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Bicycle Traffic Safety

Traffic Light

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "In 2004, 725 pedalcyclists were killed and an additional 41,000 were injured in traffic crashes. Pedalcyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities, and pedalcyclists made up 1 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year. “

Although this number of pedalcyclists collisions seems high, ”The number of Pedalcyclist fatalities in 2004 was 10 percent lower than the 802 fatalities reported in 1994.”

The City of Chico Traffic Engineering Department is focused on continuing the trend of cyclist safety improvement. Efforts to educate bicyclists in “rules of the road” are continual. Conversely, as a motorists we must respect the rights of other road users including bicyclists.

Analyses of bicycling accidents and of cyclist fatalities demonstrate that cyclists are most safe when they operate their bicycles similar to motor vehicles. Bicycle traffic laws are almost the same as those for motor vehicles. Therefore, all state laws either define bicycles as vehicles or give cyclists the rights and responsibilities of vehicle operators. Please follow these simple rules of the road when riding and driving:


Ride predictably. Motorists can not react in a safe manor to unfamiliar situations including cyclist maneuvers. Always ride where drivers expect you to ride.

Scan ahead and anticipate. Be proactive about looking for potholes, vehicles parked and waiting to proceed, or sight distance obstacles. Always ride defensively.

Abide by the California Vehicle Codes. Never ride opposite to traffic. Never ride on a sidewalk. Always know how the California Vehicle Codes apply to cycling.

Don't stop in the blind spot. Simply stop BEHIND a car, instead of to the right of it. This makes you very visible to traffic on all sides. It's impossible for the car behind you to avoid seeing you when you're in front of it.

Never, ever move left without looking behind you first. Some motorists like to pass cyclists within mere inches, so moving even a tiny bit to the left unexpectedly could put you in the path of a car. Before riding on streets, practice holding a straight line while looking over your shoulder until you can do it perfectly. Most cyclists tend to move left when they look behind them, which of course can be hazardous.


Reduce your speed. When passing bicyclists, especially if the roadway is narrow, reduce speed and know your patience acknowledges respect for cyclists.

When a road is too narrow for cars and bikes to ride safely side by side, bicycles should "take the travel lane," which means riding in or near the center of the lane.

Do NOT pass bicyclists if oncoming traffic is near. Wait as you would with any slow-moving vehicle. Your patience will only take a few seconds and can help prevent a serious crash or worse.

Children on bicycles are often unpredictable--expect the unexpected from young riders.

Before opening your car door, look for bicyclists that may be approaching.

Do not pass bicyclists if you will be making a right turn immediately afterward. Always assume bicyclists are traveling through unless they signal otherwise.

Give at least three feet of passing space between the right side of your vehicle and a bicyclist just as you would with a slow-moving motor vehicle.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Biking Resources, Safety and Security, 2006, www.sfbike.org

Bicyclesafe.com, 2006, http://bicyclesafe.com/#reprinta