One of Americans' favorite forms of recreation for many years has been riding a bicycle. People of all ages can enjoy the recreational and health benefits of bicycling, as long as the rules of the road, laws, and proper consideration are practiced.
In 2009, 630 bicyclists were killed and an additional 51,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Bicyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities, and made up 2 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year.
Unfortunately, too many bicyclists are injured each year, especially children ages 5-14. Every year, nearly one million children are treated for bicycle- related injuries in U. S. hospital emergency rooms. Head injuries cause three out of four serious injuries and deaths that occur in bicycle crashes. Wearing a bicycle helmet is the first step toward preventing a serious head or neck injury when riding a bicycle, reducing the risk of such injuries by 85-88 percent.
Bicycle Safety Tips
- Wear a helmet that fits properly. A bicycle helmet should fit comfortable and snug. Helmet straps should always be buckled.
- Help drivers to see you. Wear light or brightly colored clothing. Make sure your bike is equipped with reflectors.
- Ride on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic.
- When riding in a group, form a single line on the right-hand side of the roadway. Be sure to leave plenty of room between you and the bike in front of you, in case you need to stop suddenly.
- Don't take chances, and don't wear headphones. Watch what is going on around you. Safe bicycle riding requires your full attention.
Five Basic Steps to Proper Helmet Fit*
- Measure Your Head—Measure your head just above the eyebrows (or as the manufacturer suggest) to be sure you purchase the proper size. Place the helmet on your head and move it around.
- Adjust the Fit—Adjust the fit with the removable pads. You may need a combination of thin and thick pads to get the best fit. Rock the helmet gently from side to side, then from front to back. It should not move around.
- Adjust the Straps—Adjust the straps- front, rear and chin- to make the helmet level and snug. The front and back straps should make a “V” that comes together just under the ear. Buckle the strap.
- Test the Fit—There should be little movement when the head is shaken. The strap should feel tight but should not cause discomfort. You should be able to slide a finger under the helmet.
- Fine Tune the Fit—Go back to steps 1 through 4 if necessary to get the best fit possible. Practice buckling and unbuckling the straps.
*Provided by the Brain Injury Association
- Double check the fit of the helmet every time you ride
- Adjustments will need to be made because of changes in hairstyles and length, or as a child’s head grows.
- Replace a helmet that has become too small.
- Replace a helmet that has sustained damage. Remember…one crash and its trash!
- Don’t store helmets in a hot car or garage.
Sharing the Road - How We All Can Make a Difference
Each year, there are more than a half-million collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles in the United States. Many of these incidents are the result of motorist, failing to properly yield to bicyclists.
The following safety tips can make a difference:
- Motorists need to increase their awareness of bicyclists when making turns and remember to look for bicyclists when traveling in a straight line.
- Check for bicyclists along the edge of the traffic lane before opening car doors so you do not cause a collision when exiting your vehicle.
- Allow for at least three feet of passing space between your car and the cyclist. Tailgating or honking can startle or fluster a bicyclist, causing them to swerve further into the driving lane.
- Be patient. Remember, cyclists are moving under their own power and can’t be expected to go the same speed as cars.
- Pay special attention to blind spots. Due to their size and the location of bike lanes, bikes can often get lost in a car’s blind spot, so double check before changing lanes, making right-hand turns or before opening your car door on the traffic side when parked.
- Be attentive on side streets and neighborhoods. Children are especially at risk in residential areas. Follow the speed limit, avoid driver distraction and always be aware of your surroundings. It is particularly important to be cautious when backing out of a driveway and onto the street.
- Use good common sense. For example, in inclement weather, give cyclists extra room.
- When available, bicyclists should use designated bike paths.
- Bicyclists should always be on the watch for turning and parked motor vehicles.
- Bicyclists should be encouraged to clearly communicate their intentions to motorists by using proper turn signals.
- Wearing helmets, visible clothing and using bike paths when available are key factors to ensuring a safe, pleasurable biking adventure.
Adult Biking Facts*
- Not all bicycle retailers are equal. Find a shop where the sales people listen to you and help you make the correct purchasing decision.
- Find the right bike that fits your needs. Ask yourself several questions… Why am I buying a bike? How fit am I? Where will I ride? Will I ride with a group? Do I want to ride off-road?
- Adult riders should always carry identification with them when biking. A copy of your driver license and medical insurance card should be the minimum.
- Before taking to the road, cyclist should eat a balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein and fat and drink plenty of fluids
- Dehydration is a serious condition and can be avoided by consuming more water than normal the day before your ride. During your ride, drink the equivalent of one water bottle (20 oz) in small amounts each hour or every 12 to 14 miles.
- Recreational paths and trails can be congested—safety is an issue. All trail users should be respectful of other users, regardless of their mode of travel, speed or skill level.
- Group riding requires more attention than riding alone. Other riders expect you to continue riding at a constant speed and lane position, unless you indicate differently.
- Advanced riding requires advanced skills. Adult riders should invest time in an education program with a certified instructor to teach them these advanced skills.