Spring is (finally) here, and with it all the fun outdoor activities we’ve been waiting for. Especially biking. But before you jump on Big Red (let’s be honest, everyone has a name for their bike) to get some fresh air and exercise, be prepared. Follow these tips to make sure you, your fellow bikers, and others you may encounter on the road are safe.
Always—ALWAYS—Wear a Helmet
Protecting your head and brain is one of the most important things you can do while riding a bicycle, and while it may seem like a 20-minute ride along a country road is no threat, the risk isn’t worth it. According to the Washington Post, between 1994 and 2010 there were 11,186 cycling fatalities to riders not wearing a helmet. Helmets also greatly reduce your risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in non-fatal impacts. So whether you’re planning on an all-day excursion or simply going out for a short ride, put your helmet on. You never know where a patch of gravel, pothole, or car may turn up.
Wearing a helmet is also a great way to lead by example for children and other cyclists. And beyond being seen as a safety leader, a helmet helps you be seen. Depending on the time of day or night, bikers may not always be apparent to motorists, so wearing a brightly-colored helmet or one with reflectors is an easy way to ensure your presence is known on the open road.
Tune Up Before You Head Out
After being cooped up inside all winter, it’s understandable to want to grab your bike and speed off on your favorite ride. Before you do, make sure your bike is tuned up and in good shape. Our bikes may sit unused for months in garages and basements, which can lead to dirt buildup, deflated tires, and rusty brakes. To test if your bike needs some work, simply let it drop. If you hear any odd clinks or see jiggly parts, it’s a good idea to take it in to get a professional tune up. A bike that doesn’t function properly can be a potential threat to its rider.
To answer that age-old question: Yes, you should always ride with traffic, never against. Although being able to see cars as they come might seem an advantage, it’s an incredibly dangerous position for you and for drivers. It’s safer to ride in the direction of traffic and allow drivers to see you and act accordingly.
While cars are the predominant vehicles on the road, bicycles are technically in the same category, which means when you’re peddling along with traffic, the same laws apply to you. Always yield to red lights and stop signs, pay attention to lane markings, stop for traffic, and pay attention to your surroundings. Even when you have the right-of-way, bikers need to be more alert when crossing large intersections, busy streets, or taking turns at a light. Your right-of-way is a legal protection—not a physical one.
It’s important to be attentive, no matter where you ride. Motorists may not always be looking out for you, but you can always look out for them. Learn the most common kinds of car and bike collisions and know how to avoid them. When you ride defensively, follow the law, and protect your body from injury, biking can be a safe and healthy activity for you and your family.