Cycling is a fun but potentially risky way to exercise outdoors. Although it benefits you physically, it is important to remember to be careful as falls and collisions with pedestrians or automobiles can cause serious injury. Review the following bike safety tips to make sure you’re as safe as possible this summer.
Are you aware of street safety?
When riding a bicycle on streets with traffic, you must obey the rules of the road. You must follow the flow of traffic, ride in the same direction as cars and obey all traffic signs. This helps drivers around you predict what you plan to do and avoid causing an accident. If you act hesitantly, it can confuse drivers around you, causing confusion and a possible collision.
When riding a bicycle, you will need to keep pedestrians in addition to motorists in mind. Pedestrians always have the right of way and cyclists must yield to them if necessary, just as motorists would. If you have to pass someone, slow down, announce which way you are going to pass them, and use a bell.
Just like driving, it is imperative to stay alert and watch out for distractions on the roads. Watch out for hazards like potholes, gravel, or other things that could knock you off your bike. You can also stay alert by not wearing headphones and listening to traffic.
Make sure your children of cycling age also have a sense of safety on the street before letting them out.
Helmets help with head health
Whatever your age, wearing a helmet is essential for safe riding. Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by almost 50% and can save lives. When it comes to helmets, proper fit is key. Use the following tips to ensure your helmet fits properly:
• Helmet straps should be tight enough to allow only one finger to fit between your chin and the strap.
• Helmets should not move when you shake your head.
• Make sure the helmet covers your forehead.
• Make sure the V-shaped straps surround your ears.
• Replace helmets that have been worn in an accident. Even if there are no visible signs of damage to the helmet, consider it faulty and replace it.
In addition to wearing a helmet, consider wearing reflective or shiny clothing to increase your visibility to drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Also add reflectors to your bike; a front light and a rear red light can also increase visibility.
Take precautions in advance
Before leaving for your expedition, prepare an itinerary, check the weather and inspect your bike.
Checking your route before you start your journey lets you know where there might be heavy traffic or difficult terrain. It’s best to avoid traffic altogether or plan to use roads with a bike lane or dedicated path if possible.
Weather can affect a bike ride and it is important to plan accordingly. Exposure to the elements can affect your ability to react to the environment around you and increase your risk of weather-related illness such as dehydration, heatstroke or frostbite.
Check the forecast for the whole day and take the necessary precautions, such as carrying extra water and sunscreen on hot days or carrying extra dry clothes on cold and wet days. Also consider how weather conditions will affect motorists and pedestrians, as they can increase braking times, reduce visibility, or create other hazards that put everyone at risk.
Once you have a route in mind, you can start checking your bike for functionality. The brakes should be checked first. If you fail to stop your bike, you could easily lose control and suffer adverse consequences. Make sure the bike you plan to ride is your size. If the bike is too big or too small, it will be harder to control.
Make sure anything loose on you, like backpack straps or shoelaces, is tucked away so nothing gets caught in your bike’s chain or wheels.
Cycling is a great option for being active this summer using common sense and caution.
Annalisa Negrea, RN, is the Injury Prevention Coordinator with UPMC Trauma Services at UPMC Williamsport, 700 High Street. For more information, visit UPMC.com/TraumaNCPA.