Biking is a great way for both kids and adults to get around town. Not only is it an excellent workout, but you save money you would have spent on gas and you’re not harming the environment. However, safety is an important consideration whenever you travel by bike. When you’re out on the road, you’re exposed, and any crash can have severe consequences. That’s why even though bicycle trips only account for 1 percent of all the trips taken in the United States, the risk of injury and death for bicyclists is higher than it is for drivers.
How can you stay safe when you ride a bike? There’s three things every cyclist should know before getting out there.
1. Move the Same Way a Car Would
One big cause of accidents is the unpredictability of cyclists. You put yourself at a far greater risk on your bike when you’re weaving through traffic, splitting lanes, going straight through stop signs and going from the street to the sidewalk as you please. Drivers get accustomed to dealing with cars on the road, so you’ll be much safer if you ride the same way a car would drive.
That means you should obey all the traffic signs and signals you see. Ride with the flow of traffic, instead of against it, which could surprise drivers and lead to a devastating head-on collision. Even though you can’t signal the same way you would in a car, you can still provide other drivers with signals to let them know what you’re about to do. Extending your right arm out is a left-turn signal. Holding that arm up is a right-turn signal. Putting the arm down with the palm open and facing the driver behind you is a stop signal. Use these so other drivers can anticipate when you’re going to turn or stop.
2. Maximize Your Visibility
Make it easier for drivers to see you to reduce your chances of being in an accident. This is important no matter the time of day, but it’s especially important at night and in the early evening, as that’s when quite a few biking accidents take place. In fact, bicyclist deaths are most common between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., as that’s when 20 percent of all bicyclist deaths occur. Try to avoid bicycling at night whenever possible, as it’s much more dangerous.
How can you be visible on a bike? Your clothing, for one. Always wear bright, neon or fluorescent colors when you ride. White actually doesn’t help much with visibility, and black is always a bad choice, particularly when it’s dark outside. Put reflectors on your bike to improve its visibility, and you should also consider getting a headlight or flashing lights.
3. Wear the Right Safety Equipment
The single-most important piece of safety equipment that you can wear is a helmet. It’s the most-effective way to reduce your risk of either a head injury or death in the event of a crash.
“To protect you properly, a helmet needs to fit right,” said ABC Rentals. Make sure your helmet is the correct size. If it’s too tight, you won’t want to wear it. If it’s too loose, it may not stay in place when you need it.
There’s an easy way to check if your helmet fits and is strapped up correctly. While wearing the helmet, look up as high as you can. You should be able to see the bottom of the helmet, and its rim should be about one or two finger-widths from the top of your eyebrows. Check that the helmet’s straps make a “V” shape right underneath your ears. They should fit securely but without choking you at all. Finally, test the helmet by opening your mouth as wide as possible. The helmet should feel tight around your head, otherwise you need to pull on those straps.
There’s nothing like feeling the wind rush past as you glide through town on your bike. Just make sure you’re taking the right safety precautions every time to minimize your risk of a crash or accident.