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Bicycle Safety Tips
Riding a bicycle is a favorite pastime for many kids and adults. It has a multilayered appeal in that it is as fun as it is healthy. Kids often enjoy bicycle riding for the adventure and freedom that it provides, while adults often ride their bikes as a means of transportation, for fitness, or even competitively. Bicycling, however, isn't without its risks. People who ride potentially face accidental falls or crashes that can involve pedestrians, other bicyclists, or even vehicles. The resulting injuries can range from mild to fatal depending on the severity of the accident. For that reason, anyone who rides a bike should not only understand that these risks exist, but they must also learn and adhere to behaviors and laws that promote bicycle safety. Fortunately, there are many safety tips that can help reduce the risk of accidents and related injuries.
Buy and Wear a Helmet
- The use of a helmet is one of the most important preventative steps one can take to reduce the risk of serious head injuries.
- Check state bicycle helmet laws. Although adults are typically not required to wear helmets, many states do have laws that require children to wear them.
- Only wear helmets that meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standards.
Choose an Appropriately Fitted Helmet
- When buying a helmet, only purchase one that is new and the appropriate size for the person who will be wearing it. Keep in mind that sizes may vary from one manufacturer to the next.
- When fitting a helmet, the rim of the helmet should sit level on the head and approximately two finger widths above the eyebrows. Its straps should fit snugly under the ears in a "V" formation, and when buckled, the chin strap should allow no more than two fingers beneath it. While trying on the helmet, wearers should open their mouth as if yawning: The helmet should hug their head, and the buckle should lie flat. If the helmet rocks back or forward, attempt to re-tighten the straps. If this does not work, try another size.
- When selecting a helmet for children, parents can help reduce their resistance by letting them choose the style or color.
Use the Right Helmet for the Activity
- In addition to bicycling, kids should wear a helmet during any wheeled activity.
- When riding a scooter or while participating in recreational roller-skating or inline skating, kids can and should wear a bike helmet.
- While there are no helmet standards for ice skating, the CPSC suggests wearing a bicycle helmet, which can provide some level of protection and is preferable to going without a helmet.
- Skateboard helmets that are CPSC-certified should be worn when longboarding or skateboarding.
Get and Properly Maintain the Right Equipment
- Before making a purchase, adults choosing a bike should consider their budget and the purpose of the bike in addition to ensuring that it's the right fit.
- When buying a bike for children, bring them along to prevent the wrong bike size from being purchased.
- To ensure that the bike is not too large, children should straddle the seat and place both feet flat on the ground. If they are unable to comfortably do so, the bike may be too tall.
- Parents should avoid the temptation to buy a bike that their child will grow into. For safety, only purchase one that is the right fit for the child's current size.
- Maintenance must be performed regularly on bicycles.
- Before every ride, check the wheels for loose bolts. Check the tire pressure to ensure that they are inflated properly, and look for areas that are worn or cracked. The handlebars should be set at the right height, and the brakes should be working properly. Other items to check are the bicycle's chains and gears.
- Perform a helmet safety check as a part of the pre-ride maintenance, checking for cracks or problems with the straps.
- Anyone riding a bike should avoid wearing clothes that are loose-fitting or long. This type of clothing can get caught up in tires, chains, or spokes and cause a cyclist to crash.
Provide the Necessary Supervision
- Parents or guardians should ride with and closely supervise children who are new to riding a bike, paying close attention to how comfortable and responsible they are as riders.
- Limit where children younger than 10 can ride their bicycles. Because children under this age often have difficulty when it comes to vehicular traffic, they should be limited to riding on bike paths, in parks, and on familiar sidewalks.
- Only allow children to ride alone and with traffic after they've demonstrated maturity, good riding and judgment skills, and an understanding of the rules of the road associated with bicycling.
- Occasionally ride with children after they've been allowed to ride without supervision. Look for bad habits that may have been picked up from their peers.
Teach and Lead by Example
- Teach kids to bike across the street safely by instructing them to look left, right, and then left again before crossing.
- Like pedestrians, cyclists should make eye contact with drivers before they attempt to cross the street. This ensures that the driver is alert and aware of their presence so that they can come to a stop.
- Kids should also be taught to ride their bikes with traffic, staying on the right side of the road. Additionally, they should be taught to obey traffic signals and signs and to use hand signals when appropriate.
- Predictability is important when riding a bike. Kids should be taught not to behave in ways that are unexpected and take drivers by surprise.
- Parents should always follow all safety rules, such as wearing a helmet when riding their bike, as kids will often copy the behavior of parents and trusted adults.
Be Bright and as Visible as Possible on the Road
- Reflectors on bicycles increase the visibility of cyclists during dim light or night riding. Reflectors should be added as needed.
- For bicycle safety, wear articles of clothing that are made of retro-reflective materials or that have reflective trim or patches.
- All cyclists can benefit from using bike lights, which also make it easier for drivers to see them on the road. In some states, the use of a front solid white light is required by law.