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A new Maryland legislation that would impose stiffer fines and penalties on negligent drivers in bicycle accidents has once again highlighted the importance of bicycle safety.
The recently-passed statute would impose a fine of up to $5,000 and three years in jail. Prior to this new legislation, drivers only faced a fine of up to $300 and some points on their license.
Around 20 other states have already adopted similar punishments and fees as the new Maryland legislation.
However, legislation or not, bicyclists should try to take some simple safety tips to heart. When sharing the road, it is all too easy for accidents to occur, even if both the bicyclist and the driver are being cautious.
Tip #1: Some jurisdictions actually allow bicyclists to cycle on sidewalks. Of course, you should check your city's ordinances first to be absolutely sure. Cycling on the sidewalk can help you avoid any unnecessary run-ins with unruly drivers, though it also creates the possibility that you might hit pedestrians, so continue to take extra care.
Tip #2: Be informed about dangerous intersections. Some streets are just more dangerous than others due to general traffic conditions, or due to blind spots. Ask friends who cycle regularly, or do an internet search. San Francisco has a Bike Accident Tracker that gives information on collisions and where they often take place.
Tip #3: Wear the appropriate gear. Helmets won't necessary prevent fatal accidents, but they can offer some element of protection. Wearing bright colors at night can help distinguish you against the darkness. Invest in a headlight or some other light to attach on your bike so that cars can actually see you.
Tip #4: Keep track of where your bike is - and where cars are. All too often, drivers may be looking one way to look out for car traffic, but then pull out and hit a bike. Some simple tips about what to do in various situations and different intersections can help save you from injury. Such as, did you know that a common bike accident occurs when a driver opens their door - and the bicyclist runs into it? Being aware of your surroundings can definitely go a long way.
While this is in no ways a complete list of bicycle safety tips, it's a start to help you get biking in the right direction.