PennDOT Offers Safety Tips After Bicyclist Deaths Rose in ’09

(GantDaily Graphic)

HARRISBURG – Noting that bicyclist fatalities in Pennsylvania increased in 2009, PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. is reminding children and adults of important tips to ensure safety while riding.

According to PennDOT, 16 bicyclists lost their lives last year, including four children under the age of 18 — an increase from eight bicyclists who were killed in 2008. In addition, more than 550 riders under the age of 18 were injured in crashes in 2009.

“Riding a bike is great exercise, but any time you ride along a road, even a neighborhood street, you need to keep safety in mind,” Biehler said. “Bicyclists need to be responsible by following some basic safety advice, including being visible to motorists and being predictable in their actions. Motorists also need to remember to watch for bicyclists and share the road with them.”

Before getting on a bicycle, everyone should consider receiving training in the skills necessary to ride safely on the road.

Once bicyclists are ready to ride, they should make sure bikes are equipped with reflectors, a white headlight and a bell or horn. Riders should also wear brightly-colored clothing when riding, especially near dusk.

The safest place to ride is along the right side of the road with traffic. Riders should stay in a straight line whenever possible and keep about a car-door width away from parked vehicles.

In addition, bicycle riders must obey all traffic signs and signals. Just as they would do when crossing a street, riders should look left, right and then left again before entering an intersection. PennDOT also recommends signaling your intentions before proceeding so that motorists have a chance to react.

Bicyclists also should avoid distractions – such as cell phone or headphone use – or anything else that could interfere with their vision, hearing or focus on the road.

PennDOT also reminds parents and guardians about the importance of teaching children safe riding behaviors from a young age.

“Pennsylvania has a variety of bicycling opportunities for the family, such as Rails to Trails and the BicyclePA routes,” Biehler said. “Regardless of where you are riding, parents should pay close attention to younger children who are more likely to be impulsive.”

Parents are also reminded that Pennsylvania law mandates that children under 12 must wear an approved safety helmet. However, PennDOT suggests all bicyclists, regardless of age, wear an approved helmet and other protective gear.

Finally, PennDOT offers these additional tips for safe riding:

  • Adjust your bicycle to fit. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.
  • Make sure tires are inflated properly and your brakes work before you leave.
  • Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars.
  • Watch for road hazards such as potholes or broken glass.

More information on bicycle safety can be found at www.DriveSafePA.org, click on “Traffic Safety Information Centers” at the top, then “Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety.”

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