occurred, where it occurred)  – you may need this for evidence later

  6. If you have any injuries whatsoever, seek medical attention. Even if you think you only have minor injuries, it’s important to get them checked out to assure it isn’t anything serious

  7. Seek legal advice. Talking to a professional personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights

Bottom line: Biking is a fun way to get from A to B. However, without the proper safeguards in place, your long-awaited ride can turn into an utter mess. Avoid danger by abiding by the rules – you’ll be happy you did.