Bicycles are responsible for more injuries than skateboards, trampolines, playground equipment, and swimming pools combined across all age groups, according to significant findings from a 2015 report by the National Safety Council. According to this study, nearly half a million people received treatment in emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. For comparison, this number is significantly higher than the number of injuries sustained playing football, at 399,873.
The report noted that 1,100 cyclists lost their lives in accidents involving motor vehicles in 2015. There are more than 80 million bike riders around the country, all at risk of injury. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways you can remain safe on the road. Follow these bicycle safety tips to reduce your risk of injury.
Wear a Helmet
The importance of this simple safety tip cannot be overstated. While most people know that wearing helmets is the safest option, they don’t know how much of a difference it makes – according to the National Safety Council, cyclists who don a helmet reduce their risks of injury by 60% and a traumatic brain injury by 58%. Bicyclists who lose control or collide with an object are most likely to fly forward and contact with the ground at high speeds can prove devastating, even fatal.
For maximum safety, choose a helmet that meets minimum federal safety standards. Always wear a helmet snugly with the strap flush with your chin.
Follow the Rules of the Road
Motorists and bicyclists have an implicit duty to “share the road.” Motorists must provide a safe passing distance and be aware of bicyclists, but cyclists also must follow the rules of the road. If you routinely take the same route, become acquainted with local traffic laws and ride single file in the direction of traffic.
Cyclists are most vulnerable at intersections, so use extra caution in these areas. Look to the right, to the left, and over the shoulder before crossing or entering traffic. Use appropriate hand signals when turning and be aware of hazards like opening car doors.
Equip Your Bike
Make sure your bike has proper safety features like reflectors. At minimum, your bike should have them on the front, rear, pedals, and spokes. Attach a rear-view mirror for enhanced visibility and use a horn or bell to alert drivers to your presence.
If you’re biking in traffic, dress for the occasion. Wear bright or reflective clothing that makes you visible to drivers. Avoid biking at night if possible, but if you must ride at night, all your clothing should be reflective.
Be Aware of Common Hazards
Some bicycle accidents are more common than others. In an urban environment, a common scenario called a “right hook,” occurs when a cyclist travels in the same direction as a vehicle, and the motorist turns to the right and into a cyclist’s path. This is most common at intersections, by highway entrance and exit ramps, and driveways. Mitigate your risk of injury by glancing over your left shoulder frequently and using exaggerated hand signals to make your intentions known to other drivers.
Another common hazard is car doors – specifically, a vehicle door opening and striking someone when a motorist exits his or her car. The best way to avoid this risk is to assume that every door in your path will open. Leave a door-sized space between you and the side of the road when passing parked or stopped cars.
Bicycling can be a wonderful way to commute while getting a little exercise, but it’s not without its dangers. Observe these basic safety tips to reduce your risk of injury.