Top Bicycle Safety Tips, from Someone Who Has Seen Too Many Injuries
Bicycling is fun…healthy…and a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family. But when bicycles share the road with motor vehicles, this sport can be dangerous, as well.
Every year, more than half a million people end up in a hospital emergency room after a bicycle injury—usually minor cuts and scrapes, but a serious injury can result a broken bone, brain injury, or even death. Last year, nearly 800 bicyclists died from injuries sustained during a ride.
While you can’t prevent every accident on the road, there are definitely things you can do to improve your odds of coming home save after a day of cycling.
Here are five top cycling safety tips:
1. Be visible.
The sad truth is that most motor vehicle drivers don’t watch for cyclists on the road. And if they can’t see you, there’s a higher risk of being hit, sideswiped, or crowded off the side of the road. To make yourself and your bike as visible as possible.
Put reflectors or reflective tape on the bike frame and wheels.
Wear brightly colored clothing.
If you ride at night or in low-visibility conditions (such as at dawn or dusk, or in the rain or fog), make sure your bike has a light, and wear clothing and a helmet with reflective tape.
For low-profile bikes, or for added visibility, consider using a bright orange bike flag.
2. Wear a helmet.
Most states mandate helmet use for people under age 18. North Carolina state law requires helmets only until age 16. There are many different types of helmets, depending on the person and the type of use: There are helmets for different ages, for road use or commuter use, for mountain, BMX, downhill, and racing bikes. To learn more about helmets, visit the website for the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute at http://www.bhsi.org/. Then, once you read the basics, visit a bike shop that can help fit you with the best helmet for you and your cycling needs.
3. Obey standard traffic rules.
Do everything you would typically do as a motor vehicle driver…without “cheating the rules” just because you’re on a bicycle. That means no “rolling stops” at stop signs, no “left on red,” and no riding against traffic. And even though a bike doesn’t have turn signals, you should always use hand signals to indicate turns.
4. Stay hyper-aware of your surroundings.
Use all your senses to know all the potential hazards around you: Be on the lookout for less-than-optimal road conditions, such as sand, gravel, glass, snow, ice, or slush. Watch also for potholes, sewer grates, debris, and crumbling concrete. Notice parked cars and remember that people may open car doors directly into your path. Remember, too, that not all drivers are civil to cyclists—that car coming up behind you may resent having to share the road and could try to scare you by swerving close to your bike or by loudly blowing their horn as they pass. If you are aware of the road and other vehicles, you can adjust your riding style and stay safe no matter what comes up.
5. Maintain your bike in good mechanical condition.
Check the condition of the tires to make sure the rubber is pliable and not cracking.
Also, make sure the tires are properly inflated to a proper PSI. How do you know what that is? Look on the side of the tire. Most bike pumps now have a pressure gauge built into them, so you don’t have to buy a separate one.
Make sure the brake pads are in good condition. Examine the pads to make sure they are not excessively worn down. No metal should show from the bottom of the pads, and the rubber shouldn’t be cracked or look brittle. If you see any of those signs, then it is time replace them.
Make sure that your gears, shifters, and brakes are working properly. That means taking it for a short test ride before heading out on the road.
Anyone who has biked more than just a few miles knows the displeasure of having a flat tire. Always take a spare tire tube and changing tool with you so you can fix the flat and get back on the road quickly.
Safety depends on you, your equipment, road conditions, the weather, other drivers, and many other factors. Some things you can control, and some you can’t. If you at least keep these five bicycling safety tips in mind, you’ll ride safely for a long time to come.