EMS Chief Ben Stone On Bicycle Safety

A number of County employees took part in the Bike to Work event held last year. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
In recognition of this year’s National Bike to Work Week, which is May 13-17, here is some information on Bicycle Safety for Los Alamos County.
In 2017, the United States had 783 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes (NHTSA, 2018). Crashes that involve bicyclists are often much more dangerous to the rider versus a motorist. As riders increase use of bicycles it becomes increasingly important to understand how to prevent crashes and protect yourself in the case of a crash.
Protection is imperative to prevent catastrophic injury during a crash. Items like gloves, helmets and eye protection can not only reduce injury but may prevent a fatal accident. Every bicycle ride should begin with these safety measures. Helmets have been proven to significantly reduce the occurrence of fatal head injuries. Often when a crash occurs, the hands and arms are significantly injured by road rash or even fractures, these injuries can be reduced through the use of gloves. Eye protection is important as they are able to prevent debris from the road from getting into a riders’ eyes, ultimately reducing the risk of a crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) published the following statistics.
  • Bicyclist deaths occurred most often between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (75 percent) compared to rural areas (25 percent) in 2017.
  • Bicyclist deaths were 8 times higher for males than females in 2017.
  • Alcohol was involved in 37 percent of all fatal bicyclist crashes in 2017.

In a recent study conducted by the Los Alamos Fire Department the following statistics were found.

The crash data statistics show that a majority of the incidences in Los Alamos were males (77.27 percent) and the average age of the involved citizen was 36. Crashes on the road were the most common, while cyclists error accounted for 63 percent of those incidences. Drivers error accounted for 22.7 percent of bicycle-related crashes, and mechanical malfunctions were the remaining 13 percent. The injuries recorded were mostly minor accounting for 86 percent while the significant injuries were recorded at 13.6 percent. Two total patients were airlifted due to the severity of their injuries. The community has had no bicycle-related fatalities during the time frame studied. (Stone, 2019)
The most frequent crash locations that LAFD EMS has responded to in the last four years are: Diamond Drive, Rover Boulevard, West Jemez and State Road 4, and each of these locations has more than one incident occurring. Diamond Drive is shown to have the most crashes with eight. The data also showed that off-road riding at the county golf course was the most frequent location for bicycle crashes. Many of the crashes at the golf course occurred during the annual mountain bike race within the community. There were no documented incidences during the local triathlon or the 100-mile Tour de Los Alamos race. (Stone, 2019)


Being prepared for your bicycle ride.


The NHTSA makes the following suggestions:
  • Ride a bike that fits you—if it’s too big, it’s harder to control the bike.
  • Ride a bike that works—it really doesn’t matter how well you ride if the brakes don’t work.
  • Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing (during the day), reflective gear, and a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike (at night, or when visibility is poor), gloves and eye protection.
  • Ride one per seat, with both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.
  • Carry all items in a backpack or strapped to the back of the bike.
  • Tuck and tie your shoe laces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain.
  • Plan your route—if driving as a vehicle on the road, choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path. (NHTSA, 2018).

Be focused and alert to the road and all traffic around you; anticipate what others may do, before they do it. This is defensive driving—the quicker you notice a potential conflict, the quicker you can act to avoid a potential crash: (NHTSA, 2018).

  • Drive with the flow, in the same direction as traffic.
  • Obey street signs, signals, and road markings, just like a car.
  • Assume the other person doesn’t see you; look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall like toys, pebbles, potholes, grates, train tracks.
  • No texting, listening to music or using anything that distracts you by taking your eyes and ears or your mind off the road and traffic.
Ride Predictably:
By riding predictably, motorists get a sense of what you intend to do and can react to avoid a crash.
Drive where you are expected to be seen, travel in the same direction as traffic and signal and look over your shoulder before changing lane position or turning.
Avoid or minimize sidewalk riding. Cars don’t expect to see moving traffic on a sidewalk and don’t look for you when backing out of a driveway or turning. Sidewalks sometimes end unexpectedly forcing the bicyclist into a road when a car isn’t expecting to look for a bicyclist. If you must ride on the sidewalk remember to:
  • Watch for pedestrians;
  • Pass pedestrians with care by first announcing “on your left” or “passing on your left” or use a bell;
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic. This way, if the sidewalk ends, you are already riding with the flow of traffic. If crossing a street, motorists will look left, right, left for traffic. When you are to the driver’s left, the driver is more likely to see you;
  • Slow and look for traffic (left-right-left and behind) when crossing a street from a sidewalk; be prepared to stop and follow the pedestrian signals; and
  • Slow down and look for cars backing out of driveways or turning. (NHTSA, 2018).
Drivers: Share the Road

People on bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as people behind the wheel of a vehicle.

  • Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, often at an intersection or driveway.
  • In parking lots, at stop signs, when backing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.
  • Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear. Stop completely and look left-right-left and behind before turning right on red.
  • Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
  • Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle—when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane. (NHTSA, 2018).
Rules of the Road for Riding Safely:
  • Ride in a straight line, single file.
  • Go with the traffic flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as cars.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals.
  • Ride with both hands on the handlebars except when signaling a turn or stop.
  • Stop and look left-right-left for traffic before entering a street.
  • Stay alert – use your eyes to look for things that could make you fall like potholes, cracks, pebbles, or wet leaves.
  • Stay alert – use your ears to listen for traffic. Don’t wear earphones while riding.
  • Watch for parked cars and cars pulling out or into parking spaces or driveways.
  • Check your equipment. Make sure your bike tires are properly inflated and that the brakes work.
  • Don’t forget your bicycle helmet. Wear it flat on your head and buckled! (NHTSA, 2018).
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2018). Bicycle Safety. Referenced from: https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety
Stone, B. (2019). Los Alamos New Mexico bicycle risk reduction. National Fire Academy.