By the time he arrives home from work, Brad Woodruff has already had his daily workout and a shower.
“Some days all in one if it’s raining,” Woodruff said.
Most people commute a half hour to work every day. Woodruff, a database administrator for Adventist Risk Management Inc., bicycles to the office. That’s what he was doing last spring when it happened.
Woodruff was cycling down the road when he approached a roundabout. Traffic was unusually heavy, and there was no bike lane, so he moved to the sidewalk. Unfortunately, the sidewalk did not offer as much traction as the road. Woodruff’s tire hit a splay of gravel, and the bike slid. Woodruff went over the handlebars and plowed his left shoulder into the concrete drain gutter.
“I didn’t slide,” Woodruff said. “I hit and stopped.”
That hit and stop instantly dislocated and fractured his shoulder.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2012, more than 700 pedal cyclists were killed, and almost 50 thousand injuries resulted from motor vehicle traffic crashes.
The danger is real. Whether your bicycle is your daily transportation, or you share the road with cyclists while commuting to work, review these tips for bicycle and traffic safety provided by the NHTSA.
5 Bicycle Safety Tips if You Ride
1. Put It On – Always wear a properly fitted helmet that meets Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. The NHTSA reports, “Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent and the odds of a head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent.”
2. Wear Something Flashy – Wear bright colors and reflective materials. Install lights on the front and rear of your bicycle for riding after dark. Consider purchasing a reflective vest to make any outfit highly visible. Do what it takes to make it as easy as possible for motorists to see you. The most frequent cause of cyclist injury is being hit by a vehicle, according to a 2012 National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors.
3. Maintain Your Bicycle and Nobody Gets Hurt – Check all your equipment and parts regularly and before each ride for proper fit and function, including tires, brakes, handlebars, and seats. Many cycling accidents take place on National Bike-To-Work Day, during National Bike Month in May. Woodruff emphasized that this event invites many people who may be inexperienced, out of shape, or don’t maintain their bicycle to go riding all at the same time.
4. Ride with Traffic –Always travel in the same direction as traffic. Obey traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. Signal all turns and follow local laws. Different states have separate traffic laws for cyclists.
Learn more about the bicycle laws in your state.
Be predictable by riding in a straight line, use hand signals when changing lanes or turning, and always look before you change lanes or turn. The most common reason for vehicle/cyclist accidents recorded by the police is “failure to look properly by either the driver or rider,” reports the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
5. Be Alert, Stay Alive – Be focused and alert when riding your bicycle. Look ahead for traffic and obstacles, don't use electronic devices and never ride impaired by alcohol or drugs. The RoSPA reports that about 16 percent of fatal or serious cyclist accidents are caused by the rider losing control of their bicycle.
7 Bicycle Safety Tips if You DriveCyclists are legally allowed to ride on any road that is not a freeway. Tragically, RoSPA reports 75 percent of cycling accidents happen at or near a road junction. As the operator of a vehicle, know the bicycle laws in your state and observe these seven safety tips to ensure everyone arrives home safely:
- Respect designated bicycle lanes.
- Allow at least three feet clearance when passing a bicyclist on the road.
- Look for cyclists before opening a car door, pulling out from a parking space or backing out of your driveway onto the street.
- Yield to cyclists at intersections and as directed by signs and signals.
- Look for cyclists when making turns, either left or right.
- Never drive distracted or impaired.
- Be extra cautious for cyclists during the early morning and twilight hours when the rising or setting sun can make visibility very difficult.
Brad Woodruff experienced a posterior shoulder dislocation and fracture. Following the accident, he was misdiagnosed and sent home. He eventually saw a shoulder specialist 24-hours after the accident. Following a hospitalization, Woodruff wore a brace for more than a month and had eight weeks of physical therapy. Today, he is almost back to normal. But Woodruff considers himself the exception to the rule.
“I’m in the one percent,” Woodruff said. “Posterior dislocations are two to four percent of all dislocations and four to five percent of all fractures. During doctor visits, I saw other patients who couldn’t move their arm.”
Woodruff emphasizes the importance of cyclists taking steps to protect themselves and drivers following bicycle laws.
“A cyclist always loses in any accident. There is no airbag between me and you. If I go through a green light and you run the red, I still lose.”
Whether you are riding to work, sharing the road with cyclists, or cycling for pleasure, follow bicycle safety tips and ride smart.