Riding a bike is not only a fun way to get around, it’s eco-friendly, convenient and eliminates the need to sit in traffic or on a crowded bus. But simply hopping on your bike and peddling away is just the beginning. Safety has to be taken into consideration before you go anywhere. To get you started, we’re sharing some of the most important bike safety tips for riders of all ages and experience levels.
Wear your helmet
We know they’re not stylish and no one actually looks good wearing a helmet, but they are key when it comes to bike safety. The most serious injuries among the majority of those killed in bicycle accidents are to the head, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Further statistics from the same organization show that helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent, and 70 percent of bicyclists killed in 2010 reportedly were not wearing helmets. If that doesn’t highlight the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet, we don’t know what does.
Obey the rules of the road
It may only have two wheels, but a bicycle is still a vehicle and if you’re going to be on the road you need to ride in a way that adheres to the rules. This means stopping at traffic lights, not weaving in and out of cars, staying to the side when going slower than the pace of traffic and following any other applicable rules as you ride. Rules are in place for a reason — to keep people safe. By ignoring them you’re not only putting yourself at risk, but potentially endangering others.
Be aware of your surroundings
Listening to music or talking on the phone as you ride might seem like a great idea, but any distractions can be a huge safety hazard. In order to stay safe on the road you need to be aware of your surroundings — not flipping through the tunes on your iPhone trying to find the perfect soundtrack for your ride to work. The fact is, you can’t count on other people to always do the right thing on the road. You can hope the cars and other bikes around you are going to navigate the road safely, but they might not. The more alert you are, the safer you’re going to be and the faster you’ll be able to react if something out of the ordinary happens.
Use hand signals
When cars don’t signal it can wreck havoc among other vehicles and confuse pedestrians. The same goes for a bike. Letting other vehicles know when and where you’re turning is another important element of safety when it comes to riding a bike. For a left turn, hold your left arm straight out pointing left. For a right turn, hold your left arm pointed straight up or right arm straight out pointing right. To indicate that you’ll be stopping, hold your left arm pointed straight down.
If cars, pedestrians and other bikes can’t see you, your safety (and theirs) is greatly diminished. Make sure you have bike lights (one white front light, one red rear light), reflective elements on your bike and clothing when riding at night, and wear lighter colors to ensure you’re always visible. A bell is also important so you can make yourself known to anyone nearby.