With summer well underway, fun in the sun is on everyone’s mind! But it is also a time to brush up on some safety tips to keep yourself and others safe. Some of the easiest tips come from age-old mantras such as parents reminding kids to “look both ways before crossing the street” or a lifeguard yelling out, “No running!” from their watch stand. One area of safety that everyone can use some pointers on, is bike safety. Whether you are a seasoned bicyclist, just learning to ride, or anywhere in between, here are a few tips to keep yourself safe as you enjoy riding this summer:
1. As always, wear a helmet!
This tip seems obvious but it is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Adults and children alike tend to reason away the necessity of wearing a helmet by saying, “well I’m not going far” or “I won’t be riding that fast,” but an accident can happen anywhere and any time. A helmet protects against superficial scratches AND head injuries in the brain, such as a concussion or more severe and lasting trauma. Simply snapping on your helmet can prevent many injuries if an accident happens; that’s not a bad trade-off for the temporary helmet-hair!
2. Check your bike before you go.
Before going on short or long rides check the air in the tires – is it enough or too much – and look them over for any leaks or punctures. Check the high of the seat and the stretch of the pedals – too short or long can cause discomfort at best and leg cramps at worst. Be sure that the bike chain is in good condition with no weak spots and oil it regularly to ensure it is moving smoothly. Always do a quick brake check with hand breaks and/or pedal breaks before taking off on your ride.
3. Wear bright, visible colors.
This helps increase your visibility to other vehicles. Bicycles are the smallest vehicle on the road, so any bright colored clothing can help bicyclists appear larger and more noticeable to those sharing the road. This can help ensure that everyone on the road is driving carefully, therefore preventing accidents!
4. Learn the basic hand signs and road rules.
When riding longer distances by road, everyone should familiarize themselves with the hand signs used by bicyclists. Use this infographic from the NHTSA for a visual explanation of the different hand signs. Remember to ride WITH traffic if you find yourself on a street with vehicles, this makes you more visible and allows cars to pass with a lower risk of an accident. When riding with children, KidsHealth recommends that “Kids younger than 10 years should ride on the sidewalk and avoid the street” (See their full article below, titled “Bike Safety”). So keep that in mind if you are planning a family bike ride with children!
5. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Keep an eye on the ground in front of you for potholes, loose gravel, glass, or anything that could cause you to lose control of your bike. Periodically check the road in front and behind you; remember bicyclists are the smallest vehicle on the road so it helps to be a “defensive driver” in this situation. With that being said, bicyclists should not be using a cellphone while riding. This includes listening to music, texting, calling, or anything with headphones – this can keep you from hearing what is going on around you and is generally a distraction that increases the risk of an accident.
Summer is a great time of relaxation and exploration, and though it is often a carefree time, we can all benefit from brushing up on a few quick safety tips. Whether you are the one biking or sharing the road with bicyclists, keep these five tips in mind this summer to help prevent accidents. Stay healthy and stay safe this summer!