While cycling is generally a fun, engaging activity with innumerable health benefits, like any outdoor activity, it can carry some risks, and it is best to know a few basic principles of safety to ensure your next ride starts and ends with your body and mind in good health. The following guide will provide considerations to keep in mind so you can stay safe on your bicycle.
Wear a helmet!
A helmet is one of the simplest ways to increase your chances of a safe ride on your bicycle. Although any ride through a town or city will reveal numerous bicyclists not wearing helmets, it is always a good idea to protect your own head while riding, even if other people aren’t. Head injuries can easily lead to serious and lasting disabilities, and in unfortunate cases, death. The head is an extremely vulnerable part of the body, as it carries the brain, which is the most important organ of the body. Almost 70,000 bicyclists each year suffer head injuries. While a helmet cannot prevent all head injuries, or prevent the cyclist from falling, a helmet typically will reduce the chances of a serious brain injury in the event of a collision. Bicycle helmets can be purchased new for as little as ten dollars, and are one of the most worthwhile investments a person can make when choosing to ride a bicycle.
Look out for cars!
This may seem like a no brainer, but whenever you ride a bicycle, you need to pay extra attention to your surroundings to avoid moving cars. The biggest threat to a bicyclist’s safety is a moving vehicle; while some cyclists do get injured or occasionally killed by colliding with trees, pedestrians, or buildings, the overwhelming percentage of cycling fatalities are due to cyclists being hit by cars. Quite simply, to increase your chances of a safe bicycle ride, do your best to become aware of where every single car within fifty feet of you is located. You don’t need to have eyes in the back of your head, but having a mirror will help. You can have these attached to your helmet (see the first tip) or to your handlebars. Even without a mirror, you should be looking for cars at every intersection, at driveways, and at potential parking spots. Most drivers don’t want to cause any harm to cyclists, but most drivers are also going to be consumed with a number of distractions (cell phones, radios, mp3 players, passengers, daydreams), including the act of driving itself. Don’t wait for a driver to see you; do your part to see them first. It may just save your life.
Ride on the right side of the road
Many beginning cyclists, used to either operating vehicles on the road or walking like a pedestrian, decide to adopt the pedestrian style of transportation when riding a bicycle by riding against traffic, the way pedestrians are encouraged to walk against traffic in order to view oncoming vehicles. This works well for pedestrians, who are generally able to move out of the way when necessary and also have a slow rate of movement against traffic.. However, this technique does not work as well on a bicycle, which approaches a moving vehicle much more quickly than a pedestrian, giving a distracted driver far less time to react to avoid the wrong way cyclist. Cyclists are considered vehicles by state laws, and as a result, have both the right and the obligation to ride with, and not against, traffic. You are free to ride close to the right-hand side of the road, allowing faster auto traffic to pass you on your left. This is legal and permissible and most traffic will thank you for it. You do have the right to be on the road with other vehicles. However, for the sake of safety, when riding on the road, ride with traffic.