Texas has long been a fiercely independent state. They do things their way, and that often involves big trucks, BBQ, and cowboy hats. There’s also a new element, though, that has crept in over the past couple of decades.
Some younger individuals with a more politically liberal ideology have made Texas their home. For instance, these Millennials and Gen Z members might head to Austin, a bastion of art and music. The Texans you meet there are more likely to ride a bicycle than to cruise around in a pickup truck.
Cycling is great exercise anywhere you choose to do it, but if you live in Texas and this is the transportation method you prefer, there are a few things you should understand and acknowledge for your safety.
Traffic Changes During the Pandemic
The first thing worth mentioning is that we’re still in a pandemic, even though vaccines are out now and many adults have gotten them. The pandemic has brought about changes in traffic patterns over the past year, and bikers should always think about that sort of thing.
Generally, traffic across the nation has decreased, not just in Texas. The NHTSA says that in the past year, traffic has dropped off by 41%. That’s good news for cyclists since fewer cars on the road mean there’s less of a chance of a careless driver hitting a biker.
However, there’s another change that should get your attention as a cyclist in Texas, and it’s this. During that same time, the NHTSA says that average driver speeds have increased dramatically. They say that the average speed is actually up by 250% during the pandemic.
That might mean you can encounter a driver going much faster than they should be, regardless of whether you’re in a residential area or not. Frankly, as a cyclist, this is a terrifying statistic, and it’s one to which you should pay attention if you don’t worry much about coexisting with traffic.
Drag Racing and Other Dangerous Behavior
The police also report that drag racing and other risky or reckless driving behavior have gone up during the past year. If you wanted to speculate about why that is, it could simply be because some people were out of work and bored, and they wanted something to do with themselves.
Again, as a cyclist living in Texas, it’s frightening to think about a drag racer careening out of control and taking you out while you’re innocently riding past. It’s just one more thing to think about if you’re going to go out on a bike ride on the weekend or in the evening when the temperature drops somewhat.
How Can You Stay Safe Biking in Texas?
If you do ride your bike in the state of Texas, there’s one thing you should keep in mind. The state is by no means a monolith regarding how and where people live. For instance, you might have a big city like Houston or Dallas, and living and biking there can be completely different from what it’s like if you live in a small, rural community like Victoria.
If you bike in a big Texas city, you need to make sure you stay away from the larger public thoroughfares. You should familiarize yourself with what’s around you, and keep to the side streets with less traffic as much as you can.
Also, you need to never bike alongside the highways. If that’s the only way you can get to your destination, you need to look for other methods besides biking. You might want to get some exercise, but biking along a highway is tantamount to suicide when you realize how fast some of these vehicles are going.
What Else Can You Do to Stay Safe?
Texas residents who want to bike frequently should also always wear their helmets. If a car hits you, you’re much more likely to survive if you have a helmet on. If you shoot over the handlebars, you might risk some road rash, but the helmet can at least protect your head.
That way, you’re not as likely to sustain a concussion or a TBI. You might also consider some additional padding. Elbow and knee pads can keep you from hurting yourself if a car hits you as well.
You can even feel safer wearing protective gear if no car collides with you. It’s easy enough to wreck your bike by hitting a rough gravel patch if there are no vehicles around.
Be Selective About When You Ride
You can also choose to only ride your bike at certain times of the day. You might bike around your neighborhood in the early morning, for instance. That way, it should not be quite as hot, and there will be fewer cars around that could hit you.
You can also bike in the evenings since there are fewer cars around then as well. Remember, though, if you live in a big city like Houston, many neighborhoods remain active far into the night, so you will never be entirely out of the danger that cars can pose toward you.
If you want to ride all the time, that’s commendable. Maybe you want to ride every day to get to school or work. If you do so, though, you make it more likely that a car will hit you. If you ride every day and care little about traffic patterns, that’s a risk you might regret taking if a vehicle collides with you.
In short, biking in Texas can be a fun hobby to have, and it can save you money as well if you’d rather have a bike than a car. That way, you don’t have to pay for car insurance, gas money, and maintenance.
You need to respect cars and be aware of them, though. If you choose to ignore them or don’t treat them as seriously as they deserve, you might sustain a severe injury that can change your life forever.