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Bicycle Safety

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

Share the Road Campaign

Since 1992, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BCM) has been advocating for bicycling safety, education, and access. Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Share the Road Campaign aims to educate both bicyclists and motorists about safe, responsible use of the road system. Over the years, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has succeeded in getting five pages added to the Maine Motorist Handbook, a bicycle safety question on the Maine Driver Exam, training Driver Education Instructors about how to teach new drivers about sharing the road. The primary communication objectives of the Share the Road campaign are to:

  • Raise awareness among motorists to be on the lookout for bicyclists and how best to interact with them.
  • Educate motorists about bicyclists’ rights to use the road.
  • Educate motorists about their responsibilities under Maine law, such as giving bicyclists three feet of clearance and waiting to pass the cyclist when safe to do so.
  • Educate bicyclists about safe bike driving procedures and their responsibilities under Maine law, such as riding with traffic, staying off sidewalks, signaling turns, obeying traffic signals and using lights at night.
  • Make biking safer, thus encouraging more people to feel comfortable driving their bikes.

Be sure to check out this great safety video from the NHTSA.

BCM has a wealth of safety information on their Share the Road website, including video and radio ads, brochures, and even a place to order Share the Road bumper stickers.

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/