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Safe cycling begins with you

The season for bike-riding in Connecticut is now upon us. Riding a bike is a great way to get exercise, as it strengthens your muscles and improves cardiovascular circulation (among other benefits).

The city of New Haven, like many other locations here in Connecticut and other places in New England, is very friendly to bicycle riders. But they do enforce rules of the road for bicyclists in order to help keep everyone safer. Learning and following these rules can also make your ride more enjoyable.

Bike lane safety tips can help you ride smart

As the weather warms up and you find that you want to get out of the house, you may be eager to get on your bicycle and ride. Before you do, remember that cyclists can be in danger when they're on the roads. Cyclists may want to learn more about the rules of the road and bike lanes before they head out.

Bicycle lanes are helpful lanes where cyclists are expected to ride out of the way of faster-moving traffic. These lanes are totally reserved for cyclists, and they will have markings and arrows to show the direction of travel.

Partnership aims to increase bicyclist safety

Keeping cyclists safe isn't something that can be effectively done if only the bicyclists are trying. A partnership announced by Uber and the League of American Bicyclists is a step in the right direction when it comes to keeping people riding bikes safe.

During the 2020 National Bike Summit, which was held virtually, these two entities noted that the safety partnership is going to work toward keeping everyone on the roads safer. This is an issue that definitely needs to be addressed because of the increase in cycling crash fatalities that's occurred in recent years, namely 2018.

Cyclists like black outfits, but they shouldn't

Take a look at the newest cycling gear for the season, and you'll find that a lot of it is black. Even when you do have bright, colorful options for shirts, jackets, shorts and pants, you also have black options in many cases -- and those are the only ones that a lot of cyclists choose.

Here's the problem: Black blends into the road. It's far harder for drivers to see, especially when they're not really looking for cyclists to begin with. They'll notice bright colors that stand out in their peripheral vision. They often won't see dark colors like black and gray until they're right next to the bike.

Cyclists must follow traffic laws

When you ask drivers about the animosity that often exists between them and cyclists, one thing they may note is that cyclists break traffic laws "all the time." There is this perception among drivers -- often unfounded -- that cyclists do whatever they want and do not care about traffic laws, and drivers use this to excuse their bias against cyclists.

For instance, one of the most common things they'll complain about is cyclists running red lights. They feel like they have to stop and wait at a red in their car, even if no one is coming on the cross street, while cyclists will just look both ways and then ride through the red light as if it does not apply to them.

A fat bike could help you in the snow

It's winter, but you don't want to stop riding your bike. It's how you get exercise, how you get to work and how you do everything -- shopping, going to the bar, visiting your friends. You know you can bundle up just like you do for winter hiking and you'll be fine.

But will your bike? Your big concern is that you will lose control when the snow and ice coat the roads. You don't want to slide through a stop sign or spin out on a turn and skid into traffic.

Motorists see cyclists as pedestrians. They're not. 

One reason for the conflicts between cyclists and motorists is a simple misunderstanding of what cyclists really are. Cyclists, of course, think of themselves as drivers. They get to share the road with other vehicles because they too are using a vehicle. Yes, it's smaller than a compact car and takes body power instead of gasoline, but it's still a vehicle.

Motorists, on the other hand, think of cyclists as pedestrians. They mentally group them in with people walking or running on the sidewalk. Since the cyclist is physically visible in a way that a driver is not, this fit feels natural. That's why you get drivers who say things like "bicycles do not belong on the road."

Mistakes by surgeons happen more often than you might think

People generally have a deep respect for medical professionals. After all, physicians attend almost a decade of higher education to earn their title and the potential ability to legally practice medicine. Surgeons, more so than general practice physicians, tend to command respect by people who cannot imagine operating on another human.

While physicians and surgeons certainly deserve respect for their education and the service they provide, you can never forget that surgeons are fallible humans who can make dire mistakes. Surgical mistakes are frighteningly common, despite the fact that most of them are preventable with proper procedures in the operating room.

Bicyclists have rights under Connecticut laws

Bicycling on city streets is necessary for some people, however, it isn't always a safe prospect. Many drivers assume that they have full rights to the road without the cyclists having any. Those motorists might do things that place the people on bicycles in a dangerous position. The fact is that Connecticut law provides equal road use rights to bicyclists and motorists.

One thing that cyclists and drivers have to remember is that they all have to follow applicable laws. When anyone violates these, bicyclists may face a crash that leads to injuries or death.

What can we do to make cycling safer?

Making the roads safe for cyclists is everyone's job. It's important to carefully consider the number of serious injuries and fatalities springing from cycling accidents every year. Most of these events could easily be avoided. People do not have to suffer from life-changing injuries or lose a loved one. And yet it continues to happen.

Rather than accepting that accidents are inevitable, what can we do to reduce the odds of a crash? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

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