Start the Year Right: Make Avoiding Injury Your Top Priority
Cycling is a very popular pastime in the U.S. As more people are looking for ways to get outside and exercise without having to go to a gym, there are many new cyclists on the road. However, with increased cyclists on the streets, bicycle accidents are common. These accidents can be incredibly serious because cyclists are significantly more vulnerable to injury than other motorists.
Whether you’re new to the hobby or a seasoned cyclist, the start of the year is a great time to re-commit yourself to bicycle safety. Keep reading for five bicycle safety tips for every skill level.
Tip #1: Always Wear a Helmet
In Florida, only riders under 16 years old are required to wear helmets while riding. Beyond that, individual cities manage helmet laws. Regardless of your city or area requirements, it is recommended that you always wear a helmet, especially when riding on roadways with other vehicles. Because cyclists are so exposed, accidents typically result in injury. Even just losing your balance and falling off your bike can result in a head injury. Your helmet is vital in protecting you from harm.
It is also important to remember that you must replace your helmet with a new one after an accident, even if you think it is fine. Even small accidents can compromise the integrity of your helmet. It is also recommended that you replace your helmet every 3-5 years, regardless of whether you’ve been in a collision.
Tip #2: Learn & Use Hand Signals
While cars, trucks, and motorcycles have indicator lights, cyclists must rely on hand signals to alert other drivers and pedestrians of their intentions. Accidents often happen when a cyclist (or a motorist) makes an unexpected turn or stops short. Utilizing hand signals improves communication between cyclists and motorists and can help prevent accidents.
To brush up on your hand signals, review the NHTSA handout here.
Tip #3: Make Yourself More Visible to Motorists
No matter what time of day you are cycling, making yourself visible to motorists is important. Avoid wearing dark clothing. Instead, wear bright colors or purchase an orange reflective safety vest to wear over your clothing. Safety vests are inexpensive and can be found at most sporting goods stores and online. Add reflectors and lights to your bike as well, especially if you plan to ride in the early morning or evening. You can find headlights and rear lights for your bicycle for under $20. You may wish to install lights on your helmet as well.
Similarly, installing a bell or horn on your bike can help you alert people to your presence before they can see you. This can be especially beneficial when sharing a pathway with pedestrians. Ring your bell and call out to pedestrians as you approach them, alerting them to which side you are passing on.
Tip #4: Stay Alert & Do Not Ride Under the Influence
Staying alert and aware of your surroundings is key to avoiding a collision or road hazards. Accidents are more likely to happen when you are tired, regardless of whether you drive a car or ride your bike. When you’re tired, your reaction times are slowed, making responding to an unexpected hazard difficult.
Additionally, many people see riding their bikes as a good alternative when they have been drinking. This is not the case. Just as you should not drive your car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, neither should you ride your bike. In fact, in Florida, you can be charged with a DUI if you ride your bicycle while under the influence.
Tip #5: Teach Your Children Bicycle Safety
Bicycling is a great family activity, and children of all ages can enjoy the sport. Teaching your children about bicycle safety from a young age is just as important as following safety measures yourself. The younger you teach your children bicycle safety, the sooner it will be second nature to them. In addition to making sure they always wear a helmet and use hand signals, also start teaching them the rules of the road. This will empower your children to enjoy their hobby safely.
Read our blog to learn more about teaching bicycle safety to your kids.