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Bike Safety for All Ages

Taking a bike ride can be an enjoyable excursion. With the fresh air and sights to see, many people choose to ride their bikes for exercise and as a way to enjoy the outdoors. Bicycling can also be an effective form of transportation that doesn't have a negative impact on the environment. Before picking up a bike rental or riding your own bike, it's important to learn important safety guidelines to ensure that the trip doesn't involve injuries.

Why Is Bicycle Safety Important?

Although enjoyable, bike-riding can lead to injuries from accidents. About 300,000 children are taken to the emergency room every year due to injuries from bike-riding. Of these kids, 10,000 have injuries that are serious enough for a hospital stay. Head injuries are a major concern, and this type of injury can even lead to death in some cases due to damage to the brain. Wearing a bike helmet provides protection for the head, face, and brain in the event of an accident.

Helmet How-To

The federal government has created safety standards for bicycle helmets. All helmets must have a sticker indicating that they have met standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Riders should wear a helmet for every outing, even short ones. Helmets must also fit properly for adequate protection. Employees at bicycle stores can help with helmet sizing and fitting to ensure proper use. A helmet must sit level on the head, covering the forehead. Straps must always be fastened snugly or the helmet will fall off in an accident. Snug straps won't allow pulling or twisting of the helmet.

Proper care of a bike helmet involves hanging it when not in use. Throwing a helmet might damage it, making it possible that it won't provide adequate protection in an accident. If a fall occurs and a helmet receives an impact, replace it. A helmet will often lose its effectiveness after an impact.

Riding Tips

After getting a properly sized helmet and making sure it is worn correctly, it's important to learn safe riding tips. A bicycle must always fit the rider correctly for optimal safety. When straddling a bicycle with feet on the ground, the top bar of the bike between your legs should be between one and three inches below you. Check the major safety points before every ride on a bicycle, and be sure to perform regular maintenance as well.

Visibility and Other Safety Measures

Being seen when biking is crucial. Wearing bright clothes is one way to be seen. It's also helpful to place reflectors on the bike and the helmet for extra visibility to ensure that motorists see you. Try to ride during the daytime whenever possible, since riding at dusk or at night can make it more difficult for others to see you.

Secure all loose clothing to prevent items from catching in the bike chain. Items to secure include loose pants, shoelaces, and backpack straps. The proper shoes are also important for safety. Always wear athletic shoes that cover your toes, not sandals or shoes with heels. Never ride barefoot, either. Riding gloves can help with handlebar grip. And never ride a bike with headphones on: The music can be a dangerous distraction and prevent you from hearing noises around you.

Where to Ride

Whether riding on the street or on bike trails, bicyclists must watch for vehicles. While someone is riding a bike on a sidewalk, a car may cross the sidewalk pulling in or out of a driveway. When crossing a busy intersection, walking a bike across might be the safest course. Dedicated bike trails are ideal for bicyclists because they tend to be safer. It's important to be respectful when riding on a bike trail, giving the right-of-way to pedestrians. Bicyclists must also watch out for potential obstacles and challenges in the road. Watch for:

  • Puddles
  • Wet leaves
  • Changes in the pavement surface
  • Gravel and rocks
  • Storm grates
  • Curbs
  • Children and toys

Road Rules

Bicyclists must follow all of the rules of the road.

  • Ride on the right side of the street with traffic. Never ride against traffic.
  • Bike in bike lanes and routes whenever possible.
  • Obey traffic signals including lights and stop signs.
  • Ride single-file on the street.
  • Cross at intersections only.
  • Walk a bike to cross busy intersections using the crosswalk.
  • Ride with both hands on the handlebars.
  • Don't pass parked cars too closely in case doors are opened.
  • When passing pedestrians or other bicyclists, pass on the left and say, "On your left!"

Hand Signals

Use hand signals to let others know your intentions when biking. Hand signals are similar to turn signals and brake lights used by motorists.

  • Signal a left turn with your left arm extended straight out to your side.
  • Signal a right turn with your left arm bent up at a 90-degree angle.
  • Signal a stop with your left arm bent down at a 90-degree angle.

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