Man Practicing Bicycle Safety on a City Road

Top 13 Tips For Bicycle Safety in New Hanover County

It’s no secret that bicycling is a dangerous task in parts of New Hanover County — especially on super busy streets like South College Road, Market Street, and Oleander Drive. In fact, Wilmington ranks third in the number of bike accidents as compared to all other North Carolina cities, according to data recorded between 2000 and 2018. 

And as Wilmington and its surrounding towns continue growing and attracting larger populations, the traffic and potential for accidents will only get worse.  

But, this isn’t to say that Wilmington cyclists are sore-out-of-luck. The key to safe bicycling in New Hanover County is to really know the rules of the road.

How to Bike Safely in Wilmington

Every year, the Mulligan Attorney’s team sees far too many bicyclists injured in totally avoidable accidents. Our experience with biker personal injury cases has taught us a thing or two about bicycle safety in the area. 

Here are our top 13 bike safety suggestions: 

    1. Be patient (& cautious) in intersections. Wait with the rest of traffic at red lights and stop signs. Weaving between and creeping up alongside other vehicles only increases your likelihood of getting hurt. Intersections are also some of the most common spots for bike accidents, so be especially conscious of surrounding pedestrians and vehicles. 
    2. Know when to be a pedestrian. To avoid intersection anxiety altogether, pull off to the side of the road, hop off of your bike, and cross the road as a pedestrian.
    3. Stay calm & confident. Too many accidents happen when cyclists are overly anxious or timid. Hold your ground, and don’t get anxious. You cannot be cited for impeding traffic. You have the right to the roadway — the other drivers can wait.
    4. Wear the right gear. Helmets are a crucial protection against major head injuries in the case of a vehicle crash; as are the appropriate white front lights, red back reflectors, and bright reflective clothing for nighttime cycling.
    5. Don’t be a reckless driver. In North Carolina, the law treats bicycles the same way it treats vehicles. Most of the road rules designed to keep motor vehicle drivers and passengers safe are still relevant to cyclists. By disobeying these regulations, you put yourself and others at risk.
    6. Practice defensive bicycling. There’s no doubt about it! Cyclists often face greater dangers on the road than those protected by the outer shell of a car or truck. And unfortunately, drivers or pedestrians don’t always pay close attention to bikers or adequately abide by traffic laws.
    7. Stay to the right. On roadways with multiple lanes, the law requires the slowest-moving vehicles to stay in the furthermost right lane. And let’s be honest. More often than not, you are going to be the slowest driver on the road. Even if no lanes are marked, it’s still your safest bet to stay as far right as possible.
    8. Use the appropriate turn signals. Although this seems like one of the most obvious steps of bicycling safety, it’s one of the most forgotten and disregarded. If your bike doesn’t have electrical or mechanical turn signals, you still need to warn the drivers around you. Use these arm signals at least 100 feet before you turn
      • Turning left: hold up your left hand & arm parallel to the ground, pointing your forefinger
      • Turning right: hold up your right hand and arm parallel to the ground, pointing your forefinger OR hold up your left arm with your forearm & hand pointed upward at a 90 degree angle
      • Stopping: hold up your left arm with your forearm & hand pointed downward at a 90 degree angle
    9. Bring along a cyclist buddy. No part of North Carolina law prohibits cyclists from traveling side-by-side within the same lane. As with any other risky activity, bringing a friend along for support increases your chances of avoiding an accident.
    10. Use bike lanes & shoulders wisely. Although bike lanes and shoulders can provide good, safe options much of the time, be careful! Although they are meant to reduce the risk of larger vehicles running you off the road, they often sustain more damage and have more weak spots than the rest of the road. Plus, many drivers will ignore the lines separating their lane from the shoulder or bike lane.
    11. Avoid distractions. That means no drinking-and-biking (or cycling after while otherwise impaired) and no listening to your favorite tunes through earbuds or headphones while on the road. 
    12. Plan your route ahead of time. The more prepared you are for difficult turns or intersections, the less anxious you will become in the heat of the moment — and the more likely you are to make smart cycling decisions. Here are some of the routes Wilmington area cyclists love
    13. Don’t forget to lock your bike up. Unfortunately, the high population of Wilmington means bike theft is a common occurrence. To ensure nobody takes your ride while you’re not looking, use strong locks, chains, or skewers (ideally more than one) and try putting a piece of electrical or duct tape on your bike seat — with a seemingly damaged seat, your bicycle will be of little worth to the thief if their intention is to sell it.

Still have questions about bicyclist rights and responsibilities? The Mulligan Attorneys team is here to help! Call us at 910-763-1100 or send us a message.

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