Reno is still pretty dangerous and challenging for bicyclists. This is largely due to the need for a better route of paths, better marked paths and a need for a better continuation of the paths network. Does this mean that Reno is an unsafe place for bicyclists to ride overall? Not necessarily, but there are certain precautions that every bicyclist should take, aside from simply wearing helmets while riding.
According to Reno Personal Injury Blog Staff Writer, George Goodwin, being aware and giving signs to let the drivers know that you are there is a first big step. Being alert, careful and polite also helps the bicyclist avoid potential problems. Some drivers are really good and some are great about riding in the middle of their driving lane, but that is not the case with all Reno-area drivers. You may also find that crossing at an intersection is safer than trying to cross while on the road because it gives drivers a greater area of clearance to drive by. It's better in any case to be safe than sorry.
As far as safety precautions you should take while on your bike, having two lights, a front and a rear, is a good start. Anything you can do to make yourself more visible, especially at night and in the cold winter months, is a positive step toward not getting hit.
In addition, keeping your bike tuned up and in decent condition will serve you well and help you to avoid potential traffic accidents. Keeping the air in your tires full and taking your bike to a bicycle shop to get the chains oiled and keep the tires trued (in a straight line) will help you to keep your balance and allow you to shift your gears smoothly whenever you meet a hill. While you're there you can have the mechanics check out any other problems that they might find such as frayed wires, bent spokes and misaligned handlebars. Any one of these might be a minor headache, but could potentially erupt into a major problem if left unchecked.
Drivers who take the whole lane are just as irresponsible as bicyclists who ride in wavy patterns, seemingly drunk. Generally, it's difficult to always place the blame on one specific group, but in a specific sense it's usually the fault of one or the other of the two involved. To avoid accidents bicyclists need to make drivers more aware that they are there and be more attentive as well. Drivers should also be more attentive and if they can't move over they should slow down. In addition, drivers should recognize that bicyclists are vehicles in their own right and instead of attempting to force bicyclists to move out of their (the drivers') way, they should recognize that bicyclists riding responsibly in their own lane are the equivalent to a moving vehicle themselves such as the car the drivers are currently driving.
According to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles Nevada bicyclists should "obey the law, wear a helmet, wear brightly colored clothing and keep bikes in good repair." Additionally, bicycles ridden at night "must have: a white lamp in the front visible from at least 500 feet away, a red tail reflector visible in a vehicle's low beams from 300 feet away and reflective material on the sides of the bike visible in low beams from at least 600 feet away or a lamp visible from both sides from 500 feet away."
These basic precautions on the part of the bicyclist will help to ensure their safety by making them more visible to drivers. However, not all bicyclists follow these precautions. In order to help fight this negative trend, the Nevada Department of Public Safety has begun a program called the "Nevada Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Program" whose mission is "is to prevent injuries to children and adults from bicycle and pedestrian crashes by training them with the knowledge and skills needed to be competent and safe in traffic." Their goal of administering traffic and bicycle safety programs through workshops and education programs will hopefully have a positive impact throughout not only Reno and Washoe County, but all of Nevada as well.
The NDPS's stated safety goals include increasing proper bicycle helmet use, increasing obedience to traffic laws by pedestrians, bicyclists or motorists, increasing walking or bicycle use as a substitute commute to school or work increasing physical activity and reducing negative environmental effects thereby promoting a healthier community, and increasing and packaging educational opportunities in such a way as to encourage [their] widespread application. How do they reach these goals? The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) provides ongoing education and funding opportunities, as well as special events targeting safety. Their targets run the gamut of elementary school students on up to adults, in an attempt to educate all levels of bicyclists to greater levels of safety.
What does all of this mean for a bicyclist? Those bicyclists who are careful, aware and visible are doing the right thing. By keeping their bicycles tuned up and making themselves visible not only during the daytime, but also at night, they are presenting themselves to drivers and making a statement of "I am here. Please be aware of me and take the proper safety precautions." Hopefully with enough education, the proper use of safety equipment and the use of safety precautions Washoe County will become less of a "challenge" for bicyclists and become more of a bicycling haven.