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Bicycle commuters can cut their collision risk with these tips

If you don't have to use the heavily traveled freeways to commute to your job, it may be possible to bike your way to work. You can get physical exercise and reduce your carbon footprint simultaneously.

However, safety is key when riding a bicycle amid traffic.

The first order of business is to make sure that your bike is properly fitted for commuting. You'll need to install a rear rack to hold a backpack, briefcase or extra clothing. Along with that, make sure that you have a small toolkit to fix a tire or adjust a chain during your commute. The bike will also need a rear reflector and headlight in the front.

Below are some bicycle safety guidelines that all riders should follow.

-- Always wear a well-fitting bike helmet.

-- Ride with the traffic flow on the right-hand side until you need to make a left turn, pass or dodge road hazards.

-- Obey all traffic signs and signals.

-- Make sure that if you are biking after dark, you are wearing light-colored reflective clothing.

-- Be aware of parked cars and occupants who can pop a door open in your path.

-- If your commute crosses railroad tracks, cross them at right angles.

-- Use hand signals appropriately to signal lane changes and turns.

-- Walk bikes through crosswalks.

-- Keep your bike well maintained.

-- Remember that pedestrians have the right of way.

The single most important thing to remember may be that even if a bicyclist has the right of way over a car, pressing the point can leave you fatally injured or maimed. If you tangle with a vehicle, the driver may be liable for your injuries and medical bills. Filing a claim with that person's insurance carrier may be necessary. It may also be wise to seek legal guidance.

Source: California Department of Transportation, "Bicycle Commuting & Safety," accessed Sep. 11, 201

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