Stay safe on your bike this spring

Spring is in the air, and that means bicyclists will soon be out in full force on California's roads and scenic highways. Whether you are a newly minted cycling enthusiast or have spent many seasons in the saddle, there is no time like the present to review some important safety tips and perhaps learn a new one or two.

Ride in the direction of traffic

Pedestrians are often advised to walk against the flow of traffic when they must walk in the street, but the same principle does not apply to bicycles. When on your bike, riding in the direction of traffic is not only safer, it's required by California law.

Watch for slippery surfaces

Patches of water, sand or gravel can spell disaster if you hit them unexpectedly, so be on the lookout for these low-traction areas. Other surfaces that can be surprisingly slippery on a bike, particularly when wet, include metal plates or grates, painted road markings and leaves or other plant matter. Oil slicks are similarly hazardous and can be hard to spot, especially after they have dried out. Watch for tell-tale rainbow patterns of fresh oil slicks and the subtler, darker streaks of older spills to keep your bike upright.

Beware of potholes and metal grates

Potholes and sewer grates can send you flying head over wheels if they appear without warning. Be on the lookout for potholes and do your best to steer around them when it is safe to do so. Keep an eye out not only for potholes, but also for the bits of broken pavement that are often scattered in and around them. Sewer grates can be similarly problematic, especially when they have bars running parallel to the street, since there is a risk that your wheel may slip through and become stuck.

Keep your head up

While riding a bike, it can be easy to get lost in thought or become fixated on the road just in front of your wheel - especially with so many obstacles to watch out for. However, while it is wise to keep an eye out for potholes, debris and other hazards on the road, it is also important that you stay alert and engaged with your environment. Make it a point to keep your head up and look ahead and around you to avoid missing any oncoming vehicles or other hazards that may jeopardize your safety.

Beware of cars - even parked ones

Cars and other motor vehicles present an obvious threat to bicyclists while they are moving, particularly at intersections, but they can also be dangerous when parked. Although drivers have a responsibility to check for bikers before opening a door or pulling out of a parking space, they do not always do so. Therefore, to minimize the risk of a bike crash, it is in your best interest to protect to anticipate the movements of parked cars and give them a wide berth when you can. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition recommends riding at least three feet from parked cars.

Protect your rights after a crash

If you are seriously hurt in a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle, you may be able to recover monetary compensation for your medical bills, lost income and other expenses relating to your injuries. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Dixon & Daley, LLP for personalized advice about your legal rights and options, and the steps you can take to protect them.