As you’re getting out there getting comfortable with riding to work in preparation for BTWD 2017 on May 11, here’s some smart tips to a safe, enjoyable ride. This article was written by Personal Injury Help, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information.  Ride safely and see you on May 11!

Top 5 Dangerous Situations to Avoid While Cycling

Whether on busy city streets, in suburban neighborhoods, or on backwoods roads, cycling requires careful preparation. Without it, cyclists risk injury from a variety of different obstacles and dangers. While some situations may be difficult to avoid, it is always best to know the red flags before it’s too late.

Before setting out on your next ride, take a look at the top 5 dangerous situations cyclists can encounter, and how you can best avoid them.

1) Intersections

Busy intersections can mean trouble for cyclists. They are designed with cars in mind, leaving cyclists with the problem of crossing huge street ways amidst drivers that might not be keeping an eye out for bicycles. One of the most common crashes that occurs here is the right turn collision — when a car or truck driver fails to notice a cyclist and turns either into or in front of the bicycle. Similar situations can occur when a car on the opposite side of the street makes a wide left turn and fails to notice a cyclist crossing the street.

One of the best ways to avoid these problems is to slow your speed when approaching intersections. Riding slower is always a great rule of thumb for any potentially dangerous situation, particularly high-traffic areas like intersections. Another important thing to be wary of is passing or stalling on the right of vehicles. Whether you’re in a driver’s “blind spot” or not, it is always best to play it safe and stay behind than try to get ahead on the right.

2) Sudden cars and car doors

There are a million ways for cars to seemingly appear out of nowhere while cycling. Maybe you’re traveling down the street when a car suddenly appears from a side street and turns without seeing you. Maybe you’re traveling along a seemingly empty street when a driver in a parked car swings their door open directly in front of you. These unknowns can be especially scary because it seems there’s almost no way to keep them from happening.

However, a common theme with most sudden crashes is that these dangers appear from the right — parked cars, hidden driveways, side streets, parking lots, etc. While most cyclists feel the need to stay securely to the far right of the street in the bike lane, the best way to avoid these situations is to err a bit further to the left. Even if you are further into the center of the car lane, riding to the left gives both you and other drivers more time to react. Wearing bright colors during the day and reflective colors at night are also helpful to keep you as visible as possible. Especially for night riders, it is also vital to invest in a headlight if you don’t have one already.

3) Crosswalks

Without being able to properly see around corners, unprepared travelers are at high risk for collisions in crosswalks. Riding on the sidewalk increases this risk even more, as it further blocks the line of sight of both you and other drivers. In worst case scenarios, if you are riding against the flow of traffic, drivers are even less likely to see you coming.

For starters, it is never advisable to ride against the flow of other cars. Not only does this increase your chance for higher-speed collisions and make you incapable of certain maneuvers (i.e. any right turn), but it is legitimately against the law. While riding on sidewalks isn’t illegal, it is also best to avoid it whenever possible. Studies show that cyclists on sidewalks are more than twice as likely to be involved in a crash.

As for other crosswalk collisions, slowing your speed and keeping your ears out for approaching cars are the best ways to stay safe. If you ride using earphones or headphones, consider keeping the volume very low, leaving an earbud out of one ear, or leaving them home altogether to make sure you are as alert as possible.

4) Weather hazards

Depending on the season and where you live, you may experience a number of different weather conditions while cycling. Winter is the biggest culprit by far, introducing ice and snow that makes it difficult to maneuver even the safest roads. Springtime is also notorious for heavy rains and slick roads that cause cycling crash rates to rise. Even high winds throughout the year can cause problems on otherwise safe routes.

Before heading out for a ride, especially during rainy, windy, or icy days, be sure you’re equipped with the right gear. High-grip tires, non-slip bicycle grips, and proper riding attire are very important to keeping you safe. During your ride, do your best to avoid puddles, snow drifts, or long, smooth roadways with the potential for black ice.

5) Potholes and other obstacles

One of the biggest culprits for cycling crashes and ruined bikes is the pothole. Even small, hard-to-miss holes can cause injury for the most experienced cyclists. Other obstacles like fallen branches or general debris can also cause trouble, especially if dodging them means veering further into traffic.

The best way to avoid these problems is by familiarizing yourself with your traffic laws. Be sure to do so on a clear, normal day to ensure that you can see any potential hazards or changes in the landscape. If encountering an unexpected pothole or other hazard during your ride, try to avoid the problem in a smart way by either gently swerving to a safe space or walking your bicycle around the hazard.

This article was created by Personal Injury Help, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice or opinion, and is intended for informational use only. To find out more about them, you can go to www.personalinjury-law.com or contact them at help@personalinjury-law.org