Bicycling is an age-old American pastime as well as an important mode of transportation. Bicycling is also a recreational and fitness activity enjoyed by children, adults, and seniors—with about 85 million adults and children riding their bikes every year. For some Americans, bicycling is a healthy, clean, economical, and fun transportation alternative. Bicycling enhances your physical health, mental outlook and overall quality of life.
Since bicycles share the road with motorists and other users of the road system, bikers face a number of hazards. In order to ensure your safety as a bicyclist, please review and practice the safety tips outlined on this website. They might just save your life!
General Bicycle Safety Tips
- Wear a helmet
All bicyclists should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride. A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash. When worn correctly, a bicycle helmet can reduce your chances of head injury in an accident. Only use an ANSI / Snell approved helmet designed specifically for bicycling. Once a helmet has sustained any impact it should be replaced. Helmets should also be replaced if they are five years old or older or are left in a hot car. Worn correctly, a helmet should be set just above your eyebrows and is snug on your head so that it stays in place if you shake your head. If your helmet is loose or tilted back exposing your forehead it cannot adequately protect your head. Visit www.nhtsa.gov for more info on how to properly fit your bicycle helmet.
- Obey the Rules of the Road
Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including obeying traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. Visit our Bike-Ped Laws page for more info.
- Ride with traffic
Always ride on the right side of the road. Do not pass motorists on the right side. If you approach an intersection with a right turning lane and intend to continue straight, do not enter the right turn lane. Ride with the through traffic. When riding with others, ride single file.
- Regularly inspect and maintain your bicycle
Bicycles like any machine need to be cared for to perform correctly. Be safe and keep your bike tuned up or take it to a bicycle shop for inspection regularly (a professional inspection is recommended every six months). Perform the ABC (Air, Brakes, and Chain) check each time you ride your bike. Make sure your tires are properly inflated, your brakes are working properly, and your chain and gears are functioning.
- Be visible
When riding at dawn, dusk, or night, remember to wear bright reflective clothing in order to make yourself as visible as possible. While most bicycles are equipped with reflectors, they are not sufficient and rely on the lights of other vehicles to work. Always ride with head and tail lights visible from at least 500 feet away.
- Be predictable
Always ride straight and be predictable. Do not weave from side to side, or suddenly move out into traffic. Be alert and plan ahead to avoid obstacles. If the road is narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel side by side, the bicyclist should occupy the lane until it is safe to move back to the right. Always check over your shoulder before changing your lane position. Never weave between parked cars.
- Watch for potential road hazards
Scan the road 50 to 100 feet ahead at all times for road hazards like drain grates, pot holes, railroad tracks (cross them at right angles), puddles (which may be hiding a pothole), or road debris. Slow down and allow time to maneuver around these hazards and negotiate with traffic. Give yourself three or four feet of room when passing a parked car on the road. Their doors can open suddenly and cause you to crash. Be alert and attentive and avoid parked cars if possible.
- Properly secure loads
Never hang bags or packages on your handlebars or hold them in your arms. Secure loads on a rack, in bike bags, or on a bicycle trailer. For light loads, use a backpack.
- Signal all turns and stops
As a vehicle driver you must always signal your intent to turn and stop using the hand signals. Look before you make a lane change or turn. Before you maneuver, look behind for traffic, signal your turn and change lane position when clear to do so. Then, when it is safe, execute your turn and proceed to bike in a predictable manner.
- Be prepared for conditions
Always carry water and appropriate clothing when traveling by bicycle. In the rain, allow yourself extra stopping distance when you use your brakes.
For More Information
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education
Trained instructors are available to come to your class to teach bicycle and pedestrian safety to your grade 3-8 classes. Presentations include:
- An in-depth presentation on bike safety that fits within your regular class period
- An overview of how to be a safe pedestrian
- Handouts for all students and their parents
- A program that adds value to Walk and Bike to School events
For more information, visit the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s web site. To sign-up for a presentation for your school visit www.maine.gov/mdot/bikeped/saferoutes/training/