Staying safe on two wheels
Riding a bicycle is a thrill, but with thrills come the danger of spills and bicycle accidents. Every year some 900 cyclists die as the result of accidents; 580,000 are injured seriously enough to be treated in a hospital emergency room and another million are treated at a doctor’s office. To protect yourself and your loved ones, check out these bicycle safety tips:
Wear a helmet
Wearing a helmet is the simplest and most effective step a cyclist can take to protect against head injuries. A helmet lowers the risk of head injury by over 75 percent, and the risk of facial injury by 65 percent. Although almost half of all children with bicycles own a bike helmet, surveys show that only 15 to 25 percent of those with helmets wear them. Tweens and teens are especially likely to ignore helmet use.
Plan your route for safety.
Take the time to plot routes that keep you off the fastest, busiest roads and highways. If you’re planning a weekend ride that might mean using back country roads combined with bike trails when available. For commuting to work you can bike through neighborhoods with less traffic.
Follow the road rules.
Bikes have to follow the same road rules as cars. That means stopping for red lights and stop signs, riding on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic and signaling turns.
Avoid riding on sidewalks.
Sidewalks can be hazardous because of cars backing out of driveways and turning from parking lots and side streets.Children under age 10, who are not old enough to navigate traffic on the road, should probably ride on the sidewalk.
Ride to the right.
This is the correct position for cyclists, and some communities have bike lanes to the right of the road; yet it’s still not without risk. Cyclists need to stay constantly alert for cars entering the road from driveways and parking lots and for cars turning in front of you, often without signaling.
Beware of car doors.
Bikes face constant danger from drivers and passengers in parked cars opening a door directly in the path of a biker.
Beware of driver blind spots.
When stopped at a light on the right hand side of a vehicle, you may be in the driver’s blind spot. The safest solution is to stop at the rear of the car, bus or truck at the light. If the driver turns right, you’ll be able to move across the road safely and the vehicle behind you will have a clear view of you.
Don’t ride against traffic.
Riding the wrong way on the road is responsible for 25 percent of all bike accidents.
This is true for bikes as well as cars. Slow down when riding in traffic. It gives you and motorists more time to react and avoid a collision.
Maximize your visibility.
Compared with a car, a bike has a very low profile. Brightly colored clothing increases your visibility during the day. At night reflective clothing is needed. Bike lights, both front and rear are essential at night. A flashing bike light used even during daytime riding will increase your visibility and get the attention of drivers.
Because bicyclists are so vulnerable on the road you need to keep your wits about you at all times. If you’re riding with ear phones, talking on the phone or texting while riding you’re dividing your attention and increasing the odds of a spill.
Be safe and enjoy the ride
Bike riders can’t control what drivers will do. But you can control where and how you ride, whether you wear a helmet, ride at a safe speed for the road and traffic conditions–giving yourself the best possible chance of enjoying the thrills of riding without the spills.