Use Your Head - Tips for Safe Cycling
According to a recent study, nearly 85 million Americans ride a bike at least occasionally. That’s good news considering cycling is a great form of exercise, not to mention a ton of fun.
However, like any outdoor activity, it is important to develop and practice safe habits, so that you can continue to enjoy each and every ride.
Always Wear a Helmet
Head injuries account for nearly 60 percent of all cycling-related fatalities. Wearing a helmet would prevent more than half of these deaths, plus thousands of serious injuries — especially to children.
Make Sure Your Helmet Fits
When choosing a helmet, look for a bright color and make sure it fits properly. When properly fitted, your helmet will sit low on your head, remain level, and not move more than 1” in any direction when forcibly twisted. It should also have a sticker verifying that it passed the safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Society of Testing and Materials or the Snell Memorial Foundation.
Test Your Brakes
Before every ride, test both front and rear brakes to ensure they’re working properly. Properly working brakes are your best defense against careless, inattentive drivers.
Ride with Traffic
Never ride against traffic, obey all street signs, and give the right of way to cars, pedestrians and other cyclists. It’s also important to use hand signals to alert drivers of your intentions.
Try to make eye contact with drivers when entering an intersection or making a turn. That way, you’ll know if they’ve seen you, and you can react quickly if they haven’t. At a red light, stop behind or in front of the car, so you are more visible. Don’t wait alongside the car in the driver’s blind spot. Also, don’t ride alongside another cyclist on a busy roadway. And when riding in heavy traffic, on a narrow road, or on winding downhill roads, ride in the lane with the cars, not to the side, where you’re not visible and may get pushed off to the side. If a car wants to pass, move out of the way. Wear bright, colorful clothing and reflective gear for maximum visibility.
Watch Out for Walkers
When riding near pedestrians, slow down, don’t ride on sidewalks and anticipate when they might step in front of you. When approaching from behind, call out politely or ring your handlebar bell.
Be on Guard
Other hazards to watch out for include storm drains, cattle guards and railroad tracks. They can all be slippery when wet, so cross them with your wheels at a right angle, not turned, so your tires don’t slide out from under you.
Don’t wear headphones. They can block out street sounds that would otherwise alert you to impending danger.
Riding at Night
It might sound a little daunting, but riding at night can be an exhilarating experience. Just remember to wear brightly colored clothing and reflective tape. Be sure to have functioning lights on the front and rear of your bike. That way you can better see the road in front of you, and it’ll be easier for cars and other cyclists to see, as well.