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EDITORIAL: Bicyclists, car drivers can steer to safety
[August 14, 2009]

EDITORIAL: Bicyclists, car drivers can steer to safety

Aug 14, 2009 (The Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- It's only pure luck and some fancy defensive driving skills that have kept La Grande from not having a serious bike-car crash lately.

Most car drivers and bicyclists know and follow the rules of the road. But there are always exceptions, Darwin Award winners waiting to happen. Car drivers using hand-held cell phones can be severely distracted from their duties, and many bicyclists are seen riding on sidewalks or on the wrong side of the road.

A good place to start would be for all bicycle riders, whether adults or children, to wear helmets. Adults need to be good role models for children. Since 1994, Oregon has required bicyclists younger than 16 to wear helmets. Adults should follow suit. Helmets don't prevent crashes. But they do add a measure of safety and safety consciousness to riding.

Real bicycle safety, though, is about defensive riding. It's about riding as if you are invisible. It's about stopping at stop signs, and riding on the right side of the road. Still, watch out for parked cars, and drivers getting out of them, which can lead to a bad accident.

Real bicycle safety is about not riding in low light or at night unless one has a quality lighting system. Helmet lights are a good idea, because then the bicyclist can look right at a driver. A flashing red light on the rear of the bicycle is equally important. Just a little money and a few minutes can be used to outfit a bike to make it much more safe.

Some other tips for bicyclists follow. Make sure you're visible to drivers pulling out from parking lots or driveways. Bicyclists can also get a loud horn, and slow down when they are in obvious danger zones. And remember, sidewalk riding is at least twice as dangerous as riding on the road. Always ride with traffic, in the same direction. Riding against traffic, one study found, is at least three times as dangerous as riding with traffic.

Bicyclists should be aware of motorists' blind spots and stay out of them. This is especially true at red lights and stop signs. The driver may turn right, and run right over a bicyclist if the bicyclist isn't riding defensively.

Handlebar and helmet mirrors are important to help bicyclists prevent crashes and injuries. Bicyclists should also make a point of wearing something bright, whether they are riding in low light or in the middle of the day.

Also, bicyclists shouldn't pass on the right, as the vehicle may end up turning right into them. Bicyclists shouldn't move to the left without looking over their shoulder or in their mirrors. The car coming from behind can rear-end them and cause serious injury or death.

Bicyclists and car drivers should stay safety conscious at all times and share the road.

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