California Bicyclists Guide – Tips To Help You Stay Safe [2021 Edition]

Stay Safe While Bicycling in California

Cycling becomes more and more popular every year. Here in California, with our pleasant temperatures all year long, biking is an excellent way to get around town and get some exercise. It is better for both your wallet and the environment. Unfortunately, as the number of bicycle riders increases, so does the number of bicycle accidents.

The California Department of Public Health reports that bicycle injury rates increased 21 percent between 2007 and 2013. It is essential for riders to know how to be safe before, during, and after their rides. Get in the habit of bicycle safety to reduce your risk of injury. 

If you are injured in a bicycle accident, it is essential to consult with a bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible. You have the legal right to be compensated for injuries caused by a negligent driver. Arash Law is a record-breaking bicycle accident law firm. Our experienced bike accident attorneys know how to prove the fair value of all the losses you suffer.

We fight hard for California bicycle accident victims, and we can help protect your rights. Call (888) 488-1391 to schedule a free consultation.

What You Need to Know About Bicycle Safety

In this guide, we will discuss bike safety rules and bicycle safety tips. By preparing for a safe ride every time, you can significantly reduce your risk of being injured on the road. 

Step 1: A Safe Bike

Safe bike riding starts with reliable equipment. Follow these steps to ensure your bike is ready for a safe ride: 

Choose the appropriate sizeAn improperly-sized bike can be more challenging to maneuver and control. This makes the rider more prone to accidents. Cycling Today recommends the following measurements to size a bike properly: 

  • The top tube (“crossover”) of a bike should be 2.5 to 5 centimeters higher than your inseam. This is known as the bike’s “standover height.”
  • The top tube also determines the length of the bike. This is measured by the length of the top tube from where it meets the handlebar struts in front to where it meets the seat tube in the back. This length is compared to your torso and arm measurements. Cycling Today recommends adding your own torso and arm measurements, dividing by two, and subtracting 15 centimeters (or 6 inches).  

Of course, comfort is one of the primary considerations, and this can’t be calculated with a simple measurement. It is essential to go to the bike shop and test the feel of a bike. The bike store employees should be able to further advise you about the fit and style that are best suited to you.  

Check your bike before every rideThis can be a difficult habit to get in to, but it’s essential to do so that you stay as safe as possible. Most riders want to hop on their bikes and hit the open road, but a quick safety check can help keep you safe during your ride. Pay special attention to your tires, and be sure they are adequately inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. Be careful not to over inflate the tires, as this could cause a blowout. (Tire pressure increases on hot days, so remember that your tires will expand when the weather is warm.) Replace tires that have lost traction, have worn treads, or have collected debris. 

Check lights and bellsYour lights and bells are often the only way a driver can see or hear you on the road. You must check this critical safety equipment before every ride so that it does not fail you at a dangerous moment. It’s especially important to do so when riding at night, in the rain, during foggy weather, and other low light conditions. 

Inspect your brakesYour brakes are often the only tool you have to prevent severe collisions. Be sure to check them before every ride. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations to change your brake lines and pads as needed. If you aren’t sure whether your brakes are safe, get a consultation at your local bike repair shop. Intervene sooner rather than later – you never want to be stuck with faulty brakes in a dangerous traffic situation. 

Step 2: The Right Gear

Once you have the right bike, it’s time to get the proper gear. The right equipment can help to avoid accidents and serious injuries.

Always wear a helmet! Wearing a helmet is the most critical thing you can do to both prevent injuries and reduce the severity of any injuries you sustain in a bicycle accident. A study published in the Accident Analysis and Prevention (a peer-reviewed scientific research journal) found that helmet usage reduces head injury by 48 percent. (This increases to 60 percent for serious head injuries.) Helmet use was also found to reduce the number of cyclists who were killed or seriously injured by 34 percent. There is simply no denying the evidence: helmets save lives. They can reduce the severity of devastating head injuries (including those that cause paralysis, loss of cognitive abilities, and other permanent disabilities). Be sure to get a helmet that is correctly fitted to your head size. If your helmet is involved in a crash or otherwise damaged, it is time to get a new one. 

Wear light-colored reflective clothingLight-colored clothing helps ensure that drivers can see you on the road. It also helps you from becoming overheated, which is easy to do while biking in the direct sunlight of a warm California day. In addition to wearing light colors, you can also use reflective tape and Velcro. Add these to your helmet and bike pedals. Reflectors are an effective way to get drivers’ attention by changing the light pattern. 

Protect yourself from the sunIt is easy to get overheated and sunburned during the intense cardiovascular exercise of a bike ride. Be sure to take plenty of water with you on every trip you take. Wear sunscreen and reapply as necessary. A hat and sunglasses can also help protect you from the sun (especially if they are rated to block ultraviolet light). 

Step 3: Plan Your Route Carefully

It is essential to plan a safe route before you hit the road. Follow our tips for creating a route with the least chance of accidents and injuries.

Map it out and avoid distractions Distractions are dangerous for both drivers and bicyclists. Whether you are on a bike or behind the wheel of a car, distractions prevent you from seeing the road ahead and avoiding collisions.

This is why it is crucial to plan your route before you begin a ride. You don’t want to be distracted by your cell phone, GPS, or navigation program while you are on the road. You also don’t want to be distracted by trying to navigate unfamiliar areas.

Study your route ahead of time so you can stay alert at all times during your ride. 

Choose the times wiselyCalifornia is notorious for its heavy traffic. Especially in large cities, it can be challenging to get anywhere between 6 and 9 a.m. or between 3 and 7 p.m. It is especially important for cyclists to avoid heavy traffic. Traffic makes it more difficult for drivers to see your bike and anticipate your movements. It also makes them more impatient. Impatient drivers tend to make unsafe maneuvers, and this can be deadly for bicyclists who have the misfortune of being nearby. Avoid riding during rush hour when possible. If you cannot avoid these times, be sure to use designated bike paths or side roads that are quieter, and have less traffic than the main roads.

Avoid busy intersectionsCollisions at intersections are known to have higher accident rates than other parts of the road. In fact, in  2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 36 percent of all reported accidents occurred at intersections. There are many reasons for this. Ultimately, an intersection is a confluence of many different paths of traffic, and drivers are not always prepared to respond to all these changes at once.

Bicyclists are safer when they avoid busy intersections. Plan your route to find quieter side roads with less traffic. Of course, it is not possible to avoid all intersections, but quieter intersections with less traffic carry a lower risk of accidents. When you do come to an intersection at your ride, be especially cautious. Take out earbuds and pay careful attention in all directions. Be prepared to stop suddenly. Never assume that a driver will yield the right-of-way (even if it belongs to you). Make eye contact with drivers to be sure they see you before you begin crossing the road. 

Step 4: Practice Good Biking Habits

Now that you have the right bike, safety gear, and route, it is time to hit the road! Follow our bike riding safety tips to protect yourself while on the road. Defensive riding can drastically reduce your chance of accident and injury. 

Don’t text and rideTexting and riding can be just as dangerous as texting and driving. Bicyclists are among the most vulnerable road users: they have little to no protection from the force of impact during a collision. Because of this, bicycle riders must remain highly alert at all times. Texting requires both mental concentration and physical control of the phone. These tasks can be deadly to a rider who isn’t watching the road.

Ditch the headphones Headphones and earbuds can also prevent a rider from observing danger in the road ahead. In fact, the California Vehicle Code actually prohibits riders from wearing earphones in both ears while riding. But even one earbud can make it more difficult to hear oncoming traffic, emergency vehicle sirens, and other important alerts. Paying attention to the road doesn’t just mean watching. Be sure to listen for any oncoming traffic, obstacles, or other potential dangers. 

Don’t be a distracted rider Like distracted drivers, distracted riders can cause injury to themselves and others. If you are distracted, you cannot prepare for the road ahead. You cannot avoid collisions when you are distracted – in fact, you might even cause them. If you are found to be entirely at fault for the crash, the driver involved has no legal obligation to compensate you at all. This is why it’s vital for bicyclists to avoid causing accidents. 

Control your speedIt is easy to lose control of your bike when riding downhill. But even if you are not accelerating quickly, it is still important to control your speed. You need to be able to stop suddenly and avoid obstacles. You need to be able to maneuver around traffic and get out of dangerous situations quickly. This is especially important when riding in heavy traffic. Control your speed and stay alert so you will not be vulnerable to collisions. 

Ride defensively As we have noted, bikers are some of the most vulnerable road users in California. You will have almost no protection from the full force of impact if you are involved in a collision. Often, a helmet is the only thing between your body and the other car (or the road, or a tree, or other objects that can cause serious injuries). This is why it is so important for bicyclists to ride defensively. Be highly aware of your surroundings at all times. Locate obstacles as soon as possible, and have an exit strategy to avoid the danger. Never assume that a driver will give you the right-of-way, even when you know it is yours. These precautions can drastically reduce your odds of being involved in a collision while riding. 

Step 5: Prepare for an Emergency

It is important to be prepared for emergencies. You cannot anticipate every contingency, but by taking some basic precautions, you will be better prepared for common occurrences.

Always charge your phoneYour cell phone is one of the most important things you will need in an emergency. Be sure it is fully charged before leaving the house, and be careful not to wear the battery down with music or other apps. (Small solar chargers are a great way to charge your phone on the go.) Plan your bike route in areas with good cell coverage. 

Carry cash and IDYou never know when you might need ID. You also want to be prepared for emergency purchases, like extra water or bandages. What if you need to inflate your tires? A small amount of cash can help get you out of these binds. 

Take plenty of waterBikers in California need plenty of water. Our warm, sunny weather can dehydrate you very quickly – especially when you are doing intense cardiovascular exercise, like uphill biking. If you start to feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Prepare by drinking water throughout your ride. A water backpack (like the popular Camelback) is an excellent way to have access to water without taking your hands off your bike. 

Common Types of California Bicycle Accident Injuries

There are many injuries you could sustain in a collision. Here are some of the most common injuries our bicycle lawyers see in bike accident cases: 

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)Brain injuries can be the most serious of all bicycle injuries. A brain injury can affect every other part of your body. Even basic life functions like breathing and sleeping are controlled by the brain.

This is why it is so important to see a doctor immediately after hitting your head. The sooner you receive medical treatment, the better options your medical team will have for treating your injuries. Even a minor head injury can cause blurred vision or more devastating damage if it is not treated properly. 

The American Journal of Surgery reports that riders wearing helmets were 51 percent less likely to suffer a serious TBI and 44 percent less likely to die. Research has found this fact again and again – helmets save lives.

They can also reduce the severity of a brain injury, which can dramatically affect your prognosis. Your quality of life can be changed by the fact that you were wearing a helmet during a bike accident


The American Association of Neurological Surgeons also ranked twenty recreational activities based on the number of TBIs that were seen in United States emergency rooms in 2009. Bicycling was the most common activity that caused traumatic brain injuries. The next most common sport, football, only caused about half as many TBIs and bicycling did in the same year.  

Traumatic brain injuries can permanently change the course of your life. You might be left unable to return to work or make any kind of living at all. You might experience problems with memory or cognition. You might not recognize your own family members and friends. You could be permanently disabled with exorbitant medical costs that accrue for the rest of your life. When a negligent driver causes these losses, he or she has a legal obligation to compensate you for them. In the case of a TBI, this compensation can be significant. This is why it is so important to have an experienced California bicycle accident attorney protecting your legal rights as soon as an accident occurs.

Broken BonesWhen most people think of broken bones, they imagine a simple cast that can be removed after a few weeks. The reality is that broken bones can be far more complicated than that. Some small breaks cannot be cast at all. Instead, the victim must painfully allow the bones to heal on their own. In other cases, the bones do not regrow properly, and the victim is left with reduced functionality or ongoing pain. Some broken bones can cause internal injuries (such as damage to the blood vessels or nerves). You are entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, and this compensation must adequately reflect whatever your medical condition is. If your condition is complicated and requires ongoing care, you might suffer more, and be entitled to more compensation. 

Internal InjuriesInternal bleeding can quickly become a life-threatening condition. It can be caused by sharp fragments of broken bone piercing your blood vessels. It could also be caused by injuries to your organs. These are some of the most serious injuries a person can suffer. They can’t be seen, the symptoms can be subtle, and they can endanger your life in a matter of minutes. This is why it is so important to see a doctor right away after an accident. Even if you do not think you have been injured, you could have internal injuries that are not immediately apparent. These injuries can only be diagnosed and treated by qualified medical professionals. Protect your health and your legal right to compensation by seeing a doctor right away. 

Soft Tissue InjuriesInsurance companies are notorious for their treatment of soft tissue injuries. These injuries to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other non-bony structures are hard to see. Because of this, insurance companies tend to assign them a low value and make unfair settlement offers to victims who have suffered “only” soft tissue injuries.

The reality is that soft tissue injuries are often the most painful type of injuries a bike accident victim can sustain. These are the injuries that tend to linger. They wake you up in the night with pain and prevent you from picking up your children. Some of the most personal losses you will suffer can be related to your soft tissue injuries. Don’t let the insurance company tell you these injuries aren’t worth much.

The Right Injury Lawyers for California Bicycle Accidents

A bike accident is a terrifying experience. You shouldn’t have to fight the insurance company while you are trying to recover from your injuries. Call the experienced bike injury lawyers at Arash Law. We have helped injury victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks and throughout California.

We have over decades of experience, and our personal injury lawyers have collected over 200 million dollars for our clients. Let our bike accident lawyers protect your legal rights so you can focus on making the best recovery possible.

Call (888) 488-1391 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced California bicycle injury lawyer. 

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DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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