Stay Safe With these Bicycle Safety Tips
The long, cold winter months are over and it’s finally almost time to start getting those bikes out of storage. Whether you’re looking for a way to stay fit, have fun, or to get around town in an environmentally-friendly way, bicycling has a lot of amazing benefits to offer.
While bicycling can be a fun and healthy hobby, it can be dangerous if proper safety precautions aren’t taken. Every year, hundreds of people are hurt or killed when they get into bicycle accidents with motor vehicles. According to NHTSA statistics, 743 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2013 while about 48,000 were injured.
Before you take your bike out for the first time this year, keep some of these tips in mind to stay safe on the road.
Wear a Helmet That Fits Correctly
Even if you’re only going for a quick bike ride, it’s very important to always wear a helmet. In 2009, 91% of all bicyclists who were killed were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Helmets can reduce the risk of a brain injury by up to 85%. According to AAA, if all bicyclists wore a helmet, one life would be saved daily and one head injury could be prevented every 4 minutes.
Whether or not a helmet fits correctly plays a big role in how effective it will be at keeping you safe. A helmet that’s too tight won’t be comfortable and one that’s too big won’t provide adequate protection. If you’re looking for a helmet for a child, do not buy one for them to grow into.
When you shop for a helmet, shop for one in a brick-and-mortar store where you’ll be able to try on different styles. A helmet that fits properly should:
Be snug enough to move your skin if you try adjusting it once it’s on your head, but not tight enough to be uncomfortable
Have a front edge that hits no more than two finger widths above the eyebrows
Have straps that form a V-shape that meets just beneath the ears
Have straps tightened to the point that one to two fingers can fit between the strap and your chin
If you’ve been in a bicycle accident that involved your head being hit, replace your helmet. Once a helmet has been in an accident, it won’t be able to protect you as well in subsequent accidents.
Behave Like a Car
While it’s best for children to ride their bikes on the sidewalks, it’s actually statistically safer for teen and adult bicyclists to ride their bikes in the street. Riding on the sidewalk increases the risk of an accident because there’s a chance that drivers backing out of their driveways might not see you and drivers also might not think to watch out for bicyclists on sidewalks who might be planning to cross at an intersection. The speed a bicyclist travels might also put them at risk of getting into an accident with a pedestrian.
Bicyclists have the right to ride in most types of public roadways, except for expressways and restricted access roads where bikes are specifically excluded. A bicyclist is expected to follow the same the same rules that apply to other types of vehicles, which means traveling in the same direction as traffic, stopping at stop signs, yielding to pedestrians, and signaling your turns.
Don’t Wear Headphones or Use Your Phone
Being able to focus on the road and your surroundings is just as important for bicyclists as it is when you’re driving a car. While it might seem like a nice idea to be able to listen to music while you ride your bike, wearing headphones will make it hard for you to be aware of what’s going on around you.
And just like you should never text and drive, you should never text or use your phone for other purposes while you ride your bike. Riding a bike simply takes too much manual dexterity and concentration and using a phone will take a lot of your focus away from the road. If you really must send a text or make a phone call, stop off someplace where you’ll be able to do so safely.
These are just a few of the best ways bicyclists can stay safe on the road. You’ll also want to make sure your bike has reflectors and that you wear reflective or brightly-colored clothing to help make you more visible to drivers and other bicyclists on the road. And don’t forget to routinely inspect your bike to make sure the brakes are still working correctly, that your tires are inflated properly, and that there aren’t any problems with your bike’s frame or wheels.