Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that “there are more than 450,000 injuries associated with bicycles that landed people in ERs in 2016. The most frequent diagnoses were contusions/abrasions (23.0%), fractures (21.7%), and lacerations (15.4%)”.
While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle, bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants those of motor vehicles. Whether you bike to work or school; to save money or time; to preserve your health or the environment; to explore your community or get to your destination, there is always an opportunity to review some tips on how to ride safely and perform maintenance on your bike.
Effective interventions to reduce injuries and fatalities to bicyclists include the following riding and skill tips:
- Be Alert: Scan ahead, center, left and right.
- Be Wary: Pay attention to vehicles, pedestrians, and others on the road.
- Be Seen: Use your horn, hand signals and light to be seen by others on the road.
10 Tips for Safer Cycling
- Wear your helmet. Follow this simple rule and you reduce your risk of serious injury by as much as 85 percent.
- Keep your head up and look ahead, not at the ground. You need to see what is coming up so you have time to react and maneuver.
- One person per bike. Riding with unsecured passengers puts you at risk for injury to yourself and others.
- Ride in single file with space between bikes.
- Ride on the right side of the road, never against traffic. Otherwise, you are at risk for an accident – or a ticket.
- Plan ahead if you will ride in a group. Agree on the route ahead of time. Have a plan on what you will do if separated by traffic.
- If you will be riding in an unfamiliar area, check out local laws and rules first.
- Avoid busy roads and peak traffic times on your route.
- Before riding at night, ask someone to help you check your visibility to motorists.
- Maintain the bikes in your household. Keep chains clean and lubricated and periodically inspect brake pads.
What is a Hazard?
Both road and weather conditions can be dangerous to riders. Identifying potential hazards and paying attention to your surroundings will keep you safer.
Hazards on the road
- Uneven, rough surfaces can cause falls.
- An object in the road can cause a flat tire, loss of balance or unsafe maneuver. Avoid riding across unknown objects.
- Slippery surfaces create a loss of traction which may cause you to lose control of your bike. Slow down or walk your bike across slippery surfaces.
Tips to avoid collisions
Make safe choices. Avoid riding at twilight or in the dark, especially on narrow roads and roads with speed limits that exceed 35 mph.
- Do not wear headphones while riding.
- Keep both hands on the handlebars, except when signaling.
- Keep both feet on pedals.
- In a group, ride single-file, with the flow of traffic.
- Wear a brightly colored helmet and retro-reflective material on your clothing.
- Use the correct hand signals.
- Before entering a roadway: Stop. Look left. Look right. Look left.
Helmets protect cyclists from injuries related to falls, collisions, and crashes. Properly fitted helmets are an important safeguard against brain injuries, the most common cause of bicycle-related fatalities.
- To find the right size helmet, put one on your head without fastening the straps.
- The front of the helmet should be level and two fingers width above your eyebrows.
- Shake your head from side to side: There should only be a little movement.
- The side straps should come to a point just below your ears – move the small tabs on the side of these straps up or down until they are a half an inch or less under your ear lobe.
- The chin strap should be about half an inch below your chin when your mouth is closed.
- Wearing a bike helmet with loose straps is the same as not wearing a bike helmet at all.
What Parents Need to Know About Bicycle Helmets
Safety standards for helmets have been raised. Newer designs are also lighter, stronger and better ventilated. Replace older models and the riders in your family will be safer and more comfortable.
Make sure your child’s helmet fits snugly. This is not an item you should buy for a child to “grow into.” Adjust padding, buckles and chin straps to ensure the helmet cannot shift from side to side.
Small children should not wear “aero” shaped helmets.
Bike helmets should only be worn when riding a bike – never on playground equipment or when climbing trees. Helmets may get stuck and cause strangulation.
If a helmet is damaged, replace it. If the foam is compacted, it will not offer the needed protection.
Other Bicycle Equipment
Bells or Horns
Bicycle bells are available in a variety of colors, shapes and ring types. Your bike should be equipped with a bell or horn to alert other cyclists, pedestrians and motorists of your presence.
Cyclists need to see and be seen. Bicycles must be equipped with both a headlight and taillight for night riding. Some riders mount blinking LED bulbs to the front and rear wheel rims for even more visibility to motorists. Blinking LED tail lights are also available.
Reflectors, Reflective Tape and Reflective Gear
Putting reflectors or reflective tape on your helmet, clothing and bike will make you more visible to motorists. Be sure reflectors are not obscured by bags or clothing when you are on the bike.
Hand brakes will help you brake quickly. Remember to allow extra distance for stopping in bad weather or road conditions.
You can cycle in almost any sensible, flat shoe. Just be sure to tie your shoelaces. However, you will be most comfortable in running shoes or cycling shoes, which minimize cramping and fatigue. Never ride barefoot or with flip-flops.
For maximum visibility, wear light-colored or reflective clothing and shoes. Several manufacturers offer bright gear and lightweight, reflective clothing such as vests and jerseys for night cycling.
Basic bike check
Just remember the ABC quick check
A is for Air
- Inflate tires to the pressure listed on the side of the tire
- Use a pressure gauge to insure proper pressure
- Check for damage on tired and replace if damaged
B is for Brakes
- Inspect pads for wear; replace is there is less than ¼” of pad left
- Check pad adjustment; make sure they do not rub the tire
- Look to see that you can fit your thumb between the brake lever handlebar when the brakes are squeezed all the way
C is for cranks and chain
- Pull your cranks away from the bike – if they are loose, tighten the bolt
- Check your that your chain is free of rust and gunk
Quick is for quick releases
- Make sure your quick releases are all closed
- They should all be pointing to the back of the bike so that they don’t get caught on anything
Check is for check it over
- Take a quick ride to check that it is working properly