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Brights or Lights: Which is Safer When Cycling in Austin?

Austin is the perfect place to ride a bike. The city features plenty of interesting places to explore and an infrastructure that generally supports cyclists.

Numerous bike paths can be found throughout Austin. You can even bring your bike onto local buses. It is no wonder that many people enjoy cycling here and that many cycling groups have sprouted up in recent years in and around the city.

Unfortunately, more cyclists on our streets can lead to more biking accidents.

While cyclists cannot control what motorists do, they can take steps on their own to make their selves safer. One way to do that: Having the right gear.

Visibility is important. You want car and other vehicle drivers to easily see you. However, debate surrounds the best approach to visibility. Should you wear bright clothing? Or should you equip your bike with high-powered lights and reflectors?

To help you to make the right choice, we have assembled some basic information, including the pros and cons of each approach to visibility.

How Common Are Bike Accidents in Austin?

First, let's take a closer look at bicycle accidents in Austin.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 900 cyclists are killed each year in the U.S. in bicycle-car collisions. Nearly 500,000 cyclists suffer serious injuries in these crashes, including:

Mapping from the Social Computing Group indicates that more than 1,400 reported bike crashes occurred in Austin between 2009 and 2014. The majority of those crashes involved collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles.

How Can You Keep Yourself Safe While Biking in Austin?

Bikes offer little in the way of protection for a rider when an accident with another vehicle occurs. While wearing a cycling helmet is an important part of preventing head, brain and neck injuries, the best way to keep yourself safe is by taking the necessary steps to avoid these types of accidents in the first place.

As a cyclist, you have to practice general bicycle safety in Austin and when you are riding in the surrounding areas. Bike Austinprovides the following tips to increase your safety:

  • If you are a beginning cyclist, start slow with short trips around your neighborhood or park before venturing into unfamiliar, more highly trafficked roads.
  • Be aware of the bicycle laws in Austin and follow them at all times.
  • Make sure your bike is properly maintained before each ride.
  • Make sure to bring the proper equipment in case of an emergency, including a portable pump in case of a flat.
  • Bring a water bottle to prevent dehydration.
  • Take a bicycling safety class if you intend to take long trips or drive through heavy traffic conditions.

You also have to keep in mind that motorists can easily overlook you when traveling on congested roads or through busy intersections. Your visibility is important any time of day or night.

Should Austin Cyclists Wear Bright, High-Visibility Clothing?

According to Competitive Cycling, choosing the right clothing for cycling can play a key role in increasing your safety.

While reflective tape and bicycle lights may be good at night, they do not do much to protect you during the daylight hours, and they can actually cause glare that could contribute to the likelihood of an accident, the website states.

Competitive Cycling says that you can announce your presence to other drivers on the road 24 hours a day by wearing bright, neon colors and fluorescent fabrics that can catch a driver's attention.

You should incorporate bright colors into your overall outfit such as choosing a neon green bicycle helmet or a pair of fluorescent orange shoe covers.

Along with wearing bright colors, you can practice "defensive cycling" behavior such as making eye contact with drivers, signaling before turns and avoiding distractions by refraining from use of ear buds and or cell phones.

Should Cyclists in Austin Use Reflectors and Lighting Gear?

While Competitive Cycling advises against counting on reflectors and bike lights alone to increase your visibility, the lighting you that you actually use can go a long way to protect you against dangerous and potentially fatal bike accidents in Austin at night.

In addition to reflector lights, you should choose either a flashing or solid beam headlight mounted both on the front and back of your bicycle.

However, use caution in selecting the number of lumens. While having a bright light is essential to you and your bike's visibility, you need to avoid going too far and actually blinding approaching drivers.

According to Next City, while it may seem like a good idea to get head and tail lights that are as bright as cars' headlights, it is important to remember that a car's headlights are focused and pointed down towards the road to avoid blinding other drivers. These same types of lights on bicycles are likely to flash directly into an oncoming driver's eyes and may inadvertently draw drivers to you.

You should note that drivers with night blindness - a vision impairment that makes it hard for the sufferer to transition smoothly between light and dark areas - can be susceptible to headlight glare. In the seconds it takes for their vision to adjust, a bike accidents could occur.

Get Help from an Experienced Austin Bicycle Accident Lawyer

Even the most careful and competent cyclists can find themselves suffering serious injuries as the result of a collision with a careless or reckless driver.

If you have been involved in a serious bike accident in Austin, contact Byrd, Davis, Alden & Henrichson, LLP, for a free consultation. Our experienced personal injury lawyers can provide the legal representation you need, help you to hold negligent drivers accountable and pursue just compensation for your losses.

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