According to the California Department of Health Services, 57 bicyclists in Stanislaus County were hospitalized because of injuries in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
As the weather changes and gas prices rise, more bicyclists are going to be using Modesto's roadways. This is a perfect time for a quick reminder of some laws and safety tips for bicyclists and motorists.
The best way to minimize serious injuries while riding a bicycle is to wear a properly fitted and secured helmet. California law requires all riders under 18 to wear a helmet. For the rest of us, it's just a smart, safe thing to do.
In California, bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as motorists. Doing so is one of the best ways a bicyclist can avoid a collision.
This means bicyclists must:
Ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic
Stop at stop signs
Stay off sidewalks. In fact, it's against the law to ride on the sidewalk in a business district such as downtown Modesto or along McHenry Avenue.
A bicycle is smaller than a car, which makes it more difficult for motorists to see. Ride your bicycle defensively, and assume no one can see you. Many of Modesto's roadways have designated bicycle lanes, and it's good to use them when available.
If you ride your bicycle at night, make sure to have:
A white light attached to the front of the bicycle
A red light or reflector attached to the rear
Consider wearing reflective or brightly colored clothing which will make you more visible to motorists.
There are a few things for motorists to remember as more bicycles are out on the streets. First and foremost, drivers should slow down and pay attention. Cell phones, eating, and reading maps or books are common distractions for drivers. Putting on makeup and fixing hair is best done at home rather than behind the wheel.
People forget, or don't realize, that their car is like a two-ton bullet traveling down the road, and a few seconds of inattention can mean disaster. It's also good to maintain proper distance from the vehicle in front of you and to maintain proper position in your lane of travel.
Following these simple suggestions can help prevent you from becoming another statistic. Have a great summer and be safe!
Letsinger is an officer in the Modesto Police Department's traffic unit.