With students back in school for nearly a month now, there is more foot traffic and bicycle traffic on local streets and highways, especially during weekday mornings and afternoons.
While walking or riding one’s bicycle is a source of enjoyment for many of us — not to mention a tradition for many schoolchildren — it is not without risks.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 7,388 pedestrians were killed in 2021 — an average of one every 71 minutes — and more than 60,000 were injured that year. Also, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports for 2021, 961 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles.
Those numbers are sobering, to say the least. So what can pedestrians and bicyclists — and drivers — do to ensure those on foot or on a bicycle stay safe?
First of all, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection whenever possible. Also, heed crossing signals at stoplights — cross the street only when the signal says to do so. And drivers, yield to those pedestrians as they cross.
Second, always walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available, but if one isn’t available, walk on the shoulder of the street or road and facing traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles.
Third, when walking at night or during twilight, carry a flashlight and wear reflective, fluorescent and/or bright clothing to be visible to drivers. The same goes for bicyclists. From sundown to sunrise, being visible is not just courteous to those behind the wheel — it can save your life. Many of us have come too close for comfort to a pedestrian or a bicyclist who was hard to see because they were wearing dark clothing or not wearing reflective or bright clothing.
Fourth, make sure your bicycle is visible at night. In addition to having reflectors, it is also not a bad idea to have active lighting on a bicycle, such as front white lights, rear red lights or other lighting on the bicycle or even the bicyclist. At night, it’s all about being visible.
Finally, when riding a bicycle, wear a helmet. According to a study by Drs. Robert S. Thompson and Frederick P. Rivara, and Diane C. Thompson, bicycle helmets reduced the risk of head and brain injuries by 66 to 88%. New York City statistics stated that 74% of fatal bicycle crashes involved a head injury and that almost all — 97% — of bicyclists who died in accidents were not wearing a helmet.
Many of us enjoy heading out for a leisurely walk or bicycle ride, or we have children who walk or ride their bikes to school. But when walking or riding a bicycle, make sure to stay safe.
Mike Buhler is a staff writer for the Daily American Republic. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.