Bike Safety

Caucasian father helping daughter with bicycle helmet

When I started this journey, I thought long and hard about what physical activity I wanted to do. I’ve never really enjoyed running, and I’m not big on fancy gym equipment. I wanted something fun and easy soI would stick with it. I remembered that when I was a kid, I loved to ride my bike everywhere. I thought maybe that was something I could do. I thought I would give it a try.

I went to a cycling shop and talked to an employee about what I was hoping to accomplish and what I was comfortable spending. She was able to explain my options to me, and we chose a bike, a helmet, and she gave me some tips. Some of the advice she gave me was very helpful, and I wanted to pass it along.

The first thing is the same thing that they recommend for kids: wear a helmet. Don’t just go with the first one you grab. Make sure it meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s approval. Try it on—just like with clothing, not all helmets are sized the same. You want a helmet that sits level on your head and ends about two fingers’ width above your eyebrow. When you buckle the chin strap, make sure you can’t get more than two fingers between the strap and your chin. The side straps form the letter V around your ears—one in front, one behind. Adjust those straps til you have it right and lock the sliders if you can. Make sure that with all your adjustments, the buckle on the chin buckle is centered under your chin.

Before every ride, inspect your bike–including the tires and the brakes. If you’re going to be riding when it will be harder to see you, be sure to have reflectors on your bike. A red flashing light on the back also helps. Your state may require a headlight, so find that out beforehand. I also purchased a mirror for my handlebar so that I could see cars coming from behind me.

Once you’re on the road, try to be as visible as possible. Yes, cars are supposed to look out for you, but that’s no consolation if they hit you. You are more likely to be hit by a car making a turn than one coming up behind you who can clearly see you. Stay a little more to the middle of the road when going through an intersection if possible, because that’s where drivers are conditioned to look. Wave to drivers perpendicular to you to get their attention or wear bright clothing that will get their attention (even in daylight). Another huge hazard is riding close to parked cars when someone unexpectedly opens a door. So try to stay more than a door’s width away from cars parked on the side of the road. Again, it is uncomfortable riding so far into the road, but people aren’t looking for cyclists when they’re opening their car door. Avoid riding on sidewalks or going through crosswalks. Your bike is considered a vehicle, so treat it like one. Cars are more likely to see you when you’re on the street and turning where they turn. In the same vein, don’t ride against traffic. It may seem like a good idea, but not only is it illegal, no driver is going to be looking for you coming from that direction—because you’re not supposed to be there!Signal your turns. Use your mirror to look behind you if you are moving around an obstacle or moving farther into a lane.If you have to wait at a stop sign or a red light, be careful not to stop in someone’s blind spot. Stop either next to but in front of or behind the car, or move directly behind it. Lastly, don’t pass anyone on the right. You’re not supposed to do it when you’re driving, and while riding a bike it is even more dangerous.

Hope these tips help. Stay safe out there!