There’s no better way to enjoy a beautiful summer day than with a bike ride with the family. When we think of bikes we think of healthy exercise, but we can sometimes forget that bikes are not just outdoor toys. Several years ago, I was in a bicycle accident and my head hit the ground so hard. Had I not been wearing a helmet, I am sure I would have had more than a fractured hip. That is just one safety measure of cycling, but there are many more than can protect you and your family.
Bicycle accidents account for 2% of all traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, over 700 people die from bicycle injuries each year. Bike safety is important for everyone especially our children. 300,000 kids each year are hospitalized for bike injuries.
People most at risk are young kids ages 5-14 and adolescents/young adults ages 15-24. They account for one third of all emergency room visits for bike injuries. Older Americans ages 40+ are also at a higher risk of bike accidents.
There are ways to protect yourself and your family when you are out riding your bikes. Here are five tips to remember to have a safe trip.
Bike safety starts before you even get on your bike. When heading out in the summer heat to ride your bike, make sure you drink plenty of water and bring a bottle along with you. Biking can be strenuous especially in the heat. Becoming dehydrated can lead to dizziness or feeling light headed which could cause a fall. Make sure you dress in proper clothing. You should try to wear clothing with bright neon colors so drivers can see you. Also be sure to tie up loose pant legs and tuck in shoelaces to avoid getting them tangled in the bike chain.
Before taking off, make sure the tires have enough air and check that the brakes work. Also make sure the bike is adjusted to fit you. The NHTSA suggests there should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top bar if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if it is a mountain bicycle. The seat should be level front to back and the handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.
Making sure everyone in your family wears a helmet when they ride their bike is important. A helmet should be worn even if you are just riding around your driveway. Always make sure the helmet fits properly, especially on kids. Check out my interview with I recently Dr. Christopher Keenan, a pediatrician at CHOP, about the importance of wearing helmets, on Lite Rock 96.9 this Sunday on Living Well With Robin Stoloff 9-11am.
As I mentioned, a bicycle is a vehicle and that means you have to abide by the same rules. Always follow road laws and obey all the signs. Make sure you ride with the flow of traffic not against it. Also be predictable, ride in a straight line and try not to move in and out of cars. If you are riding at night, equip your bike with a light in the front and back. Use signals to let drivers on the road know what you are doing.
Even if you take all the appropriate actions, you are still at risk. You may know how to share the road with other vehicles but they may forget they’re sharing with you. Stay alert and be aware of the other cars around you. Listen to what is going on and keep your eyes on the road. Be on the look out for object in the road that could cause you to flip or veer into traffic. Most importantly, never text and ride.