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Bicycling Safely in Rhode Island

Higher gas prices. Fresh air on your face. Fears of global warming. Pricey vehicle maintenance. Suspension or revocation of driving privileges. Physical fitness without the need for a gym membership. Congested roadways. Biking to work or for recreation is a great idea for many reasons. However, more people hitting the road on their bicycles brings an increased risk of accidents and injuries. Keeping safety first is the best way to lower your chances of getting hurt while you enjoy the great outdoors.

Rhode Island has laws, including the recently passed "Frank's Law" (inspired by the 2007 death of Frank Cabral and giving police the authority to fine drivers who come too close to bicyclists) to protect bicyclists and grant them the same rights and responsibilities as drivers with a few exceptions. Cyclists are encouraged to ride to the right of their lane, but they cannot be forced to ride on the shoulder of the road (unless on a highway) because of the safety hazards posed by debris, sand, gravel and uneven terrain.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation's "Bike Rhode Island" program offers safety tips and information for those wanting to get out on the road:

  • Be aware of your experience level - if you are just starting out, don't take a 2-hour ride or hitting off-road trails.
  • If you plan on riding to work, do a "dry run" on a weekend to plan a route.
  • Obey all traffic signs, especially stop signs and lights.
  • Wear a helmet and brightly colored clothing - either of these could literally save your life.
  • Do not wear earphones or headsets - not only is it against the law, it could put you in danger.
  • Use hand signals to notify drivers and fellow bikers about upcoming turns and stops.
  • Make eye contact with drivers to increase your chances of being seen.
  • Use a side mirror to monitor traffic behind you.
  • Have working head and taillights; wheel reflectors are also helpful.
  • Watch out for car doors, even in bike lanes - someone opening a door in front of you could cause catastrophic injuries.
  • Bring water, a snack and a cell phone.

By following these rules, staying aware of your surroundings and remaining vigilant when riding alongside passenger or commercial vehicles, you can greatly decrease the chance that you will be involved in an accident while on your bike. Should you be injured while bicycling, though, consult a personal injury attorney in your area to find out more information about your legal rights and options.

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Richard C. Tallo

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Providence, RI 02908

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