Bike Smart

by Dave on April 13, 2009

From the Office of Highway Safety:

Sadly, Delaware has just experienced its first fatal crash of 2009 involving a bicyclist. With the weather warming up, many more people who use bikes either for recreation or a primary method of transportation will be on area roads. The Office of Highway Safety is providing the following tips so that riders can Bike Smart and motorists can be sure to Share the Road with their two wheeled counterparts.

Motorists have a responsibility to share the road with bicyclists. Bicycles are considered a human-powered vehicle, but a vehicle nonetheless. So cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic.

Both warm weather and higher gas prices often result in an increase in bicycle traffic and drivers can expect to see more bikes out from now through October. Bikes are permitted to be operated on certain roadways but because they are often slower than other vehicles, cyclists are encouraged to use sidewalks when they’re available. If not, bicycle operators should ride as close to the right edge of the roadway as possible. Drivers can help minimize the risk of a crash by actively scanning the shoulders for bicyclists.

While bicyclists killed in traffic crashes are more often in their late 40’s or older, the age group that is most often injured in bicycle crashes are the 10 – 14 year olds. Neighborhoods can be danger spots for bicycle crashes involving young children who are more vulnerable to injuries and may not be paying as much attention as they should. So drivers are asked to slow down and be more vigilant in neighborhoods and residential areas where shoulders and sidewalks may either be limited or not available at all.

Bicyclists can help minimize the risk to their own safety by following all State laws and wearing the appropriate safety gear. Delaware’s bicycle helmet law was upgraded in 2008. Now helmets must be worn by anyone operating or riding as a passenger on a bike up to age 18. Previously, helmet use was mandatory for anyone up to age 16. Failure to wear a helmet will result in a $25.00 fine to the minor’s parent. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, bicycle helmets are 85 – 88% effective in mitigating brain injuries though only about 20 – 25% of all cyclists wear them. Although Delaware law only covers helmet use up to age 18, bicyclists of all ages are encouraged to wear them.

In 2008 6 bicyclists were killed in Delaware traffic crashes. The most common factors contributing to fatal crashes involving bicyclists are cyclists who are not visible when riding at night, who are riding under the influence of alcohol, and who turn into the path of a vehicle. State Police crash reports indicate that the bicyclist killed in the April 3rd crash did have functioning front and rear lights.

Below are additional safety tips and information on bicycle laws for cyclists of all ages:

  • It is illegal to have more than one passenger on a single seat bicycle unless it is a young child in a second seat or attached by a sling or backpack device to the parent
  • Bicyclists must signal their intention to turn, slow or stop
  • All bicycles must have lamps on the front and red reflective lights in the back for riding at night
  • It is illegal to ride under the influence of alcohol
  • Bicyclists may not wear earplugs or headsets covering both ears

Delawareans interested in cycling can register for the 2009 Delaware Bicycle Summit, which will be held on April 24, 2009 at Del Tech Terry Campus in Dover. The Summit will bring together bicycle advocates, advocates for healthy communities, and others to network and to plan a healthier, bikeable future for Delaware. For more information or to register for the Summit, visit www.bike.deldot.gov. Registration is free.

{ 1 comment }

Merritt Burke April 20, 2009 at 8:01 am

Under 18 must wear a helmet according to Delaware law.

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