Many people enjoy riding their bike as both a hobby and a means of transportation. It can be fun, cost effective and helpful to the environment. It is also good exercise, but there are safety risks to be aware of when bicycling in an area where there is pedestrian and vehicle traffic -- especially in a city. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind when you choose to cycle, both in and outside of the city.
Always wear a helmet:
By now, everyone is probably aware that riding a helmet is an important safety measure when bicycling, but many people continue to ride without helmets, especially when traveling a short distance or on flat roads that are not heavily populated by other commuters or traffic. Cycling without proper headgear is never advisable. You never know when your bike could malfunction, something could startle you or a collision could lead you to lose control of your bike and result in a severe head injury. Keep in mind that many states and cities also have laws that require use of a bike helmet, and you could incur a ticket or fine if you aren’t wearing your helmet while riding. Check that the helmet is in good repair and is properly fitted to your head. Helmets should always be replaced after any kind of impact, even if there is no visible damage to the helmet.
Keep your bike in good repair:
Bikes need be maintained just like cars or any other vehicle to ensure they are road-worthy and can be operated safely. Check the tires for the proper amount of air and to make sure treads are not worn down or thin, which can create the risk of skidding or render brakes less effective. Do regular examinations of the bike frame and seek repairs for anything that is rusted or bent, including spokes, handlebars, and the seat. Also, make sure the brakes are working and replace them as needed.
Outfit your bicycle with lights:
If you ride at dusk or after dark, you need to ensure both that you can see where you are going and that others can see you. Even when riding in the daytime, lights help prevent accidents during overcast or rainy weather and you can flash the lights as a warning sign to oncoming vehicles or other riders.
Check your route ahead of time:
Before you head out, research the best and safest route to get to your destination by bicycle or check the trail you plan to ride to make sure it is bicycle-friendly and to be aware of any additional rules or restrictions. Most map apps or websites include a “bicycle” option for routes. Taking a look at the bike route will give you a better idea of where bike paths or lanes are located, so you can avoid congested streets, busy, multi-lane intersections, and narrow roads.
Know and follow all traffic laws:
Cyclists should be aware they are required to abide by traffic laws. Dangerous situations are created for cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles when cyclists do not follow the flow of traffic, stop at stoplights and stop signs, use turn signals, or when cyclists weave in and out of traffic or alternate between riding on sidewalks and roads. Learn the laws that apply to bicycles in your city and the appropriate hand signals to use when riding in traffic. Stay at safe distances from vehicles and other cyclists, be conscious of your speed and know when you should walk rather than ride your bike.
Doing a little research before hopping on your bike can help you have a more enjoyable ride or commute and give you the peace of mind that you are helping to protect yourself and others from a cycling accident. It can also help improve the attitude that drivers and pedestrians have toward sharing the road with cyclists.