A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: Social distancing prompts Kentuckians to turn to biking and walking for recreation — be safe

Kentucky’s Healthy at Home initiative has Kentuckians mostly homebound and schools closed through the rest of the school year. But, people are encouraged to engage in exercise outdoors, as long as proper social distancing is practiced.

This new reality finds Kentuckians of all ages dusting off bicycles and lacing up walking shoes to head outside for fresh air and exercise. It is important for all bicyclists and pedestrians to review proper safety tips and take necessary precautions to make these outdoor activities as safe as possible.

According to the Kentucky State Police, there were 342 crashes involving bicyclists in 2018. Nationally, there were 857 bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018, a more than six percent increase from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Spring is here and bicycles are back, more than ever, especially with schools closed and Kentucky residents following Healthy at Home guidelines,” says  Lori Weaver Hawkins, public and government affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass. “Outdoor exercise is encouraged at this time, making bike riding an option for many while practicing proper social distancing.  AAA urges all bicyclists to review Kentucky bike laws and review basic safety tips to avoid injury.”

AAA Bike Safety Reminders

• Always wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet protects against injury in the event of a collision. Eighty-five percent of injuries to children’s heads can be prevented with a properly fitted helmet. 

• Maintain your bike. Before riding, inflate tires properly and check that the brakes work.

• Make yourself visible.  No matter the time of day, make yourself visible to others. Wear neon, fluorescent or other bright colors when riding to be more easily seen. Wear something that reflects light, such as reflective tape or markings, or flashing lights. Remember, just because you can see a driver, doesn’t mean the driver can see you.

• Look for hazards such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, and dogs. All these hazards can cause a crash.

• Obey traffic laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you’re the driver. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.

• Use verbal and non-verbal communication. This includes eye contact with drivers, turn signals, pointing to road hazards for bicyclists behind you, and stating “passing on your left,” or “on your left.” Your bike should be equipped with a bell or horn to alert other cyclists, pedestrians and motorists of your presence.

• Be predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.

• Look before turning. When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic, and then signal before making the turn. Watch for left- or right-turning traffic.
• Children should not ride alone. Children younger than 10 years old are not able to make necessary safely decisions and should ride with an adult. Utilize safer routes, such as sidewalks, when available.

Everyone is a pedestrian at some point. Unfortunately pedestrian fatalities remain high. In 2018, there were 6,283 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes across the country, a three percent increase from the previous year and the most since 1990, according to NHTSA.

According to the Kentucky State Police, 79 pedestrians were killed and 862 were injured in traffic collisions within the Commonwealth in 2018. In addition, there were 10 fatalities due to collisions involving bicycles, with another 244 injured. It is important to understand Kentucky bicycling and pedestrian laws, as well as pedestrian safety tips.

“As more people take to the sidewalks and streets, we are all responsible for making safety a priority,” noted Weaver Hawkins. “Pedestrians and drivers alike should remain alert and be aware of each other’s movements on the roadways.”

AAA Pedestrian Safety Reminders

• Walk on sidewalks whenever possible.

• If no sidewalk is available, you must walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic (Kentucky law).

• Cross at crosswalks.  Keep to the right in the crosswalk.

• Look both ways before crossing the street.

• At signalized intersections, cross only on the proper signal.

• Avoid crossing the street between parked cars.

• Watch for cars. Be sure that the way is clear before you start crossing. Continue looking and checking while crossing.

• Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.

• Motorists must yield to pedestrians crossing the street at marked and unmarked intersections.

• Wear or carry retro-reflective material or carry a flashlight at night to help drivers see you.

• Avoid distractions. Limit phone use, loud music, and other distractions while walking.

AAA offers bicycle roadside assistance as part of its legendary service. Members do not need to do anything — the bicycle coverage is now automatically embedded into each current level of membership.

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