Bicycle Safety

6 July 2022

The Tour de France is well underway and will continue until the end of this month. It is also summer when more cyclists are taking to the streets and trails. It seems like a good time to review precautions for bicyclists as well as motorists.

Before you get on your bike, give it a good look. Be sure the seat is still at the best height for you to ride comfortably and the tires are inflated properly. Check to see the reflectors are all in place and the bell or horn work. If it is late in the afternoon or early evening, check the headlight. In short, make sure everything is where it should be and is working properly. This should take less than five minutes.

Helmets are for everyone, adults and children. It is best if it has been certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The helmet should be snug, which means adjusting the sizing pads or fit ring. The front edge should be about one or two finger widths from the eyebrow, so it is not tipped too far back or forward. Side straps are designed to form a “V” around the ears. The buckle on the chin strap, obviously, goes under the chin and is centered. It should be secure enough that no more than one or two fingers can fit between the chin and strap. In all, the helmet should not rock excessively (no more than one inch) in any direction.

You are required to follow the rules of the road like a motorist. That includes coming to a full stop at red traffic signals and stop signs. If you are with a group, ride single file in the same direction and on the same side of the street as the vehicles. When turning, you need to use appropriate hand signals and use more caution at intersections. Look left, right, and left, plus over your shoulder, before merging with traffic. In addition, you need to be extra alert about car doors opening. All of this while avoiding pot holes and other obstacles.

As a cyclist, you should assume that other people don’t see you. Be sure the bike fits your body. Riding something too big can be more difficult to control. Carry things in a backpack or in an appropriate bag strapped to the rear. Be sure your shoe laces are tight and tucked in so they won’t get caught in the chain.

If you want to ride on the sidewalks, be sure it is legal in your area. This will take more caution because you will also need to watch for cars pulling out of driveways and when you enter the street or intersections because the drivers won’t be expecting you. Pedestrians and runners may also be sharing the sidewalks, so if you intend to pass them, announce by saying “on your left”. These folks may also be getting their daily exercise and be wearing ear buds, so be sure they are aware of your presence.

Up your skills by taking a biking class. They are often offered through community centers, local bike shops, or advocacy groups. You may pick up a few tips, plus you will meet people who are also interested in this hobby.

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