Category: Guest Articles

Editor’s note: the following is a guest article submitted by our contacts at UK’s Claims4Negligence. Some good information on basic safety tips for new commuters:

Bike Safety

There are so many advantages to riding a bicycle on the road that it can be easy to overlook the risks entirely. Cycling is good for the environment, it keeps the individuals concerned fit and healthy and, in these difficult economic times it is less expensive than most other forms of transport. The downside, however, is that there’s no getting away from the fact that riding a bicycle on the roads can be extremely dangerous. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of taking a bike out onto the road is the fact that your safety isn’t entirely in your own hands. No matter how diligent and careful you are, accidents can still happen, and the statistics show that the vast majority of injuries suffered by cyclists come about as the result of negligence on the part of other road users. For finding out more about how much compensation could be received for injuries on the body visit Claims4Negligence. Its best, of course, if you can avoid being hurt in this manner altogether, especially since cyclists involved in accidents are far more likely than drivers to suffer more serious injuries, but it should be remembered that if you are hurt in this manner you always have the option of claiming compensation; not to cash in, not as a punishment, but as a means of helping you get back on your feet (and on two wheels) as quickly as possible.

Although most accidents tend to be caused by the drivers of cars, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing the average cyclist can do to protect themselves. The right clothing, the right equipment and correct cycling tactics can all add up to a safer road experience by lowering the chances of accidents happening in the first place, and then, if the worst should befall you, minimizing the negative effects and the extent of any injuries caused.

Despite the dangers inherent in riding a bicycle, the vast majority of people cycling round the roads of the UK have probably never had a single cycling lesson in their life. People tend to just get on the bike and learn as they go along. Imagine, however, the chaos that would ensue if drivers adopted the same lassez faire attitude. There are basic rules of the road, and of riding a bicycle, which should be drilled into novice cyclists of any age, and there are courses available throughout the UK which can lay down this foundation of knowledge and create the good habits which will stand a cyclist in good stead throughout their life.

Over and above any formal training, however, there are certain tips and tricks which any cyclist can usefully adopt, of which the following are probably the simplest and most effective:

–Make sure you maintain eye contact with other road users, establishing it as clearly as possible. Put simply, if a driver looks you in the eye, then you can be one hundred per cent certain that he’s seen you, and visibility is a massive part of cycling safety.

–Bearing the above in mind you should go to the greatest possible lengths to maximize your visibility, at all times of the day and night. This means utilizing the likes of fluorescent clothing and lights, both on your bike and your person.

–Ensure that you take up your rightful position on the road. When trying to stay safe, the temptation may be to stay as close to the gutter, and thus the pavement, as possible. This tactic renders you less noticeable to other road users, however, as well as leaving you with little room to manoeuvre in the event of an emergency and leaving you more vulnerable to riding over debris. Try to think of yourself as taking up the amount of room a car would take up in the same circumstances, as this will lead other cars to treat you with much more respect.

–There’s no getting away from the fact that some cyclists give the rest a bad name by flouting things such as red lights and stop signs and skipping on and off the pavement. This is dangerous for both the cyclist concerned and all the others out on the road, since it helps to inculcate the notion that cyclists are reckless and basically ‘asking for trouble’.

–Use hand signals clearly and emphatically so that other road users are in no doubt as to what your next move is going to be.

–Of all the safety gear you can buy, a helmet is, without a doubt, the most important; even a fairly trivial fall can become very serious indeed if it involves your head coming into contact with a hard concrete surface. A helmet should fit well but not too tightly, with the pads in contact with the head at all points and it should be stored safely and inspected for signs of wear or damage on a regular basis.

It’s impossible, of course, to completely eliminate the risk from cycling on the road, but taking the steps listed above will help to keep you safer than you would otherwise be. Always remember that your ultimate safety doesn’t depend on how careful you’re going to be, but, sadly, how careless somebody else might end up being.

Editor’s note: Here’s the latest from Andrew “Doc” Li — you may remember him from his excellent DIY repair stand tutorial a couple weeks ago. Today, Andrew will give us some smart and practical advice on trek planning. Read on:

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“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Confucius

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Arthur Ashe

Being successful in whatever you do relies on a certain amount of thorough preparation and foresight. On the flip side is that we can always build on our mistakes and failures. And if Confucius and Ashe, among millions of others, arrived at the same belief, then certainly we can learn and apply this concept to many, if not, all aspects of our lives.

One such aspect is making a successful trip by bicycle between 2 points. Regardless of whether these two points span the distance between 2 continents or 2 city blocks, the right preparation is always needed. Never underestimate a journey, or reason that a shorter trip deserves less preparatory attention than a longer trip. I have been burned my fair share of times thinking this way.

I recall one particular autumn afternoon in Southern California when I decided to go for a ride purely for leisure. My plan was to bike 5 miles in one direction and back, in total a short 10 mile ride. It was a gorgeous day, so I went longer than planned and ended up exploring a park nearby. My 10 mile ride turned into 30 miles. When I decided to turn around, the sun was already setting and some ominous clouds had set in. Unfortunately, I did not confirm the sunset time that day nor verify the weather forecast.

So I set forth towards home (at that point about 14 miles away), and not more than 2 minutes into my ride large droplets of rain started pelting me. I pedaled harder, but eventually felt that I was going much slower. I looked down and as luck would have it I had acquired a flat. At that point, I was about 10 miles from home. It was now pouring and quite dark outside. I was wet, had no tire pump, repair kit, rain gear, or lights. I did not have a cell phone at that time either. Moreover, my bike route was not meant for pedestrians, and I did not bring any navigation to find an alternative route. The area was new to me, so I couldn’t “improvise” a new route. I ended up walking home, at night, with no lights, in the rain, constantly watching for fast traffic, while dragging my injured steed.

torrey_pines

Over the years, I have learned my lessons, and I have developed a list of things that I feel are essential for a safe and successful journey. In order to remember this list, I have developed my ABCs of trek preparation. They go like this:

A: Alimentation: food, water etc.
B: Bearing: map, GPS, compass etc.
C: Climate: rain gear, fenders, sun glasses, extra layers etc.
D: Defense: Lock, lights
E: Emergency: phone, contacts who know where you are heading, basic repair gear.

Alimentation: I hydrate before the trip and bring 500cc to 1000cc of water, and for me this is enough for trips less than 20 miles. Also, I can often refill water at my destination (my work place). You may have to adjust this volume based on your own distances, climate, etc. If I do bring food, it is usually for breakfast after my morning commute. I eat plenty of carbs the night before and ride on an empty stomach in the AM (personal preference).

Bearing: Before my smart phone, I would carry a small map cutout encompassing an area with the radius of my commuting distance (e.g. a 10 mile commute from A to B would require a map of a 10 mile radius area with point B at the center). A compass has also been very handy for me.

Climate: I wear layers, and wicking fabrics are exceptionally useful in cold, hot, and rainy weather. Wear stuff that you can easily take off and put back on to achieve that happy medium between hot and cold. Temperature regulation is not just for comfort; it is vital for performance efficiency. Excessive sweating depletes the body of fluids and also contributes to excessive heat loss. For summers in Southern California and other areas with similar climate, if you plan on biking into the night, bring another layer; you will be surprised how chilly it can get with a 20+ mph wind whipping past your body on a cool evening.

Defense: Defend your bike against theft with a lock, and defend yourself against motorists, other cyclists, pedestrians, dooring by keeping VISIBLE with a set of bike lights. I ALWAYS keep bike lights with me in my pack (can be recharged with a USB port). Night time riding is a topic unto itself, and this will be addressed in a later article.

lightbike

Emergency: Bring a form of mobile communication. If this is not possible, bring change for a payphone and let people know of your trip, where you are heading, and about what time you will be back. Bring basic repair gear (I take a patch kit, pump, and leatherman). For me, this gear is for “damage control”, that is, a temporizing measure that will allow you to get back home or to a destination that will have more resources for you or a mechanic to make a definitive repair.

This is by no means a definitive list, but one that has served me well over the years. As of late, I have developed a shorter, perhaps more basic list:

Lights, lock, liquids, lost, limp. Don’t forget your lights, lock, liquids. Make sure you have a way to prevent getting lost. And if you end up limping (either yourself or your bike), have some strategy for a quick repair of the bike or getting yourself to the right care.

Take from it what you will, add to it, and improve it based on your own cycling habits. Peace out everyone. Do good and ride well.

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We’re lucky to have Andrew writing periodic articles for us…and if you’d like to submit an article for possible publishing, drop us a line at info[at]bikecommuters[dot]com.

Here’s one from our friends at Express Solicitors, a UK-based law firm. It’s geared toward someone “on the fence” about starting to bike commute:

Getting to and from work is always a topic is in the news. Not only are there various options, there’s also debates over which is the best way to do it. While the majority of people will probably stick with their cars and swear blind that they’re superior, the cycling scene is actually gaining continuous popularity. According to Express Solicitors’ new infographic, since 2003 over three quarters of a million more people in the UK have decide to get out their bikes and cycle their way to work. That is a dramatic and impressive increase in people altering their normal routine for an apparently faster, healthier and cheaper way to work.

Cyclists vs. Motorists: The Wheel Truth - Express Solicitors

Although the health benefits are widely known by many, there are numerous other reasons for people to opt for a bike instead of their car. For example, the costs of travelling using this mode of transport are a lot cheaper in comparison. Not only do you save on the cost of the commute, but you also save on the cost of owning and using your car in general – you could roughly save up to $1350 (£900) per year. Moreover, if you decided to get rid of the car completely and just rely on your bike, you could save a further $8950 (£6,000) per year! In such times of financial struggle, those numbers really can’t be easily ignored.

The infographic also makes a point of reinforcing just how helpful cycling to work is in regards to the environment and your carbon footprint. The example used to really set it into perspective is a daily bike ride: a daily ride that adds up to over 12 miles worth of travel could save nearly “one stone” of pollution. This is a very surprising amount when you consider just how much green topics are discussed and addressed on a daily basis. Moreover, there is arguably no doubt that knowing you’re helping look after the planet is a wonderful feeling every time you travel to and from work.

There are so many more benefits if you choose a bike over your car for work, so why not take a look at the infographic for even more powerful and surprising percentages to help give you that added boost for dusting off your bicycle.

Tools like this may just help undecided would-be commuters to give that bicycle a try. What do you think?

Editor’s note: the following piece was written by Jay Paul, founder of the cyclist-oriented insurance firm Balance for Cyclists. Balance for Cyclists is one of our advertising partners. Don’t let that scare you off; there’s a lot of good step-by-step instruction within in the event you or someone you know is involved in a bicycle crash.

Bicycling is usually a very safe activity. However, as cyclists we are all keenly aware that an accident can happen at almost any time. Most cycling accidents result in injuries like road rash, a bloody chin or a minor laceration. The more serious accidents require immediate medical attention and perhaps a hospital stay.

So what is a cyclist to do if they are involved in an accident or with a fellow rider who happens to become a victim of inertia and gravity?

The internet is full of law firms soliciting advice on what to do if you are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. Most end with a polite solicitation for the injured cyclist to call them for legal advice. Now I certainly don’t fault a personal injury attorney for making a living and cyclists need to know their rights after a serious accident. However, it is estimated that less than 30% of serious cycling accidents involve a motor vehicle. The rest are either rider error, equipment failure or the result of some other road hazard.

Riders need to be aware of what to do regardless of the cause of the accident. Below are some thoughts.

1. Take all necessary steps to protect and stabilize the injured cyclist. Make certain that the injured person is not in additional harms’ way. If the accident involves a head or neck injury do not move the rider but do place barriers up the road or trail that will slow traffic.
2. Call emergency personnel. Both the Police and EMT if necessary.
3. Even if the injury is minor, consider getting medical attention. All too often immediately after an accident the injured cyclist is in shock and not aware of the extent of their injuries. Too many injured riders just want to get back on their bike and start peddling as if nothing has happened.
4. Make certain that if police are involved that they take the statement not just from the motorist but from the cyclist as well.
5. If a vehicle is involved obtain driver information from the motorist. This includes: name, address & contact information of driver, make, model & serial number of car, determine the vehicle owner, insurance information of vehicle.
6. Regardless of whether a vehicle is involved get statements from any witnesses that happened to see the accident. (More on this later)
7. Get photographs of the accident scene and preserve evidence. Many if not most of us carry cell phones with cameras while riding. Get a lot of pictures from different angles. Take note of weather and road conditions.
8. If a vehicle is involved, never negotiate with the driver.
9. Certain accidents that don’t involve a motor vehicle could still be compensable. Equipment failure, errant pedestrians or road hazards are such examples. Make certain if at all possible to get photographs of the site where the accident occurred and of the bike itself. (This is also where a witness statement could prove beneficial.)
10. Here is the plug for personal injury attorneys. Never attempt to negotiate with the “at fault parties” insurance company. Get a good attorney to represent your interests. Most major cities have at least one attorney who has created a cyclist specialty practice. They are usually cyclists themselves. Many of these same firms have apps online that you can download to your phone that outline what to do in the event of an accident.

One last bit of advice. Consider getting First Aid certified and, if a mountain biker, consider getting certified in Wilderness First Aid. Having the confidence to make a quick decision immediately after an accident could save a friend’s life. These classes can help give you that confidence.

Finally, follow the rules of the road and be aware of your surroundings. That means take out one of your earbuds!

At Interbike 2012, we met up with Jay Paul of Balance Insurance. He told us about his company and what he does. But that was a few months ago and I didn’t take notes. So I’ve asked him to provide our readers a brief explanation of what Balance Insurance does.

balance insuranceAs cyclists we all know that at some time we might come off our bikes and hit the ground hard. Most cycling accidents are relatively minor. Some will require medical attention. And then there are those life altering accidents that can cause hospitalization, permanent injury or death. For those latter injuries we created Balance For Cyclists. Balance For Cyclists pays large lump sum cash benefits over and above other insurance to cyclists who are injured in serious cycling accidents. Limits are available between $50,000 and $250,000 and all benefits are paid directly to the insured or their family.

Balance For Cyclists is supplemental accident insurance designed by cyclists specifically for cyclists. It is now available in 26 states and should be in 45 states within three months. Coverage is placed through The Zurich American Insurance Company.

“As an active cyclist for many years, I have a number of friends who have been critically injured as a result of cycling accidents”, says Jay Paul, creator of Balance For Cyclists, “Even though they all had good health insurance, there were many uninsured costs associated with their recovery. In some cases the family’s life savings were wiped out by these unexpected and uninsured medical expenses. This at a time when financial distress should be the last thing on a families mind. With the help of The Zurich Insurance Company we were able to create an inexpensive coverage that helps protect cyclists from financial hardship.”

Balance For Cyclists is the first insurance product to ever insure against an injury resulting in Severe Traumatic Brain Injury, a devastating injury that happens to cyclists in large numbers.

To learn more about Balance For Cyclists and purchase coverage, visit there website at www.balanceins.com.

I’m looking forward to the day when he’s approved to sell policies in California because I’ll be his first customer! Thanks Jay for taking the time to share about your company.