Riding a bicycle is fun, good exercise and a great way to go green. However, it is important that cyclists pay attention to safety norms, rules and regulations while on the road. According to the Brookhaven National Laboratory Safety and Health Services, “Each year in the United States, about 800 people die in bicycle-related accidents. About a quarter are children between the ages of 5 and 14. More than 1 million children receive medical treatment for biking-related injuries each year.” Paying attention to basic safety norms and regulations will not only ensure greater safety for the cyclist but also for pedestrians and for motorists.
Here are some important bicycle safety tips and resources.
Hand Signals for Turns
Hand signals are important to indicate where one is going. The correct hand signals inform motorists when a cyclist will be turning and can therefore, prevent accidents. Both children and adult cyclists must know the right hand signals and be able to use them properly before cycling on the roads or in areas with traffic.
Lights and Reflectors
Lights and reflectors are standard bicycle equipment and no cyclist should be out at night without these. These simple yet important equipment enable motorists to see the cyclist from a distance and allow the cyclist to stand out in traffic. According to Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty in Health and Wellness, “Bicycle riders need to wear bright, reflective clothing and the bicycle itself should be equipped with reflectors and lights.”
Wearing a Helmet
A helmet is the most important safety equipment for a cyclist and at no point should a cyclist be without one. More than just wearing a helmet, it important to choose the right kind of helmet and ensure that it fits well. Helmets can protect the head in the event of a collision or a crash and help to keep cyclists safe. Edlin and Golanty write, “The use of a helmet can reduce the chance of head and brain injuries by more than 80% should an accident occur.”
Don’t Wear Headphones
Wearing headphones while cycling is a big threat to road safety. Cyclists listening to music while on the road may not only endanger themselves by failing to hear signals from motorists but may also be a danger to other cyclists and traffic. While wearing headphones may not be illegal in every state per se, it is important that both children and adults across the U.S avoid wearing these while cycling and focus only on the road and the traffic. According to Edlin and Golanty, “Inability to hear the sounds of traffic, the honk of a horn or a shout of warning may contribute to an accident.”
Avoid Busy Streets
Cycling on busy streets is not only difficult but can also be dangerous. The rush of traffic, high speeds and motorists in a hurry put a cyclist at risk. While children should avoid busy streets at all times, even adult cyclists must identify cycle-friendly routes and try and stay away from traffic-heavy streets as much as possible.
Riding at night is very different from riding in the day. For starters, if cyclists don’t have the right equipment and gear, such as lights, reflectors and reflective clothing, it can be very difficult for motorists to see them. Parents should discourage children and teens from riding their cycles at night simply because young cyclists don’t yet have the judgment and skills needed for night-riding.
- Sand and gravel on pavement can cause loss of control. Avoid it if clear pavement can be safely used. If it can’t be avoided, minimize maneuvering while crossing the area alertly.
- Glass and other road debris can cause you to lose control and can puncture tires. Avoid the area by safely changing lane position, or dismount and walk the bike around the area.
- Puddles can hide a pothole. Carefully maneuver around them.
- Sewer grates can catch a wheel. Avoid riding across all grating, but especially ones with holes in-line with your wheel. Watch for these along curbs and low edges.
- Cracks in the road’s surface can throw you off balance. Be alert to the angle that you cross over bumps and rough edges. Try to find the most consistent lane position, with less problem cracking, and maintain this lane position.
- Dogs can be a road hazard as both an obstacle and a potential attacker. Speak sternly to the dog, and prepare for evasive action. If the dog is successful in attacking, dismount and use the bike as a shield. Commercial repellents are available for you to carry for such situations.
Bicycle theft is a serious problem. All types of bicycles, from the most expensive to the least, are stolen every day. Here are some steps you can take to help protect your investment:
- If your community has a bicycle registration program, take advantage of it. Registering your bicycle won’t make it theft-proof, but will help in returning your bicycle if it is recovered. List your bicycle on the personal property declaration of your homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance policy.
- Keep the serial number and a close-up photo on hand for police identification.
- Lock your bicycle properly, every time.
- Protect your bicycle by carrying and using a high-quality lock.
- Use U-shaped locks which provide very good protection. A heavy-duty cable and key lock are next best.
- Securely lock both wheels and frame to a bike rack or other stationary object.
- Lock your bicycle in a conspicuous place where a thief is more apt to be noticed.
- Don’t lock your bicycle to trees; it could damage the bark.
- Don’t lock your bicycle to handrails or fire hydrants, near doorways, on handicap ramps, or other areas that would interfere with pedestrians.
Keeping the basics of bicycle safety in mind will help both adult and child cyclists to enjoy the experience that cycling offers. It is important to ensure that one wears a helmet, has the right equipment and follows traffic rules and regulations, such as using the right hand signals. According to authors of The Safe and Sound Child, “Statistics show that bicycle accidents are too frequent. According to the National Safety Council, in 1994, twenty children four and younger died riding their bikes. For ages five through fourteen, 270 deaths occurred in accidents between motor vehicles and pedacycles on private driveways, streets, parking lots and highways.” By following safety norms and regulations, such as the ones given above, cyclists can stay safe and help to make cycling an enjoyable and fun activity.