In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) recorded 698 bicyclist deaths, which accounted for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities. In addition, 44,000 cyclists were injured in crashes that year. The NHTSA also estimated that, although head injuries are the largest culprit of bicycle-related fatalities, only 20 to 25 percent of cyclists wore bicycle helmets in 2006.
Rules of the Road
One key component to bike safety is following the rules of the road when riding a bike. In part, that means riding with, not against, traffic. As BicycleSafe.com points out, cars are not expecting traffic coming from the wrong way.
You should also avoid riding on the sidewalk. A study by Alan Wachtel and Diana Lewiston cited by Bicycling Life states: "Sidewalk bicyclists are more likely than roadway bicyclists to be obscured at intersections by parked cars, buildings, fences, and shrubbery; their stopping distance is much greater than a pedestrian's, and they have less maneuverability."
Finally, bicyclists should always follow the law in terms of traffic lights and stop signs.
Bike helmets are essential for bicycle safety. The Bike Helmet Safety Institute advocates a well-fitting helmet that meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission's bicycle helmet standard. It also recommends a smooth design and no more vents than necessary on the helmet.
In addition to the helmet, bicycle gloves protect the hands in the event of a fall. Reflective clothing or bright colors can also increase your visibility when riding.
Accessories that can be mounted to a bike can also increase safety. A light for riding during the night is essential. Rear and front reflectors, as well as reflectors on wheel spokes, will also help motorists see you.
One of the most important aspects of bike safety is the attitude and the behavior of the cyclist. Riding a bicycle can be dangerous, and it's up to the cyclist to be vigilant while riding. In addition, never antagonize a motorist. You will lose. A former emergency room doctor who was recently convicted for purposefully causing a collision between him and cyclists after they had exchanged words with him shows how dangerous confrontations can be.
Safety while mountain biking
Mountain biking requires some of the same safety precautions as road biking, including wearing a helmet and bike gloves. Downhill mountain biking may require additional protection on the arms, legs and chest because large drop offs can lead to greater chance of injury.
Mountain biking also requires that you pay close attention to surroundings. Blind corners on the trail are a recipe for collisions with hikers or other mountain bikers. You can often hear them before you see them, so wearing ear phones while mountain biking should be out of the question.
If you happen upon natural obstacles such as rocks, roots, or dropoffs that are above your skill level, there's no shame in dismounting and walking through.