- Bicycle Helmet – While cyclists over the age of 18 are not legally required to wear a bicycle helmet in California, wearing a helmet can save your life in the event of a crash. Helmet have been found to protect against head injury, traumatic brain injury, face injury, and death.
- Lights and Reflectors – California law requires that bicycles have a white headlight, a rear red reflector, and white or yellow reflectors on the pedals while being operated at night. From a safety standpoint, the more visible your bicycle is to motorists, the safer you are.
- High-visibility Clothing – There is a reason many bicycle jerseys are colored in bright neon. It is safer for bicyclists when drivers are aware of their presence.
- Bicycles are Vehicles – In California, cyclists must follow all traffic laws as if they were driving a car. That means obeying all traffic signals and stop signs, riding on the right side of the road, and even following speed limits. And yes, cyclists can be ticketed by traffic enforcement if they are spotted disobeying a traffic law.
- Sidewalk Safety – California does not specify the legality of riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, leaving the decision up to local governments. Some jurisdictions allow for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk while others outlaw it, so you may want to check before doing so. Regardless, studies show that riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is much more likely to lead to a collision than riding on the road.
- Crosswalk Safety – California also does not specify whether or not riding a bicycle in a crosswalk is prohibited. Similarly, it is safer to walk a bicycle through a crosswalk than to ride through it.
- Ride with Traffic – Cyclists should never ride against the flow of traffic. Not only is it illegal, but it is incredibly dangerous. A 1994 study concluded that riding against traffic increased accident risk by 360 percent and riding against traffic on a sidewalk increased accident risk by 430 percent. Riding against traffic also increases the risk of a more serious collision.
- Assume You Are Invisible – Many drivers may not be actively looking out for bicycles on the road. For cyclists, it is just safer to assume that no driver can see you and behave accordingly. Avoid putting yourself in a situation that could become dangerous if a vehicle were to make a common maneuver, such as a turn or lane change.
- Stay Out of Blind Spots – In an extension of the above tip, when you are biking in a driver’s blind spot you actually are invisible.
- Do Not Bypass Stopped Vehicles – Attempting to pass vehicles queued at a stop sign or stop light is dangerous, as it typically involves biking in blind spots. Vehicles will not have a chance to react to your presence.
- Be Wary Biking Near Parked Vehicles – Drivers who have parked their vehicles and are attempting to exit may not be looking for cyclists and could open their doors directly into your path.