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Bicycle safety rules and tips offered

Updated October 19, 2012

An average of 700 bicyclists are killed in fatal traffic accidents in the United States every year, representing two percent of all fatal traffic collisions nationwide. The Cerritos Sheriff's Station/Community Safety Center offers the following bicycle safety rules and tips for cyclists and motorists.

Bicycle safety
Children under the age of 18 are required by California law to wear a fitted and fastened helmet while riding a bicycle.

While not required, adults should also wear a helmet. In 2009, the average age of bicyclists killed in the United States was 39 and the average age of bicyclists who were injured was 29. A helmet can reduce your risk of injury when riding a bicycle.

Bicycles on the roadway are considered to be vehicles. They are subject to the same rules of the road as cars. Be predictable and act like the driver of a vehicle.

  • Bicyclists must travel in the same direction as traffic, and are required to stop at all posted stop signs and traffic signals. Always ride as close to the right side of the street as possible, but beware of drivers of parked vehicles opening doors or pulling out into traffic. Use hand signals to alert drivers of your intentions. Wearing headphones while operating a bicycle is illegal.
  • Assure that your bicycle is properly sized and functioning. Regularly check the tire air pressure, brakes and bicycle chain.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility to others.

California law requires that bicycles be equipped with a lighting system for riding after dusk. The California Vehicle Code states the following in regard to bicycle lighting:

A bicycle operated during darkness upon a highway, a sidewalk where bicycle operation is not prohibited by the local jurisdiction, or a bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, shall be equipped with all of the following:

  1. A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle.
  2. A red reflector on the rear that shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.
  3. A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe or ankle visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet.
  4. A white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle, and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center (tire or rim) of the bicycle, except that bicycles that are equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear need not be equipped with these side reflectors. Pedestrians have the right of way.
  5. The reflectors and reflectorized tires shall be of a type meeting requirements established by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  6. A lamp or lamp combination, emitting a white light, attached to the operator and visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle, may be used in lieu of the lamp required by paragraph 1.

The Vehicle Code also states the following:

  • No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
  • No person shall operate on the highway a bicycle equipped with handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his hands above the level of his shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.
  • No person shall operate upon a highway a bicycle that is of a size that prevents the operator from safely stopping the bicycle, supporting it in an upright position with at least one foot on the ground, and restarting it in a safe manner.

Tips for motorists

  • Respect bicyclists as legal road users with the same rights and responsibilities as motorists.
  • Always check your blind spots.
  • Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the bicycle in front of or beside you.
  • If you plan to turn right or pull into a parking space shortly ahead of a bicyclist in front of you, wait for the area to clear. Do not pass the bicyclist.
  • Signal all turns and lane changes 100 feet in advance.
  • Pass bicyclists only if it is safe to do so.

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